On Tuesday 23rd February, ‘The Nanas’ journeyed from Lancashire to meet with other Nanas from the South, local residents opposed to UK Oil and Gas’s (UKOG) current flow-testing and proposed future production of oil, at the Horse Hill site, near Gatwick Airport, in Surrey.  But are UKOG fracking at the site or is their intention to drill for oil using ‘conventional’ methods, as they claim? 

North and South Unite Against Extreme Energy

Lancashire Nana, Tina Louise Rothery, said, “After witnessing the ongoing community resistance at Horse Hill, and the clearly heavy-handed policing [1] seeking to subdue it, ‘The Nanas’ want to show solidarity and respect and bring along some cake, smiles and support. There are abuses of our human right to protest [2] taking place and as in life, Nanas have the unique ability to scold and shame the bullies; highlighting injustice.”

Essex Nana, Linda Foord, offers tea and cake at the Horse Hill Protection Camp when a policeman reads her a warning for obstructing the traffic.

“The public are taking actions across the country right now, in Lincolnshire, Cheshire, Yorkshire, Nottingham and are fighting the appeal in Lancashire, but work is progressing rapidly at Horse Hill and the policing is harsh – criminalising those seeking to protect their communities, families and children; we see this as a key flashpoint in need of attention.”

Exploration began at the Horse Hill site in autumn of 2014 and local residents began to learn about UKOG’s plans when two ancient oaks trees were cut down to make the entrance road for the site. UKOG returned to the site three weeks ago to begin flow-testing, but this time have been met with local opposition which has included a series of demonstrations, such as last weekend’s ‘Time To Cycle’ and March event. There is growing resistance at Horse hill, and the local Parish Council and Residents Group have made it clear that they are supporting the Horse Hill Protection Camp, with a public meeting planned on the 28th February. The community protection camp has been raising awareness and leading direct action against UKOG’s extreme energy.

Fracking by another name

Local resident, Lisa Scott, highlighted the serious need for opposition, said “I am concerned about the negative effect on property values, the massive potential increase in tanker movements onto the site up our narrow country lanes, and not least the damage to our air, water and environment. While UKOG are keen to confuse people with a constantly shifting terminology by saying that they are using safe ‘conventional’ processes, the people of Surrey are starting to wise-up to the fact that even flow-testing itself includes extreme ‘unconventional’ processes. This is made clear in UKOG’s own planning permission in which they use what the industry itself calls ‘a mini-frack’, during which diesel and acid is pumped at high-pressure into the geology beneath our homes in the Horse Hill community. These ‘acid jobs’ are of great concern due to the fact that 6% of the concrete and steel well-linings fail within the first year of production. This rate of failure rises to 20% within three years. All well-linings will fail at some point.”

“We welcome the ‘The Nanas’ to Horse Hill and appreciate that there is much we can learn from these remarkable women who have campaigned so hard to stop fracking from impacting their communities in the North for the passed 4 years.”

Horse Hill Protection Group member Dave, agrees that the industry is hiding behind new definitions and terminology about fracking, saying, “Although UKOG’s plans for oil-extraction may not include pure fracking, such as the disastrous attempt by Cuadrilla at Preese Hall [3], which immediately caused seismic activity and had to be shut down; their claim that they are not fracking is a blatant lie. Even the process of flow-testing includes the high-pressure injection of acid and diesel. Also, there are no current protocols to stop UKOG fracking at a later date, should they wish to do so. The dirty oil industry is trying to squeeze every last drop out of the ground, despite the Paris Climate talks advising that all nations should be moving towards carbon-neutral based energy, such as countries like France are doing. Fracking is banned in France because they did their research and found that it could not be done safely anywhere in the world and was not worth the risk to the environment and public health.”

The Nanas lift spirits at the Horse Hill Protection Camp, bringing song, tea, cake and Northern solidarity.

Gateway Drilling

“This is ‘gateway drilling’ to fracking, or more precisely, acid fracturing at high pressure. Thanks to the government, the statutory definition of ‘associated hydraulic fracturing’ has eliminated the need for operators to use the term “fracking”, and therefore have the right to state they are not, and will not be fracking. This is totally underhand, and it is outrageous the government has gone to such lengths to mislead and misinform the general public.”

The British government passed new laws within the Infrastructure Act 2015 [4] which define hydraulic fracturing of shale (or strata encased in shale) as a process involving (or expecting to involve) the injection of more than 1,000 cubic metres of fluid at each stage (or expected stage) of the hydraulic fracturing, or more than 10,000 cubic metres of fluid in total.

When asked to comment on this new statutory definition, Professor of Geology, Stuart Haszeldine OBE (University of Edinburgh) [5] said, “I have not discovered any argued definition to explain how or why these numbers were chosen. Or, indeed, why volumes of fluid are chosen at all – when the geological effects of fracking are really a consequence of strain rate (i.e. “speed” of imposed deformation of the rock).”

Professor Haszeldine added, “Given the very clear public concern about fracking of any type in the UK, it seems to me that releasing these new rules and definitions, buried in the text of the Infrastructure Act, without a clear supporting scientific argument, explanation, and justification, is potentially very unhelpful. That risks the perception, of what could be a move to enable scientific data to be gathered, to be perceived as dodgy and conspiratorial manipulation of the rules by Government.  Much more debate is needed to understand why this “definition” is needed which ignores fluid pressures, and to explain why this is not simply a cynical swerve around the planning and judicial rules of precedent, to enable drilling and fracking where many members of the public are opposed to that activity.”

Tina Louise Rothery says, “This solidarity meeting between communities from the North and South is important, as the Lancashire Nanas can share their valuable experience in an effort to combat the huge traffic movements, plummeting property values, and compulsory purchase orders associated with the operations of the extreme oil and gas industry in Australia and the USA. Despite the government’s absurd commitment to a dash for oil and gas, while slashing subsidies for clean renewable energy, the British public are now coming together to stand up for their community’s right to clean air and water, protecting their environment in the face of the climate change crisis.”

A public meeting will take place on Sunday 28th February 2016 from 4:30pm to 6:00pm at:
Hookwood Memorial Hall, Horley, Surrey RH6 0AZ.

Talk Fracking