Oil drilling starts in Markswell Wood

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A test drill for oil at Markswell Wood in Forestside is going according to plan.

Northern Petroleum, which runs the site, said the drilling had been taking place for between seven and ten days and appeared to be promising.

Managing director Derek Musgrove said a lot of work had gone into ensuring the site was well-managed, and the impact on the environment was minimal.

Confirmation of the presence of oil at the site was announced by the company in January, with equipment installed during the summer.

The site features a linear rod pump instead of the nodding donkeys found at nearby sites at Singleton and Horndean.

It has a special membrane under the shingle in case of any spill which would stop the oil going into the soil and there is a moat around the site which would also protect the surrounding area in case of an incident.

It has four storage tanks and is manned by two people and is currently operating for eight hours a day.

Site manager Paul Strudwick, who has been worked in the oil industry for 26 years and has worked all around the world including in the North Sea, said: “It’s always interesting working on a new well. You don’t know what you are going to get. You are busy all the time, checking and monitoring.

“This pump has been designed to have less impact on the local area. It’s quieter, and uses less energy so is better for the environment. The drill is 5,000 feet below ground and it’s fairly simple, it’s not high-tech.”

Mr Musgrove said: “It’s early days but it’s definitely encouraging. The oil is flowing, it’s a nice, light oil; it still has to go through the refinery.”

He said the company had worked hard to tackle any issues that had been raised by residents.

“We are in a national park and we are fully cognisant of that. We are confident we have come up with the best possible solution for everyone.

“It’s very unlikely the site could be extended to what it is now.”

Mr Musgrove said he thought the company could do a good job and that the Horndean site had been operating for many years without incidents.

He said the company was aiming to produce around 1,500 barrels a day and that although it was a small site, with the rise in oil prices it was important.

“That’s a million dollars saved in imports,” he added.

He said a high environmental standard had been set and that until oil could be replaced by renewable energy, the aim was to retrieve oil responsibly and unobtrusively.

The oil is situated in the Great Oolite reservoir formation.

In 2008 West Sussex County Council granted permission to Northern Petroleum to test for oil at Markwells Wood for three years.