Green MEP backs experts' call for Surrey earthquake drilling moratorium as new water injection data released
Keith Taylor, Green MEP for the South East, has backed the call from a leading group of geologists and seismologists for a moratorium on oil and gas drilling in Surrey following a swarm of earthquakes in the region.
A group of scientists with expertise in the hydrocarbon industry are today arguing the risk associated with continuing drilling operations in an area hit by 12 earthquakes since April 1, measured at depths of between 400m and 1km, is too great.
The call comes as the Oil & Gas Authority (OGA) released new data on the volume of water injected at the Brockham oil site, showing an increase from 3m3 in March 2018 to 73m3 in April 2018.
“We believe that public health and the environment are not being adequately protected given the unstable geology, which had not been identified before permits were issued for the currently active drill sites.”
The British Geological Survey (BGS) is currently investigating the quakes and installing extra seismic monitors, including three last week, to calculate more precisely the depth, location and cause of the quakes.
What concerns the leading experts is that the activities at nearby oil and gas exploration sites like Horse Hill and Brockham, operated by UKOG and Angus Energy respectively, might be causing the quakes and that the quakes might also be damaging the wells on site and rendering them unsafe.
The letter to The Times, a version of which has also been sent to the Energy Secretary Greg Clark urging Government intervention, concludes:
“A moratorium is urgently needed on hydrocarbon exploration in the area of Surrey recently affected by 12 earthquakes ... The moratorium on drilling, re-injection and flow testing should be put in place immediately and remain in force until the records of fluid injection and local faulting activity have been comprehensively surveyed and interpreted, and the triggering mechanism for this quake cluster properly understood. We call on the energy secretary and regulatory bodies to address this issue without delay.”
Mr Taylor, a member of the European Parliament's Environment Committee, has been calling for a moratorium on drilling activities for several weeks. Last month, the senior Green Party politician wrote to Surrey County Council, the OGA and the Health and Safety Executive urging action.
In response to the latest expert intervention, Mr Taylor said:
"The seismic activity in an area where unconventional fossil fuel drilling and testing is active is clearly extremely concerning. It is also unprecedented in the Weald in the last half a century. At the same time, links between unconventional onshore oil and gas drilling and earthquakes were established almost a decade ago in Lancashire."
The Green MEP is careful, however, not to draw any conclusions before the results of an investigation, he continues:
"I welcome the British Geological Survey's efforts to further monitor this activity and wholeheartedly support the call from geology and seismology experts for a moratorium on any oil and gas activity in the geological region until the results of any investigation are clear. The case for employing the precautionary principle is obvious."
"If UKOG wasn't so busy making contradictory claims and unevidenced assertions or Angus so quick to deny any link, the oil and gas firms might realise that any connection between onshore oil and gas drilling in Surrey and Sussex and the recent spate of earthquakes can only be confirmed or dismissed after it has been independently investigated. Until then, a moratorium is an entirely sensible course of action for all involved."