Back-to-back wells

The Weald oil rush threatens to industrialise large areas of the Weald, changing the character of our largely rural area and harming the environment and the quality of life of the communities that live here.

The Weald Basin – the area between the North and South Downs, including large parts of Hampshire, Surrey, Sussex and Kent – is known to sit over reserves of oil and gas. Estimates of the amount of oil in the Weald are very speculative, and companies citing large figures have been accused of “shameless ramping”. How much of these reserves are recoverable is also unknown. A lot of the oil is trapped in the Kimmeridge limestone, and requires unconventional methods to extract it.

One company keen to exploit the Weald’s oil is UK Oil & Gas Plc (UKOG), which has an interest in sites across the south east.

“very much like an industrialised process”

UKOG CEO Stephen Sanderson has spoken many times of his ambitions to expand. In February 2016, after flow testing at Horse Hill, he told infotainment channel Tip TV, “These deposits extend over 1200 square miles or more of the Weald so if we can… put a commercial development together, then clearly you can see incremental step-outs over quite a large area….

“We’re also looking at acquiring more acreage. This type of oil deposit very much depends on being able to drill your wells almost back to back so it becomes very much like an industrialised process…

“Generally speaking these types of wells do decline, ie the flow at the start of the year when you put the well on compared to the flow at the end of that year can decline by 60 or 70 per cent or so… So generally you have to drill a lot of wells close to each other so you can maintain a certain level of production.”
[The quotes above start around 8 minutes and 11 minutes into the interview.]

2,400 boreholes at 100 locations

In April 2016, professional services firm EY published a report Kimmeridge Limestone Oil: The UK opportunity, based on UKOG’s assumptions. They estimated that “assuming it can be extracted… at the volumes projected by UKOG” oil production in the Weald could generate around £52 billion over 40 years. Analysis of the figures found that this would mean back-to-back drilling of production wells and, according to the BBC, 2,400 boreholes at 100 locations.

“we can replicate Horse Hill in many sites across that area”

UKOG is currently focusing on Horse Hill, where they have planning permission for six oil wells and 20 years of commercial oil production (the production permission is currently subject to a legal challenge). If Horse Hill proves a success, it will fund oil expansion across the South East.

Stephen Sanderson told Share Talk Radio, “Our concept of this continuous oil deposit being laterally extensive across the Weald means that we can replicate Horse Hill in many sites across that area.”

Of Arreton in the Isle of Wight, he said, “That’s very much an analogue to the Horse Hill Portland yet it actually has 127 million barrels of oil in place, that’s four times the oil in place of Horse Hill, so potentially we’re looking at four times the recoverable volume.”

Communities resist
If Horse Hill goes ahead it will fund oil expansion across the South East.

UKOG currently has a planning application awaiting decision at Dunsfold, expects to submit an application for Arreton imminently, has talked about returning to Broadford Bridge, and is seeking a new site from which to access the oil at Leith Hill after Europa failed to make it work from their site at Coldharbour.

More oil drilling sites and more wells on each site will mean more local pollution, more traffic, more noise and more misery for residents – let alone more climate-wrecking carbon emissions.

Communities living in the Weald are opposed to a massive unconventional drilling campaign and prepared to fight it every step of the way.