End oil extraction at Wytch Farm, say campaigners

Campaigners and residents in Dorset are calling for tougher measures against the company behind last month’s oil leak in Poole Harbour.

Perenco’s Wytch Farm gathering station, Dorset. Image: Google Maps

A major incident was declared when about 11,000 gallons of oil and formation water leaked from a pipeline from Perenco’s Wytch Farm oilfield, the largest onshore oil producer in the UK.

Environmental groups from across the county say Perenco should to lose its permissions to operate Wytch Farm. A march and rally is planned for Monday 1 May.

This week, the local parish council called on Perenco to ensure leaks never happened again.

Calls for action

The clean up of Poole Harbour is still underway.

Poole Harbour Commissioners said more than 300 bags of contaminated material had been collected from local beaches, along with 417,000 litres of oil and oily water from Owers Bay, where the leak happened.

An online petition, launched yesterday, called on the Environment Agency and other regulators to revoke Perenco’s permits and licences to operate at Wytch Farm.

Caz Dennett, a safety consultant in the oil and gas industry, launched the petition. She said the likelihood of further leaks, spills and other safety incidents increased as facilities aged. She said she believed the Wytch Farm field should now prepare to close:

“I’ve witnessed many aging facilities become more risky, as the temptation for operators and owners to neglect maintenance, cut corners and cutback on resources increases as profits wane.

“We say Perenco cannot be trusted to operate safely and the Environment Agency and other regulatory authorities must take action to ensure there can be absolutely no repeat.”

Link to production data from Wytch Farm for 2022

Friends of the Earth East Dorset said:

“We have been arguing since 1984 that Wytch Farm oil should not be tapped, as the area is too important for nature. Instead, we should have invested in renewables – solar, wind, wave and tidal.  We should be investing in a clean future, not a dirty, outmoded fossil fuel technology from the past.”

Julie-Ann Booker, a campaigner from Dorchester, said Dorset Council had been sympathetic to campaigners’ arguments after the leak.

“We need to push hard, we need more voices to make it clear we want Perenco out and as quickly as possible to avoid further environmental disaster.”

At Corfe Council Parish Council, whose area covers Wytch Farm, a motion by the chairman, Cllr Steve Clarke, said:

“The Parish Council expresses its deep concern about the significant oil spill in Ower Bay on 26 March which caused pollution in Poole Harbour and the coastline. The PC believes that the terms of the operating licence require fail-safe maintenance procedures in this world-class and highly sensitive environment. The PC asked how did the maintenance failure occur? What system changes are being put in place to prevent any reoccurrence?”

Earlier this month, the Environment Agency (EA) said an investigation had begun into the cause of the Poole Harbour pollution. A spokesperson said the investigation would consider whether conditions of the environmental permit had been adhered to.

An EA spokesperson told the Daily Echo:

“If it is found that there have been breaches of the permit, appropriate enforcement proceedings would take place. As part of our investigation, we will be looking at what improvements the company can take to prevent future incidents such as this.”

The shellfish industry was again allowed to harvest from beds in Poole last week but officials advised against hand gathering shellfish in the intertidal zone until sampling has been completed and the results known.

Oil was reported on Brownsea Island and about 20 birds had been found to be affected by the leak. People were advised not to use local beaches for recreation.


Monday’s protest has been organised by Extinction Rebellion groups from across Dorset.

It is due to begin at the Norden Park & Ride at 9.45am, with a march to the Wytch Farm gathering station and wellsite. Protesters are expected to stay there for about two hours.

The co-organiser, XR member Adam Osman said:

“We believe this production site is now past its expiry date. It’s time for oil production to end here, and for fossil fuel production to wind down everywhere”.

Rebecca Saville, of XR Purbeck, said:

“Bring your voices and your love for Dorset’s beautiful environment and nature, and your rage at how it is being mistreated. Bring your call for the Environment Agency and authorities to end Wytch Farm’s license to drill and spill.”

7 replies »

  1. Wytch Farm, beloved of those oil industry [edited by moderator], who told us all was so safe and perfect there, so much so that no-one ever complained. No issue. They called it onshore, but the drills headed offshore, down under. Oil contamination? Who has addressed the issue of flow back contamination, contaminated saline possibly radioactive ‘water’. Solidarity with ER.

  2. Hmm. Having spoken to someone who visited her relatives in Poole during the episode they were all unaware of the incident!

    So, maybe some residents but an awful lot even unaware. Meanwhile, I note there are protests on IOW not wanting solar farms, and in Portsmouth protests about not wanting interconnectors, then along the Purbeck Coast and along to Bournemouth protests against off shore wind turbines. The common denominator? Protests! Even using the by product of the energy source they are protesting about to protest. One “industry” doing quite nicely, but imagine if all that energy was captured and put to constructive use.

    If anyone wants to observe the environmental impact of imported oil just remember the Torrey Canyon.

    • It is indeed 1720-when the nuclear insurance policy for when the sun doesn’t shine and the wind doesn’t blow goes wrong! Lot of constructive use going on and planned to go on-about £200B worth in UK alone. With tonnes and tonnes of concrete required! Anyone heard how the nuclear waste will be managed? Plonked into Ower Bay? Wouldn’t be the first time the sea is used a dustbin for nuclear waste, would it? Wouldn’t be the first time that the sea is used to mine rare minerals for the brave new world, would it? The zealots are no better managers of the oceans than they are of the children in DRC. Then they waffle on about human rights!

      Meanwhile in Poole Harbour the situation has been assessed, and the shellfish are back on the menu. Meanwhile, the UK is so up to speed with nuclear decommissioning there are a whole fleet of nuclear subs. sitting, rusting away without being decommissioned, whilst a few souls protest about whether trees planted on an old oil site have all survived!

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