Markwells Wood

Licence number: PEDL126
Licence 100% owned by UK Oil & Gas PLC (UKOG)

VICTORY! Site abandoned

The site is in the South Downs National Park, near Rowlands Castle on the Surrey/Hampshire border.

UK Oil and Gas Ltd (UKOG) drilled a test well on the site in 2010 from which oil was produced. In September 2016, UKOG submitted a planning application to drill four wells. More than 1,200 individuals and organisations objected, including the Environment Agency, Portsmouth Water and West Sussex Highways.  Hampshire County Council Highways also opposed the application, along with Chichester and Portsmouth City Councils, neighbouring parish councils, and many environmental organisations.

Shortly before the plans were due to come before the South Downs National Park Authority in May 2017, UKOG withdrew the application, claiming they planned to resubmit it later that year.

It was very likely that the National Park Authority was going to recommend refusal of the application, and UKOG decided to walk away in the final moments before facing the embarrassment of a refusal.

The company tried to blame the Environment Agency by suggesting they had put in an eleventh hour request for information. In fact, UKOG was given six months to respond to requests for detailed information on the hydrogeological risk assessment.   They were told to address key risks yet the new reports submitted were inadequate, erroneous and had serious omissions.

Local campaign group Markwells Wood Watch said, “We are not sure whether UKOG intends to reapply for planning permission or whether this is a statement meant to soothe shareholders. We think that our own hydrogeological survey shows the potential risk to our water supply is real, and any further studies by UKOG are not going to change the local geology or groundwater.”
 
“The extreme method of well stimulation proposed by UKOG is acidisation which is not proven to be safe to the environment or to human health. Acidising brings most of the negatives of hydraulic fracturing: traffic, road tankers, air pollution, flares, possibility of potential water pollution via spills, leaking wells and faults, processing plants, large volumes of toxic liquid waste and stress on communities. The concern is that this could have huge risks for drinking water in surrounding areas.
 
“It is clear that water is a more valuable asset than oil in our region. It is also abundantly obvious that there is no social licence for drilling here.”

The well is now plugged and abandoned. Through Freedom of Information requests, Markwells Wood Watch discovered that the process took place with little or no  monitoring by the Environment Agency or Health and Safety Executive and simply relied on UKOG to carry out the work without supervision. The 1.5 hectare wood is due to be replanted November 2019. Markwells Wood Watch is monitoring the site.

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