UKOOG welcomes Government commitment to legislate on access rights in the Queen’s speech

4 June

UK Onshore Oil and Gas (UKOOG), the representative body for the onshore oil and gas industry, today welcomes the announcement in the Queen’s speech today that the Government is to legislate on land access issues for the onshore oil and gas and geothermal industries.

Ken Cronin, chief executive of UKOOG, commented: “The proposed legislation will bring the onshore oil and gas and geothermal industries into line with other activities, such as mining and utilities, and will have no noticeable effect on the lives of home and property owners. The onshore oil and gas industry is committed to working with local communities and operates within a regulatory system considered one of the best in the world. We have also brought forward proposals to share the benefits of shale gas exploration with local communities. It serves no one if an anomaly in the legal system allows the few to block access to much needed natural resources that lie deep below the surface of the UK and can benefit the whole of the country.”

Horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing are techniques that have been used by the oil and gas industry around the world for a number of decades. These techniques are typically used at depths of one mile or greater below the surface of the land using well diameters of 6 to 9 inches. We agree with both the Government's assertion and recent case law1 that the landowners’ enjoyment of surface land is not impaired 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 Managers and the eminent scientists Professor David Mackay and Dr Tim Stone, among others, have all concluded that the risks are manageable 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, thereby reducing the uncertainty and complexity created by the existing law.

The introduction of some form of right of access does not reduce at all the notification required to landowners and the general public. The current planning and permitting system already has six potential engagement points 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.

1 Bocardo SA v Star Energy Onshore UK Ltd (2011)