The prospect of “North Sea like" oil rates at a site in Surrey could lead to more protests from groups across the South East concerned about the environmental and community impact of plans for its unconventional extraction.
In a press release today (March 21), UKOG, the company responsible for test drilling at Horse Hill in Surrey, has indicated it will press ahead with an application for horizontal drilling and a possible new well. The announcement is being met with a groundswell of anger across the South East, with local residents concerned about the mixed messages they are hearing. On one hand, UK Oil and Gas have assured local residents that any extraction will have very little impact on their communities while, on the other hand, shareholders are being told that the "outstanding" flow test results could see the site produce almost 10% of the UK's onshore daily oil production.
Residents and campaigners are worried that estimates, based on UK Oil and Gas's own figures, could see The Wider Weald basin pockmarked with more than 10,000 oil wells. Analysis by the campaign group Frack Off reveals that the industrial scale drilling required to extract the reported 124 billion barrels of oil could result in 4-8 wells per square mile.
Peaceful direct action taken by protesters at Horse Hill in Surrey last week and the level of support for the campaign against oil drilling on Leith Hill near Dorking, highlight the sheer scale of opposition to fossil fuel extraction in the South East.
Co-Chair of East Surrey Green Party, Sarah Finch, who is supporting campaigners, said:
"It might be easy for the oil companies to dismiss these protests, but what we’re seeing are local communities in our towns and villages rising up over the hunger of the oil companies to squeeze every last drop of oil from our countryside. The planning system looks at these applications on an individual basis but the cumulative impact could be very significant across the South East”.
Keith Taylor, Green Party MEP for the South East, who has long been an opponent of unconventional fossil fuel extraction, said:
"Today's public pronouncement by UKOG reveals the mixed messages being delivered to concerned local residents. Surely, UKOG has either discovered an 'outstanding' reserve on a par with those in the North Sea, or they have uncovered an unexceptional reserve so insignificant that local communities will hardly notice its extraction. Both of these announcements cannot be true."
Keith, who visited protestors at the Horse Hill site last month, continued:
"The scientific consensus on climate change has never been greater and we have been told that the best way we have a chance of averting catastrophe is by leaving large reserves of oil in the ground. Therefore, I’d like to thank all of the campaigners and residents across the South East for being there to stand up for our communities and our environment. The extraction of oil at sites like Horse Hill not only risks damaging our environment and health, it is a distraction from the work that must be done to build a sustainable future based on a low carbon, democratic energy system."
More analysis here:
Link to Mole Valley petition: