UKOOG welcomes Government consultation on land access

23 May 2014

UK Onshore Oil and Gas (UKOOG), the representative body for the onshore oil and gas industry, today welcomes the announcement that the Government is launching a consultation into land access issues for the onshore oil and gas and geothermal industries.

Horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing are techniques that have been used extensively by the oil and gas industry in the UK and around the world for a number of decades. These techniques are used typically at depths of one mile or greater involving horizontal wells of between 6 and 9 inches in diameter below the surface of the land. We agree with both the Government's assertion and recent case law1 that landowners' enjoyment of surface land is not impinged upon at all by this activity.

Recent studies in the UK by a number of eminent institutions and individuals including the Royal Society and Royal Academy of Engineering, Public Health England, the Chartered Institute of Water and Environmental Management and Professor David Mackay and Dr Tim Stone, among others, have all concluded that the risks are small in a properly regulated industry.
The access to underground land envisaged in this consultation brings both the onshore oil and gas and the geothermal industries into line with other industries in the UK, including coal mining and pipelines carrying gas, water and electricity, thereby reducing the uncertainty created by the existing legal system.

The introduction of some form of right of access does not affect at all the notification required to landowners and the general public. The current planning and permitting system already has six potential engagement points for the general public as indicated by the Community Engagement programme announced by UKOOG in January.

UKOOG will, in due course look to adjust its community engagement charter to reflect the relevant legislation and any associated scheme that replaces the current compensation requirements. This will involve a payment to local communities of £20,000 per unique lateral well drilled with a minimum length exclusion of 200m. The scheme will be local and benefit communities and will be flexible enough to allow for different community groups to get involved. This scheme is additional to the other community benefit schemes already announced by the industry.

Ken Cronin, chief executive of UKOOG, commented: "The current legal treatment for land access for onshore oil and gas is not in line with other industries, will delay projects that are beneficial to the nation and create unnecessary costs. The onshore oil and gas industry continues to be focused on communicating properly at a local level and complying with a regulatory system that is considered one of the best in the world. It serves no one if access to much needed natural resources that lie deep below the surface of the UK is denied by a legal system that desperately needs updating."
1 Bocardo SA v Star Energy Onshore UK Ltd (2011)