23rd April 2014
There are 84 oil and gas wells in Sussex, many of them abandoned long ago. Could they become the next sites for hydraulic fracturing? One anti-fracking organisation thinks they could.
The Frack Free Balcombe Residents Association (FFBRA) in its latest newsletter argues that abandoned well sites will be targeted across Sussex by onshore oil and gas companies.
The group draws this conclusion from the report by West Sussex County Council’s planners, published last week, on Cuadrilla’s latest application to flow test its well at Balcombe. The report recommends the council should approve the application when it is debated on April 29th.
The report states that under Policy 26 of the West Sussex Minerals Plan (2003) “Proposals for oil and gas will be permitted where it is demonstrated to the satisfaction of the Planning Authority that it demonstrates the best option in comparison with other alternative sites within the area of search”.
However, operators can explore or develop for hydrocarbons only in areas where they hold a Petroleum Exploration and Development Licence (PEDL). In the case of Balcombe, the area of search for alternative sites was limited to Cuadrilla’s PEDL area 244.
The planners also argue that applicants want to make use of existing geological data and infrastructure. This makes them more likely to choose an existing drilling site. In the case of Cuadrilla this is either Balcombe or Bolney-1, nearly 4 miles from Balcombe.
The report states that the applicant also wants to use the existing borehole it drilled in 2013. It concludes that Balcombe is “the best option” compared with potential other sites within the area of search that have not been drilled in the past”.
FFBRA says if the planners’ argument is accepted, this will set a precedent and the 84 sites across Sussex will be prioritised when selecting future sites. What we know about old oil and gas sites in Sussex.