Did the earth move for you?

Recent local earthquakes in the Reigate and Dorking areas have prompted speculation that these are linked to oil and gas drilling in the area. Cllr Patricia wiltshire has been in contact with SCC and sent the following details:-

"I have had a very long discussion with the Environment Agency expert in Hydraulic Geology and had already been in touch with the British Geological Survey. No-one actually knows exactly what is going on at depth in the Wealden geology because, of course, the stratigraphic structure of the deposits, and the degree of faulting, have all been ascertained through proxy methods. However, British Geological Survey are monitoring the situation and seismometers have been put in appropriate locations. Two universities are also carrying out research into the specific problem. We will not be party to the results of any research because it is, essentially, academic and, as far as I know, not being carried out on a commissioning basis. However, if there were anything that needed highlighting, I am sure they would alert the authorities very quickly. Research scientists are very responsible people.

First of all, no permits or licences have been issued to any company for hydraulic fracturing (fracking) and, as far as the Environment Agency is aware, none has been requested. Furthermore, there is no acidization processes being employed so there is no wholesale rock removal, which can happen by it being dissolved with hydrofluoric acid. This is very comforting. The only acid that is used, is fairly dilute hydrochloric acid which is used to dissolve chalky deposits that accumulate during boring. This is not harmful and just stops the equipment getting messy. Another fluid that is inserted is simple brine (salty water) to prevent any upwelling of hydrocarbons from the borehole. Again, this should not have any deleterious effects on the underlying Wealden rocks.

All the scare stories actually relate to real happenings in America. However, they do not have our level of monitoring or control. It seems that virtually anyone owning land can prospect and actually extract oil and gas. From what I have learned, some of their practices are very dangerous to public health and would never be allowed in the UK. There is more of an issue in the North of England and I am sure that some of you are aware of the problems up there. They are being investigated and monitored extensively.

I have been assured that the Environment Agency, the Oil and Gas Authority, and the authority that deals with Public Health and Safety, are all in close liaison.

I will keep you informed of the situation but please put your residents’ minds at rest. I have been told by the Environment Agency that evidence collected so far would suggest that the boring activities are not related to the seismic activity. However, no-one can afford to be complacent, and the authorities are keeping an open mind. This is comforting, although Europa Oil & Gas have just been given permission to sink an oil well at Leith Hill. We must be ever watchful.

Best wishes,

Councillor Patricia E.J. Wiltshire"