Firm ‘has broken its promise’ on chemicals

Markwells Wood
Markwells Wood
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AN OIL company has been criticised for not disclosing information about chemicals despite a promise to do so over the summer.

UK Oil and Gas (UKOG) is proposing to drill for oil in Markwells Wood, Forestside, which is within the South Downs National Park.

Markwells Wood sits atop the aquifer which feeds Portsmouth, and residents and groups are worried about the risk of pollution to drinking water. Also affected could be the Havant and Bedhampton Springs public water supply.

Portsmouth Water objected to the plans earlier this year.

Reed Paget, who works with Markwells Wood Watch, a group set up to protect the region’s water, said: ‘I and other members of the community have written to UKOG reminding them of their CEO’s pledge in July to disclose the names of the chemicals they will use, but they have not honoured their promise.

‘A UKOG representative said it will now not disclose the names until after the South Downs National Park Authority decides whether to approve its application in January.’

This comes after the Environment Agency (EA), which will deal with the company’s Environmental Permit should the planning application be approved, has advised UKOG to disclose the chemicals it will use beforehand.

Mr Paget added: ‘The company is at the pre-application stage with the EA, whose Onshore Oil & Gas Exploratory Operations-Technical Guidance states: “You should keep us informed of the nature and quantities of the chemicals you propose to use in the well stimulation process, including carrier fluids, at the pre-application and planning application stages”.

‘If the chemicals are only disclosed after the planning permission is granted, it will be too late for the public to do anything about it. But the EA can’t force UKOG to do anything.’

Havant Green Party co-ordinator Tim Dawes, who has worked alongside Frack Free Solent, said: ‘UKOG don’t want to say what chemicals they will be using because they know people will be horrified when they find out what will be going into our water supply. If UKOG get permission to do this, pollution will occur. We won’t be able to drink our water.’

A spokesperson for Portsmouth Water said: ‘From our review of the initial planning application, we have raised concerns over the potential risk of water contamination to the South Downs National Park Authority.’

A spokesperson for UKOG said: ‘Markwells Wood is an existing oilfield site, having been drilled in 2010 and tested over a six-month period at the end of 2011.

‘At the request of South Downs National Park Authority, we are preparing a revision of our environmental statement. The chemicals and drilling fluids for Markwells Wood will be included in this. They are the same chemicals and fluids used across the industry and are planned to be utilised for Markwells Wood in the reservoir a mile under the ground.

‘The well is completely sealed off from the chalk aquifer by three sets of overlapping heavy gauge steel pipes and waterproof concrete and its integrity is regularly tested.

‘Our method of drilling through the chalk utilises very similar techniques and substances to those used by water companies in drilling their nearby water abstraction wells.

‘We have also discussed with the EA and Portsmouth Water the use of a technique which utilises air to drill through the chalk and which provides an even more environmentally robust technique.’