Drilling licence renewal for oil field near Gatwick Airport

Campaigners from Frack Free Surrey staged a peaceful protest at Horse Hill, Horley

Campaigners from Frack Free Surrey staged a peaceful protest at Horse Hill, Horley

  • Flow tests to be carried out at major oil field north of Gatwick Airport
  • campaigners say further work at Horse Hill will attract protests
  • Scientists research the UK’s 15 national parks
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The company that found a major oil field near Gatwick has confirmed it intends to have its well tested this year.

Last month UK Oil & Gas Investments (UKOG)said drilling at Horse Hill revealed the Weald Basin had 158m barrels of oil per square mile and last week it confirmed tests could start in the autumn.

Reports had highlighted UKOG had not applied for a licence to allow it to carry out the tests at the site a few miles 3km north of the airport.

A spokesman for the oil regulator Oil & Gas Authority (OGA) said it was ‘standard procedure’ UKOG had not yet applied for regulatory consent for the tests.

He added: “A well test requires planning permission from the Mineral Planning Authority, environmental permits from the Environment Agency, a review of well plans by the Health and Safety Executive and regulatory consent from Oil & Gas Authority.”

A UKOG spokesman said its operator, Horse Hill Developments Ltd (HHDL),had applied to the OGA for a one year extension of its licence.

He added: “The company will update the market on this licence extension in due course. Further, the company has been informed by the PEDL137 (licence) operator, HHDL, that it intends to conduct a flow test on Horse Hill-1 later in 2015 and that it has already submitted the applications to the authorities for their consent.”

HHDL started drilling at the site in September 2014.

The UKOG spokesman added planning approval for a flow test on Horse Hill-1 was included in planning approval from Surrey County Council.

If the flow tests are successful HHDL seek to work with OGA and other regulators to move the licence it applied to renew into a ‘production period’.

But Brenda Pollack, Friends of the Earth’s South East campaigner, said: “When UKOG does apply to carry out further testing there will be a lot of opposition.

“Many residents don’t want the disruption that will come from extracting oil here. They may have to drill many wells - it’s unlikely to just be a few ‘nodding donkeys’ in a field.”

Nodding donkeys are pumps commonly used to extract oil. They have been used in Storrington Oil Field for decades.

The news comes in the same week scientists said the South Downs was one of four national parks in the UK which has rock types suitable for hydraulic fracturing -known as fracking.

Fracking involves pumping water and gas into shale rocks to release gas and oil trapped.

The scientists said they carried out the work in a bid to ‘provide clarity’ in the fracking debate, which they believe is lacking, the scientists at Durham University assessed all 15 parks.