The potential of Horse Hill, the so-called Gatwick Gusher, was underlined by the latest big resource estimate.
New calculations prepared by oil services giant Schlumberger suggest there are 10.99bn barrels of crude across 55 square miles. US firm NuTech previously estimated it was host to 9.97bn ‘mean’ barrels.
At this present time it is unknown whether the resource can be commercially tapped, and analysts expect as Horse Hill is a ‘tight’ play it could require fracking in order to liberate the oil in significant quantities.
“Solo, as a minority partner, is waiting for advice from the operator on that [whether or not fracking could take place], but, at the moment they are ruling it out,” Ritson said in an interview.
He revealed the belief within the consortium is that the oil under Horse Hill can be commercially extracted without fracking.
“So, for the time being it is off the table,” Ritson added.
He acknowledged that fracking could be a way of improving oil recoveries but it is not known whether the process would be applicable to Horse Hill, either technically and/or politically.
Ritson agreed recoverability is now the next obvious question at Horse Hill.
He added, however, that “it would not be timely” to make any estimate of how much could be unearthed from the project.
He explained that the level of recoverability would depend very much upon the development scheme that’s chosen for the project.
“We may be talking about a few percent recovery, that could be enhanced by horizontal drilling. And I know the operator is looking at some environmentally sensitive ways of increasing the contact with the reservoir that don’t involve fracking,” Ritson told Proactive.
“But, it is a long term play there. I don’t think we’re going to be seeing oil produced from the weald, from these Jurassic type reservoirs, for some time.”
The Solo chief also discussed the upcoming flow test for Horse Hill’s Portland sandstone discovery, a conventional reservoir that is well understood, which is estimated to have about 20mln barrels oil in place.
“If that can flow successfully later this year then we could see a development at Horse Hill,” he added. “Those kinds of developments have a very small footprint and don’t have much impact.”
Brendan D’Souza, analyst at stockbroker WH Ireland, described the upcoming flow test as a “key near term catalyst”.
Engineering and environmental studies have been commissioned to “investigate a conceptual Weald Jurassic field development”, the Horse Hill companies told investors this morning.
They said the prime objective must be that it “respect and preserve the rural beauty and way of life of the area, with minimal environmental impact, while at the same time providing a valuable contribution to the area's economy”.
Solo Oil has a 6.5% interest in the Horse Hill project.
Ritson was speaking to Proactive Investors about Solo Oil’s assets in Tanzania, where first gas production is expected in the near future.
To see the full interview click here.