Gatwick’s liquid gold: How the ‘Dallas of Sussex’ might be the future of UK oil

Oil pumping in the UK is traditionally done at sea Oil pumping in the UK is traditionally done at sea ZRyzner
18 Feb
2016
In the latest test at the Horse Hill site in Surrey, United Kingdom Oil and Gas has found that oil flows freely to the surface. Geographical investigates the future of the Weald Basin

Recent tests at the Horse Hill site in Surrey, one mile north of Gatwick Airport, have resurrected hopes of an ‘oil bonanza’ in Sussex. Siphoned from 900 metres below the ground to the surface, the oil flowed freely – without help from fracking or other stimulation – at a rate of 463 barrels a day. According to Steven Sanderson, CEO at United Kingdom Oil and Gas (UKOG), Horse Hill could operate at the equivalent of ‘one of the best-producing wells in the United States’. Such statements have led it to be nicknamed the ‘Dallas of Sussex’.

While the southeast of England hardly conjures images of the endless nodding pumpjacks of American oil fields, extraction is not new to the English countryside. The largest onshore well in the country – endearingly named Wytch Farm – produces oil at a rate of 20,000 barrels per day and has been operational for three decades. Around 120 other wells dotted around the country amount to two per cent of the UK’s total oil extraction, with offshore projects producing the rest. Could the Horse Hill site be joining them?

Professor of Energy at the University of Sussex, Jim Watson, remains skeptical. ‘My basic reaction is one of caution,’ he tells Geographical, ‘it is usually risky to extrapolate from limited test data – as there is in this case – about potential reserves and their accessibility. The original estimates for potential reserves by the developer have already been revised downwards. While the flow rates sound promising, it remains to be seen how accessible they will be and whether they will be commercially viable.’

The Horse Hill site sits within the Weald Basin, which been a font of excitement for investors since 2014 when initial testing indicated it could hold million of barrels worth of oil. Last April, UKOG estimated the Weald’s oil reserves to be 100 billion barrels, with 15 per cent accessible for commercial use. While this excitement was hastily scaled down for fear of disappointment, last October the figure was raised again to 124 billion, provided fracking could be used to loosen the oil from the layers of rock around it. A factor that makes the development worse in the eyes of environmentalists.

‘There is also the current low oil price to consider,’ says Watson. ‘At current prices, many of the oil fields that are producing in the North Sea are making a loss – and these are well-known fields with established operations. This will only make it harder for new production, particularly onshore, to be commercially viable. Prices may rise again in future – and many in the industry expect this – but it is hard to say whether that will happen, when, and by how much.’

Enjoy this article? Spread the word...

Submit to DeliciousSubmit to DiggSubmit to FacebookSubmit to Google PlusSubmit to StumbleuponSubmit to TechnoratiSubmit to Twitter

Related items

1 comment

  • John Orchard Horse Hill is not in Sussex! Until the 1970s the airport was in Surrey, at which time the county boundary was changed so that the airport fell within the purview of Crawley Borough and thus within West Sussex. However, the boundary does not extend over the perimeter fence, which in the north is adjacent to Charlwood, a civil parish within the Borough of Reigate and Banstead and the county of Surrey.

    Horse Hill is within the civil parish of Salfords and Sidlow, also in R&B and north of Charlwood.
    Sunday, 21 February 2016 04:18 posted by John Orchard

Leave a comment

ONLY registered members can leave comments and each comment is held pending authorisation before publishing. Please login or register to voice your opinion.

KEEP UP TO DATE

Never miss the news. Keep up to date with Geographical News update emails.

Sign up today and receive our special offer

signup1

Subscribe Today

EDUCATION PARTNERS

MaltaUni300x100UniOfHertsBuilding300x100StAndrewsUniBuildingLogo300x100

TRAVEL PARTNERS

CoxKing300x100

Intrepid300x100

DOSSIERS

Like longer reads? Try our in-depth dossiers that provide a comprehensive view of each topic

  • London: a walk in the park
    In the 2016 London Mayoral election, the city’s natural environment was high on the agenda. Geographical asks: does the capital has a green future, ...
    The Money Trail
    Remittance payments are a fundamental, yet often overlooked, part of the global economy. But the impact on nations receiving the money isn’t just a ...
    Dealing with drugs
    While Ebola makes the headlines, a raft of unreported and under-researched diseases are responsible for far more deaths across Africa every year. But ...
    Growing pains
    Population levels are rising and nowhere is this felt more keenly than in the world’s megacities – urban sprawls that each house over ten million ...
    Mexico City: boom town
    Twenty years ago, Mexico City was considered the ultimate urban disaster. But, recent political and economic reforms have transformed it into a hub of...

MORE DOSSIERS

NEVER MISS A STORY - follow Geographical

Want to stay up to date with breaking Geographical stories. Follow us on social media, we tweet snapshots of every article on Twitter and post our favourites on Facebook. Simply click on the buttons below to join us.

More articles in NATURE...

Wildlife

Listed as ‘Critically Endangered’ by the IUCN, the double-humped camel…

Wildlife

In Thailand, marine biologists are teaming with sports fishermen to…

Wildlife

It is barely half a century since the Born Free…

Wildlife

Is the Northern Rangelands Trust the case study the rest…

Wildlife

Nearly hunted to extinction in the early 20th century, the…

Oceans

With an life expectancy of at least 272, the Greenland…

Geophoto

As the most common tree species in the UK, the…

Wildlife

The world’s fourth largest criminal enterprise is the illegal trade…

Energy

The Galápagos islands take steps towards a fossil fuel-free future,…

Oceans

Geographical’s regular look at the world of climate change. This…

Energy

Latest figures from the Energy Information Administration (EIA) show that…

Geophoto

Few sights encapsulate the essence of summer better than a…

Climate

Hurricanes and tropical cyclones trigger carbon dioxide uptake in forests

Wildlife

The designation of the North American bison as the national…

Energy

Geographical’s regular look at the world of climate change. This…

Wildlife

The UK’s last wild lynx disappeared around 700AD. They could…

Tectonics

Mount Paektu is responsible for one of the largest eruptions…

Geophoto

Wolves may no longer roam the wild realms of the…

Climate

Project to turn carbon dioxide into stone works faster than…

Oceans

An ambitious scientific mission has discovered that the deepest known…