THE bubble appears to have burst on an ‘oil boom’ in the Havant area – for now.
Northern Petroleum has announced it is ditching its licence on a two-acre field off Hulbert Road, close to the Asda store.
Five years ago the company was given planning permission to build a testing rig and promptly cleared the area and built an access road in the hope of finding millions of pounds worth of oil.
But, despite applying to renew the planning permission two years ago, drilling never began and the London-based company has now said it wants to concentrate on oil exploration overseas.
The firm also built a testing rig at Markwells Wood, near Rowlands Castle, and struck large quantities of crude oil in 2011.
But the company has now downgraded the prospect at Markwells from ‘proven and probable’ to ‘contingent resources’.
Regarding Markwells Wood, a statement added: ‘The company believes that further appraisal needs to be undertaken to produce a viable development plan which would lead to commercial production.’
Meanwhile, the company has put its stake in the long-running extraction site at Horndean on the market.
But the oil field, in production since 1988, is majority-owned by IGas Energy and a spokeswoman for the firm said there were no plans to close this site.
Environmentalists, who have campaigned against oil extraction on the South Downs, warned that Northern Petroleum’s apparent retreat did not mean other energy companies – including frackers – would not be eyeing up the same areas.
Ray Cobbett, co-ordinator for Hampshire Friends of the Earth, said: ‘There’s no cause to start putting out the bunting just at the moment.
‘They may not be interested as far as they are concerned as a company.
‘But that does not make the site itself uninteresting.
‘The fact is that the British Geological Survey, the authority on these matters, has said Hampshire contains substantial reserves of shale-bearing rocks.’