Licences granted by the Government for onshore oil and gas drilling in parts of Epsom could lead to exploratory fracking drilling, it has emerged.

According to the latest onshore licensing data for the UK, from the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC), licences have been granted to Northdown Energy Limited for the northern parts of Epsom and Ewell.

Some of these licences may be used to conduct exploratory drilling work to see whether fracking - a highly controversial process involving drilling into the ground and injecting fluid at high pressure to fracture shale rocks which release natural gas - could be carried out in the borough.

Speaking to the Epsom Guardian, Epsom and Ewell MP Chris Grayling said any proposals for drilling in the borough would have to be looked at carefully as fracking is a significant energy source which cannot be ignored.

He said: "We would have to look at the detail for any practical proposals, what they involve and where they might have an impact.

"But, at a time when lots of people are saying to me that they are struggling to afford to pay their gas bills, I don’t think we can ignore a new energy source which could cut everyone’s gas bills significantly.


"We need to look at it seriously."

A DECC spokesman said a company which has been granted a drilling licence must seek approval from the Environment Agency and Health and Safety Executive, as well as receive planning permission from the local authority, before returning to DECC before any drilling occurs. 

He said additional licences would be required for the extraction of onshore oil and gas and that the granting of licences for drilling by DECC did not mean that fracking would occur in the areas concerned.

The spokesman said: "Onshore drilling for oil and gas has been taking place in the UK for many years. 

"Having a licence to explore for onshore oil and gas does not convey any permission for operations, including drilling or fracking. 

"The licences are not specific to any particular type of oil or gas.

"The Government has been clear that wherever shale gas fracking is conducted it must be done in a safe and environmentally sound way.

"There are regulations in place to ensure on-site safety, prevent water contamination, air pollution and mitigate seismic risks."

A spokeswoman for Surrey County Council, which considers planning applications relating to minerals, said: "No planning applications have been received for exploratory drilling for fracking in Surrey.

"Any application would, by law, be looked at on its own merit."

David Lowry, an environmental policy and research consultant, from Stoneleigh, said he is concerned that the radioactive risks of fracking have not been highlighted in the British media.

He said: "There is a radiation risk to people when the gas is released from the ground because it also releases radon which is in the shale rock."

What do you think about exploratory drilling licences being granted in Epsom and Ewell? Contact Hardeep Matharu on the newsdesk on 0208 722 6346, email, or leave a comment below.