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However this second release was quickly withdrawn from their site, while the first is still on there, so it is impossible to understand their intentions.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