Wytch Farm oil production extended in Dorset

Image caption,
Future development at Wytch Farm, Kimmeridge and Wareham oilfields includes drilling new wells

Oil production is to be extended for a further 21 years at western Europe's biggest onshore oilfield, in Dorset.

Dorset County Council granted permission for Perenco UK Ltd to extend the operational life of Wytch Farm, in Poole Harbour, from 2016.

Wytch Farm currently produces 20,000 barrels per day. The remaining reserves are estimated to be 43m barrels.

Approval is subject to a number of conditions, including the prevention of fracking for shale gas.

The council's planning committee approved a total of 39 applications, including extensions at Wareham and Kimmeridge oilfields which are also operated by Perenco UK Limited.

Other conditions include the restoration of surrounding heathland.

'National significance'

The future development at the oilfields includes drilling new wells and maintaining existing ones.

Concerns raised over the extension of production at the sites included noise, air quality and vibrations.

According to the council's planning report the continued use of the oilfields until 2037 is of "national significance" because they represent about 1.5% of the remaining proven onshore and offshore UK oil reserves.

About 650 people are currently employed at the sites and it is believed extending production will secure between 440 and 760 jobs until October 2037, by which time all sites are expected to be decommissioned.

The estimated contribution to the UK economy of the three sites is £300m per year.

Although the fracking of shale gas has never been carried out at the sites, there were no restrictions under the existing planning permissions.

However, the report said an environmental statement stated there were no known shale gas or coal bed methane deposits in Perenco's licence blocks, and no plans for it to seek any.

Perenco UK Ltd has pledged £1.7m towards off-site work to compensate for "adverse impacts" of the development, including the retention and management of surrounding trees used to screen the sites.

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