Is Horley the new Dallas?

According to press reports, exploratory drilling at Horse Hill has found that there could be almost 20 million barrels of oil – 3.1m barrels of oil in the well’s upper Portland sandstone, with potential for a further 16.8m barrels nearby.

The company is now drilling deeper into the Triassic (gas-containing) layer.

David Lenigas, chair of Horse Hill Developments, said: “We are very pleased with the results so far from this well…. We are now looking forward to drilling the Triassic, which is a new and untested exploration target in the area, which, if successful, may contain appreciable volumes of gas.”

Read articles in the press:

Move over JR Ewing: oil discovered near Gatwick airport (Guardian)

Market Report: Gatwick is not the new Texas (Independent)

UK’s Horse Hill-1 hits oil (Upstream)


Campaign picnic

Anti-fracking campaigners are holding a Halloween picnic at the gates today, to highlight the threat of fracking in the area.

While the current permissions do not allow fracking, one of the partners, Magellan Petroleum, has spoken of the area being part of its “unconventional” portfolio. And oil and gas companies the world over now work on the principle of permission creep – applying for ‘conventional’ permission, and then, having forced their foot into the door and turned a greenfield into a brownfield site, applying to frack.

Details of the picnic (Facebook)


Also in the press today:

‘Dangerously high’ levels of airborne carcinogens found at US fracking sites (Independent)



Kicking off and locking on at Horse Hill

I paid the Horse Hill Protectors Camp a quick visit early this morning, and was treated to a very nice cuppa, and some relaxed chit-chat. Spirits seemed pretty high as I headed off home intending to write a brief unexciting blog post linking to the camp’s wishlist.

But I knew there was something in the air…

Lock-on at Horse Hill

The press release is here.

IGas plans to expand drilling at Bletchingley

IGas plans to start producing oil and gas from its exploration site in Bletchingley, which is off Tilburstow Hill Road south of the railway line.

The company held an exhibition in Godstone last week to showcase its plans. We went along.

The IGas reps told us that they will be applying for planning permission to drill up to four more wells on the site, giving them a total of six.

The wells will be around 3,000 feet deep, then they will drill horizontally up to 2km, in various directions, mostly to the west.

We asked if they expected any difficulty from owners of the land under which they intend to drill, and they said not.  They say they have spoken to the affected landowners and will pay the usual compensation, which is apparently £50.

They hope to produce up to 600 barrels (80 tonnes) of oil a day and to begin gas production. The oil will be taken off by tanker (up to 8 vehicle movements a day) and the gas will be used to generate electricity onsite and/or be piped off into the gas grid.  This means they will stop flaring as happens presently.

We asked if they will do any fracking or stimulation; they said not.  While they are pursuing unconventional technologies elsewhere in the country, the geology here means they don’t need to. They said they have no plans to target shale gas here.

However, IGas told investors last year that it had an “extensive acreage position for shale” and that prospective shale horizons were present in all three of its key focus areas, including the Weald.  Read the investor presentation.

They expect to submit their planning application before the end of 2014, and apply for the Environment Agency permits at the same time.

Find out more

Lively debate at Horley meeting

More than 80 people attended a meeting in Horley on Monday evening (13 October) to hear about the drilling taking place at nearby Horse Hill and to discuss the threat of fracking across the Weald.

Local campaigner Rob Basto, Green Councillor Jonathan Essex and Balcombe resident Sue Taylor all spoke, and the meeting was chaired by Balcombe’s Charles Metcalfe.

A wide cross section of people attended, including local residents and anti-fracking campaigners. Magellan Petroleum had been invited but did not send an official representative.

The Horse Hill site is an exploratory well and no fracking is planned or permitted at this stage. However one of the partners in the drilling, Magellan Petroleum, has spoken of their intentions to test for shale gas here to inform their plans for fracking elsewhere in the South East

Rob Basto from Frack Free Surrey said If fracking goes ahead in the area it could result in thousands of wells in the south-east with disastrous consequences – for our local environment and the global climate. We are strongly opposed to any new fossil fuel development in our area.”

A follow-up meeting is planned for 10 November, also at Empire Hall.

£2bn of gas and oil at Horley – but no fracking, says Lenigas

This information is taken, with thanks, from a report on the Drill or Drop website.

Fracking will not take place at Horse Hill, according to David Lenigas, Chairman of Horse Hill Developments Ltd, who was interviewed by BBC Surrey this morning.

Mr Lenigas said that the site could yield 80 million barrels of oil and 160 billion cubic feet of gas, worth £2 billion.

A local resident, Mr Chris Lowe, said people are concerned about the current noise, dust and smell. They were also worried about whether there would fracking in future, and about the industrialisation of the area:.

