Locals shut down development works at “Gatwick Gusher” oil site

Works have been closed for several hours today after two protectors locked-on at the gates of an oil-drilling site owned by UK Oil and Gas (UKOG) at Broadford Bridge in West Sussex.

The pair, with several supporters, were at the site for some time before being approached by police liason officers as they stretched across the entrance on Adversane Lane, shutting off the road in both directions. One participant in the action said:

We have put our bodies in the way today to say no to oil exploitation that will endanger the environment, water supplies and health of local residents.

UKOG has been exploring for unconventional oil and gas and doing field development work for possible future drilling sites in the south-east of the UK for the past two years. Whilst they regularly attempt to disguise their actions behind technical jargon, they develop the case for unconventional oil and gas extraction, either by them or another company. It is essentially gateway drilling. Surveys have shown that public opposition to fracking is far higher than support, with just 18% supporting it.

Another participant said:

We are at the tipping point. We can’t afford to drill and burn more fossil fuels in the UK whilst meeting our national commitments to not contribute to run-away climate change. We stand in solidarity with anti-fracking groups around the UK as well as anti-fossil fuel movements around the world.

The site is one of the main planks in a major oil-drilling exercise by UKOG tapping into deposits found originally during explorations at Horse Hill, Gatwick which the business press has dubbed the “Gatwick Gusher.”

Drilling work on a 1,900m well at Broadford Bridge began on May 29th and shareholders have been told that all permits have been cleared. However the exploratory well has seen sustained efforts from local residents to get its permits repealed.

UKOG has been quietly buying up huge tracts of land and permissions in the region, formally known as the Kimmeridge Limestone Oil province, as it consolidates drilling rights over what it believes will be a major new oil boom in southern England. Buying the Weald Basin licence, which incorporates Broadford Bridge, has given them control over a 300 sq km area north of Worthing (below).

Map overlay of areas in Sussex which UKOG has bought or is interested in. Red is the recently-bought development land, blue a “development/appraisal asset” and the small zones indicate production assets. P numbers list the various licences held.

UKOG has claimed that huge reserves of oil can be extracted from the Weald Basin area, but has been slammed for using dodgy numbers in an effort to hype up its potential to investors. The firm said at one point that the discovery amounted to 100 billion barrels — equivalent to the entire proven reserves of Iran.

The firm has insisted that the oil, currently locked up in limestone deposits, is “naturally fractured” and that they won’t need to use highly-controversial fracking methods to extract it. This has been met with skepticism from campaign group Frack Off however, which has been campaigning against drilling in the Weald and produced this video on the “tight oil” threat last year:


Pic: Frack Free Sussex