The request for permission to drill for oil, using water acidisation, has been submitted by UKOG (UK oil & gas) to the South Downs National Park,(SDNP), planning division. The proposal is due to be discussed in March or April, when a decision will be made as to whether to grant permission for further vertical and horizontal drilling, and the use of acidisation technology to proceed at the Markwells Wood site.
Acidisation is not technically hydraulic fracturing, also known as fracking. However, it is a traditional technique that has been developed and extended in recent years so that it can be also be used to fracture rock to release oil, in a similar way to fracking. A dilute acid is released underground under pressure, where it dissolves the limestone. In the U.S.A. it is called an “acid frack”. It can include a number of controversial chemicals in the acid mixture. We believe that regulations have not kept up with these developments and that oil companies are turning to the technique, where they can, to avoid the opposition that fracking arouses.
There has been huge local opposition to these proposals, with over 2000 objections being lodged with the SDNP and we are heartened that Portsmouth Water and the Environmental Agency have lodged grave concern over the proposals because the proposed wells would pass through a chalk aquifer that supplies water to 250,000 people in Portsmouth, and local villages and towns in East Hants and West Sussex. There is a concern that the clean water could be contaminated by the dirty acid water, used in the drilling process.
Portsmouth city council has lodged an official objection, because of its concern over the risk to the clean water supplies and several local Parish councils have also objected. Rowlands Castle and Stoughton PCCs have both given us financial help to enable us to commission an expert hydrogeologist to make a report on the local rocks, and the possible risks to them, if this drilling goes ahead. This report will be done before the SDNP meets to make its decision.
WHY SHOULD WE OBJECT TO DRILLING FOR OIL IN MARKWELLS WOOD?
- To protect our National Park against industrialisation
* Oil exploration and extraction conflicts with the core purposes of the South Downs National Park, which are:
* To conserve and enhance the natural beauty, wildlife and cultural heritage of the area.
* To promote opportunities for the understanding and enjoyment of the special qualities of the Park by the public.
* If this application were granted, it could be the start of large-scale oil drilling across the National Park.
- To avoid risks to water supplies
- To maintain the beauty, peace and tranquillity of the area for residents and visitors
* Oil extraction would mean many more Heavy Goods Vehicles causing noise and vibration, clogging up our narrow country lanes and putting at risk the cyclists, walkers, motorists and horse riders who use the area for recreation.
* The drilling process would require a tall rig of about 37 metres in height that would operate 24 hours each day with a flare stack to burn off unwanted gas. This will be shielded which will reduce the visual impact.
So, visual impact, noise, air pollution and intrusive lighting would be the unwelcome consequences. Such a site would be clearly visible from vantage points on the South Downs.
- To conserve and protect wildlife
* Markwells Wood and the surrounding areas of woodland include designated Ancient Woodland.
* This is a rich ecosystem that contains several rare species, including barbastelle and Bechstein’s bats, which are amongst the UK’s rarest mammals.
* There are sixty four species of birds with some level of protection, including six on the RSPB endangered list.
* The immediate area also hosts three badger sets.
* These animals and birds would be disturbed by this industrial activity.
- UKOG has failed to consider alternative sites outside the National Park and has not shown how this development would be in the public interest. They have an obligation to do this as part of their planning application.
- Our commitment to a low carbon future
* The government has recently signed the Paris Agreement on climate change and yet we continue to extract and use fossil fuels in ever increasing quantities, thus contributing further to carbon emissions.
* If the government continues its plans to allow fracking and acidisation, then it will certainly be unable to meet its commitment to reducing carbon emissions.
* The refusal of this application would meet one of the National Park’s objectives, which is to adapt to and reduce the impacts of climate change.
THERE IS STILL TIME TO OBJECT!
If you would like to know more, go to Facebook and search “Markwells Wood Watch”
Objections should be made to: The South Downs National Park Planning Department.
Application number: SDNP/16/04679/C
Helen Penfold, on behalf of Markwellswood Watch,
The local action group, opposed to the proposals, based at Forestside .
If you would like to become more actively involved with the group then please contact