Mr Lowe said, “If it is a single well, it is not a problem… What is a problem is if this is right across the south east and you get drill sites and nodding donkeys every mile or so along hills like this. We could get another site in two years, five years’ time. And another one a mile further on and that is a prospect that does worry me.”

Mr Lenigas said, “The concept of lots of oil and a nodding donkey every mile is not the reality of this project.” He said if the well went into production it would result in “one or two tankers a week”.

Read a full report on

Drilling concerns aired at Horse Hill picnic

Cakes at gatesMore than 60 people from both the local area and the wider south-east gathered for a picnic by the Horse Hill drilling site on Sunday afternoon (5 October).

They came to demonstrate their concerns about the drilling taking place, and in particular about the threat of prospecting for shale gas, which requires the controversial process of fracking (hydraulic fracturing) to extract it.

People who live close to the site talked about the noise, traffic, light pollution and the impacts on animals. And people from further afield in Surrey and Sussex came to show their opposition to new oil drilling and especially the threat of fracking in this area.

Mounting evidence shows that fracking would be a disaster for the environment and the economy. Instead of pouring money into this dinosaur industry, the Government needs to prioritise investment in energy efficiency and renewable energy technologies such as tidal, wind and solar.

Public meeting Monday 13 October

Frack Free Surrey are holding a public meeting on Monday 13 October, 7pm, at the Empire Hall, Victoria Road, Horley RH6 7AW.

This will provide information on what is happening at the Horse Hill Site, the threat of fracking on the area, and alternatives.

Speakers will include Sue Taylor, a Chartered Accountant who lives half a mile from the drill site at Balcombe, and Jonathan Essex, a Chartered Engineer and Chartered Environmentalist and Green Green County Councillor for Redhill.  More speakers to be confirmed.

Horse Hill: operator issues press release, contradictions remain

Horse Hill Developments Ltd has issued a press release apparently to clear up confusion over the competing messages coming out from its partner Magellan.

The HHDL release, dated 29 September “confirms that this is a conventional drilling project and none of the other partners have any interest in exploring unconventional opportunities. There are no unconventional shale targets.”

As if to underline this, they include a link to the Magellan press release dated 18 September (which mysteriously disappeared from their website but is now viewable again), in which Magellan CEO J. Thomas Wilson is quoted, “Horse Hill Developments has proven to be an able operator. The Weald Basin has yielded conventional oil and gas production for decades, and I expect Horse Hill Developments will be a strong partner to Magellan in unlocking value from the conventional  prospects at Horse Hill and elsewhere in the Weald. Their efforts will complement nicely our own pursuit of the attractive unconventional development opportunities in the Weald.” (our emphasis).

Frack Free Surrey is holding two events to raise awareness of the drilling and the threat of fracking in the wider area, and to give local people a chance to find out more:

  • Picnic near the site: Sunday 5 October, 2-4pm at Horse HIll – with cakes, entertainment and information
  • Public meeting in Horley: Monday 13 October, 7-9pm, Empire Hall, Victoria Road, Horley RH6 7AW. (Opposite the Air Balloon car park)

Read more

Download a flyer


What’s going on at Horse Hill?

This summary is written in good faith, based on conversations with local residents, campaigners, the Environment Agency, and others. We at Frack Free Surrey are not oil industry experts. Please do your own research before acting on any information below. We would be very happy to receive corrections and additions to this summary, and will incorporate them as soon as possible.

Exploratory drilling for oil and gas now under way at Horse Hill, west of Horley, is attracting attention from anti-fracking campaigners, although no fracking is currently planned on site.

Why’s this?  It’s because of bullish statements by one of the partners in Horse Hill Developments Ltd (HHDL), the consortium put together to explore this site.

Magellan Petroleum Corporation, who have a 35% stake in HHDL, have made clear their ambitions to frack in the Weald Basin.

In a press release issued on 4 September, said “During drilling, Magellan will have the opportunity to core and log at its own expense several shale and tight formations in the Cretaceous and Jurassic sections, including the Kimmeridge Clay and Liassic formations. The Company expects that the information gained through these activities will provide valuable insights into the technical and economic viability of unconventional development elsewhere in the Weald Basin.

In other words, they accept they can’t frack at Horse Hill, but hope to use data from Horse Hill to inform their plans to frack elsewhere.

They since issued a second press release, saying “Magellan has decided to defer the opportunity at Horse Hill-1 to run a suite of unconventional logs over the Kimmeridge Clay and Liassic formations.”

However this second release was quickly withdrawn from their site, while the first is still on there, so it is impossible to understand their intentions.

