Kimmeridge oil site burns gas because of equipment delays

The oil production site on cliffs at Kimmeridge bay in Dorset has installed a flare to burn waste gas – despite being ordered three years ago to use the gas to generate electricity.

Campaigners against fossil fuel extraction have accused the site operator, Perenco, of “shoddy practice”.

New flare at Kimmeridge oil production site, September 2022. Photo: Bryn Truscott

Perenco, which also operates the UK’s biggest onshore oilfield at Wytch Farm, told Dorset Council the flare was needed because plans to collect and compress the waste gas had been pushed back.

Equipment had apparently been delayed by the war in Ukraine.

Perenco used planning rules that allowed it to notify the local authority about the flare proposals without submitting a formal planning application.

But the council has confirmed that Perenco installed and began operating the flare before receiving a formal response that the prior approval process applied.

DrillOrDrop has previously reported that Kimmeridge has legally released hundreds of tonnes of methane and other waste gases into the atmosphere through vents on the site.

Methane is one of the most powerful greenhouse gases, particularly in the short term. Its ability to trap heat over 20 years is at least 86 times greater than carbon dioxide. Over 100 years, methane’s global warming potential is 28-36 times greater.

So, burning the methane in a flare is less damaging to the climate than venting because it turns the gas into carbon dioxide.

Perenco said in its notification to Dorset Council:

“there is a significant environmental benefit to combusting the vent gases in a flare, even on a temporary basis of six months.”

But campaigners have called for the gas to be used to generate electricity, rather than simply burning it.

In early 2019, the Environment Agency (EA) instructed Perenco to produce plans to use the waste gas from Kimmeridge. It set a deadline of November 2019.

In 2020, the company received planning permission to install compression equipment at Kimmeridge. That application said the compressed liquefied gases would be collected by tanker and used at the Farmergy electricity generation site at Blandford Forum.

But research in 2021 described “significant methane emissions” from two vents at Kimmeridge.

And earlier this year, we reported that venting had been allowed to continue with an expected end-date of summer 2022.

That deadline has now passed and plans to generate power from the compressed Kimmeridge gas may not begin until 2023.

The Kimmeridge site is the UK’s longest continuously producing oil well, despite being on the Jurassic Coast World Heritage Site and the Dorset Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

Vicki Elcoate, of Fossil Fuel Free Dorset, said today:

“This site blights an otherwise beautiful area, produces pollution and should be decommissioned.

“If the site is to continue operating it needs to be in line with the stringent environmental standards needed to cut carbon emissions.

“Any gas should be used, not burned off or vented, and flaring in this way is shoddy practice.”

A report by the industry regulator, the North Sea Transition Authority, said last week that the oil and gas sector would miss its carbon-reduction targets for 2030.

A fifth of carbon pollution from oil and gas production is from venting or flaring methane. The government’s climate advisor, the Climate Change Committee recommended in 2021 that flaring and venting should be permitted only for safety reasons from 2025.

Ms Elcoate said:

“So far the Kimmeridge site is estimated to have released about 300 tonnes of methane each year – equivalent to more than 25,000 tonnes of CO2.

“Local campaigners have been calling for flaring technology to have been brought in much sooner –– and replaced with gas compression as soon as possible.”

DrillOrDrop understands that the Kimmeridge site could not extract oil without the flare, which had been installed for safety reasons.

Perenco told Dorset Council the flare measures 6m, with a diameter of nearly 80cm. It said:

“There are no impacts or effects regarding visibility from the relevant public footpaths, bridleways and local view points. The wellsite is a highly visible operational site and the top of the flare stack will sit within the back drop of the existing tree screen planting and existing production plant.”

The company said the flare would be in place until January 2023. We understand Dorset Council is monitoring the site over the coming months and is expected to review whether the flare will still be needed.

7 replies »

    • jono, what are you doing to reduce your environmental impact? Mud huts and mature fires? Those who do not know their own environmental impact preaching others to change theirs. Australian and American fracked LNG Gas transported to the UK in time for the cold winter… oh the irony!

      Let’s just get after our own resources, and allow the communities to enjoy the comfort and financial benefits!

    • I would miss you though, Jono.

      But, in the meantime please avoid the Brussel Sprouts. And try and make more use of natural daylight.

      Haven’t visited Kimmeridge for a while but last time I did the area was filled, not only with tourists and the car park pretty full, but also with cattle. And according to the skin divers the gas was still bubbling up from the seabed out in the bay. Don’t believe they had any restrictions upon visitors who preferred rice as a mainstay of their diet, either.

      So, methane would still be produced without tourists, cattle or Perenco.

      Financial benefit? OMG, like producing something in UK and not importing same product from elsewhere when UK currency is weak? Get used to it. Much more of that to come. Now the parties are squabbling over the Sovereign Wealth Fund, it will be interesting to see where the funds are going to come from to establish it.

    • You mean, Colin, the Tories will suddenly decide to call an election!

      Can’t see that happening. There will only be a General election when the Government decides to hold one. The Tories have only just held their own election. Why would they want another one straight away?

      Meanwhile, Nord Stream 2 suddenly seems to have acquired leaks in 3 places at the same time. Goodness, these underwater pipelines seem such a secure source of energy. LOL.

  1. Thanks for this important and independent news. This action is unfortunate and comes on top of the damage to the atmosphere being done now that gas pipelines from Russia to Europe have suffered unprecedented damage and methane is bubbling out of the Baltic Sea. Russia denies involvement but IMHO it’s probably a barely veiled warning to the U.K. that if we can do this to Nordstream we can do it to the vital Norway to U.K. gas pipeline or any undersea gas pipeline or cable between the U.K. and mainland Europe. If you remember what Putin sanctioned in Salisbury then anything is possible. U.K. Energy security has never been so important.

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