5th June 2014
The Department of Energy and Climate Change has confirmed it has extended Cuadrilla’s licence for oil exploration and production in the area which includes Balcombe in West Sussex. But the company is likely to lose its licence for the adjoining area, around Heathfield and the Ashdown Forest in East Sussex.
The Petroleum Exploration and Development Licences (PEDLs) for both areas were granted in 2008 and the initial terms of six years expire on June 30th this year. Under the terms of the licences, Cuadrilla had to drill a well in each area before the end of the initial term – known as the Drill-or-Drop commitment. Cuadrilla also had to inform DECC by the end of May about its intentions for both licence areas.
Last summer, the company drilled vertical and horizontal exploratory oil wells at Balcombe, in PEDL area 244. It also extended its lease for the Balcombe well site at Lower Stumble. On April 29th this year, West Sussex County Council granted planning permission for the Balcombe wells to be tested.
In the other licence area, PEDL 247, to the east of Balcombe, Cuadrilla has carried out no work and there are no records of recent drilling.
A spokesman for DECC said this afternoon: “For PEDL 244, the company has met its obligation and has been given an extension to the licence of two years.”
On PEDL 247, the spokesman said: “The company has not clarified its intentions for this area”.
Asked what this meant, the spokesman said if Cuadrilla did not clarify its intention and it had not met the Drill-or-Drop commitment, it would relinquish the PEDL licence for the area. He said PEDL 247 would then be added to the 14th round of exploration and development licence sales, which DECC has said is due to go ahead before the end of this year.
Cuadrilla’s PR spokeswoman told us last week that the company had no plans for work to take place in its PEDL areas in southern England. “Our focus”, she said, “is on our two proposed sites in Lancashire”.