And even while talking of ‘deferring’ (not abandoning) their plans for Horse Hill, J. Thomas Wilson, President and CEO of Magellan, said, “I expect Horse Hill Developments will be a strong partner to Magellan in unlocking value from the conventional prospects at Horse Hill and elsewhere in the Weald. Their efforts will complement nicely our own pursuit of the attractive unconventional development opportunities in the Weald.”

People therefore have understandable concerns that the work at Horse Hill is directly contributing to plans to frack across South East England.

(Many of us, of course, are opposed to any new fossil fuel exploitation, believing that a quick switch to renewable energy is urgently needed to avert the serious threats of climate change.)

Conventional extraction or fracking?

Current seismic data shows that the best prospect is for reserves of conventional oil, with a more marginal prospect of reserves of conventional gas.

HHDL is hoping to discover recoverable reserves of conventional oil or gas.

HHDL is a majority-owned subsidiary of Angus Energy, which operates conventional oil wells at nearby Brockham (Surrey) and Lidsey (West Sussex).

However Magellan, with a 35% stake, is very interested in the potential for ‘unconventional’ oil and gas – as outlined above.

Oil drilling at Horse Hill: some history

In the 1980s, Esso drilled just to the north of the current site. However they are now believed to have drilled on the wrong side of a fault and oil companies remained interested in potential oil finds at this site.

Magellan was granted planning permission for exploratory drilling back in in January 2012. They had hoped to frack at Horse Hill (see this document, which formed part of the planning application documents). However they did not proceed and instead formed a partnership with Horse Hill Development Ltd (HHDL), who now own 65% of the operation, with Magellan retaining just a 35% stake.

We understand that Magellan does not have adequate finance to conduct fracking, nor to guarantee HHDL against damage caused by fracking, and so they are not in control of the current activities.

HHDL then applied for the necessary permits from the Environment Agency to carry out exploratory drilling, which they received.

You can download all the documents submitted to the Environment Agency here – the Environmental Method Statement gives a summary of what will be taking place.

No fracking is permitted at Horse Hill in the exploratory phase and in the event that HHDL did decide to exploit shale targets, they would need to apply for fresh permissions.

What are locals doing?

The Norwood Hill Residents Association is keeping a close eye on activities and liaising with HHDL and the regulatory bodies to ensure the local impacts are minimised.

Campaigners from Frack Free Surrey are holding a picnic at the site on Sunday 5 October, from 2pm til around 4pm. This is to raise awareness of what’s happening and give local people a chance to ask questions and find out more.

Frack Free Surrey is also holding a public meeting in Horley on 13 October at 7pm.  We will add details shortly.

We will continue to report any updates on this site.


Very good news! FrackFreeFernhurst write:

‘FFF is delighted that the SDNPA planning committee have turned down Celtique Energie’s application for exploratory drilling at Nine Acre Copse. In rejecting this application they have not only taken the advice of their own planning officer and accepted the government’s own confirmation that such development should only take place in a national park in exceptional circumstances but also listened to the over five and a half thousand people who have objected to this proposal (as opposed to the eleven who have expressed support of it). Clearly a national park is not the right place for a large-scale “industrial experiment” (Andrew Tyrie MP), and we are relieved to see that the SDNPA have upheld their objectives to protect the national park and the community within it.

Right up until the last minute Celtique demonstrated their lack of respect for our community with their continued attempts to mislead both the public and the planning authorities with disingenuous and incorrect statements and material.

We would like to thank all the organisations and individuals who have tirelessly campaigned for and contributed to our campaign – from Greenpeace, Friends of the Earth, the National Trust, the Woodland Trust, RSPB, CPRE, the South Downs Society to those who visit and love the national park and of course the residents of Fernhurst, Lynchmere and the surrounding area.

One thing that the last 16 months have shown is that we live in a community which is willing to work together and support each other when faced with a crisis. We hope that our village can now return to being the peaceful and happy place that it was before we faced this unwelcome and inappropriate threat.’

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Environmental Health Officers urge Councils to oppose fracking

The Chartered Institute for Environmental Health (CIEH), which represents Environmental Health Officers, has urged Local Authorities to oppose fracking until they are fully confident about the health risks to people and the environment.

They’ve said there are “major shortcomings” with the regulation of shale gas and there is currently not enough evidence to be sure that fracking is safe.

The report suggested that shale gas was unlikely to displace coal, and would contribute to, rather than help tackle, climate change.

It concludes: “The combination of weak regulation, diminishing resources within regulatory bodies, inexperience of industry and regulators, lack of an appropriate monitoring framework, poor industry compliance and potential conflicts of interest within the planning regime is disquieting”.

Thanks to Ruth Hayhurst for the information.  Read her full report here.