West Sussex anti-fracking campaigners concern after Weald Basin oil announcement

The view of the Western Weald near Petersfield' Picture by Paul Glendell
The view of the Western Weald near Petersfield' Picture by Paul Glendell
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ANTI-FRACKING campaigners across Midhurst and Petworth have expressed concerns following the news there could be up to 100 billion barrels of oil onshore beneath the South of England.

The news has brought the controversial process of hydraulic fracturing, known as fracking, back into the spotlight - despite the recent announcement by Celtique Energie that it would not be pursuing plans to drill for oil and gas in Fernhurst and at a site between Kirdford and Wisborough Green.

This morning (April 9), exploration firm UK Oil and Gas Investments (UKOG) claimed a major oil field has been found below the countryside in the north of Sussex/Surrey border.

UK Oil and Gas Investments (UKOG) said there could be as much as 100 billion barrels of oil beneath Horse Hill near Gatwick Airport after it carried out drilling there.

The Keep Kirdford and Wisborough Green Group (KKWG) launched a campaign against an exploratory well site in their area. Following the UKOG announcement, a KKWG spokesman said: “This is something KKWG are aware of and will be keeping a close eye on any developments.”

Friends of the Earth south east campaigner Brenda Pollack said the announcement would put ‘fracking firmly on the region’s election agenda’.

Responding to the news that major oil reserves have been discovered in the Sussex Weald, she said: “The prospect of dirty oil extraction in southern England will greatly alarm local communities and put fracking firmly on the region’s election agenda.

“Any firm proposing to drill for oil in the region knows it will face huge opposition - as happened at Balcombe, Fernhurst and Wisborough Green. Drilling proposals in Sussex have already been turned down.

“The next government must end our reliance on climate-changing fossil fuels and invest in real solutions to the energy challenges we face, such as renewable power and energy efficiency.”

UKOG chief executive Stephen Sanderson said the Weald area could yield ten to 30 per cent of the UK’s oil demand.

While the area needs appraisal and testing to prove its commercial viability, it had ‘the potential for significant daily oil production’.

Together with another discovery, Portland Sandstone, it was a ‘possible world class potential resource’.

Mr Sanderson told the BBC: “We think we’ve found a very significant discovery here, probably the largest [onshore in the UK] in the last 30 years, and we think it has national significance.”

The company has said the controversial process of hydraulic fracturing, known as fracking, where chemicals and water are blasted into the rocks to release shale oil and gas, would not be needed. Instead traditional wells could be used.