Council officers have approved plans by IGas to extend two sites near Bletchingley in Surrey to produce oil and gas for 15 years.
The decision last week (24th March 2016) was made under delegated powers and did not go before a planning committee or the full council.
The sites are in the Green Belt at Kings Farm, Tilburstow Hill Road, South Godstone. They are known as Bletchingley Central, which produces oil, and Bletchingley-2, where gas has been found. The nearest homes are 100m from Bletchlingley-2 and 530m from Bletchingley Central.
The application appears to be the first stage in IGas plans to double oil production at Bletchingley Central. The company told local people in 2014 it wanted to drill four additional oil wells (link to exhibition brochure). But these wells are not part of the new permission. The company has said it has no plans to develop shale gas at the sites.
The permission allows IGas to extend Bletchingley Central by about a third to a final size of 0.82ha and to almost double Bletchingley-2 to a final size of up to 0.37ha.
IGas estimated combined gas production from both sites would be up to 34,000m3 per day.
To put this in context, peak annual onshore natural gas production was 800 million m3 in 2000, representing about 0.4% of total UK production (Source: British Geological Survey).
Under the permission, IGas proposes to pipe any gas produced at Bletchingley-2 to Bletchingley-Central. A new 1Mw gas engine would generate electricity for the site and the electricity grid. Any gas left over would be fed into the gas grid, the company has said.
IGas said oil would be produced from the two existing wells at Bletchingley Central (also known as Bletchingley 5 and 6) at the current level of 300 barrels or 40 tonnes a day.
This compares with rates reported by the operator of the Horse Hill well near Gatwick last week (21st March 2016) of 1,688 barrels a day. The Horse Hill rates were described as “outstanding”. Link to UKOG statement.
IGas has said work at both sites would be divided into three phases:
- Construction: up to 20 weeks
- Production: up to 15 years
- Restoration: up to 12 months
IGas proposes to upgrade the valve on the existing well. The gas flow will be re-established using a truck-mounted workover rig.
Under a condition of the permission, gas will be flared for 24-hours a day for no more than one period of four days, during a flow test. After that the flare will be removed.
A gas pipe will be laid from Bletchingley-2 to Bletchingley Central, next to the access road, which will be upgraded. The site and equipment will be fenced.
Installations on this site will include new production equipment, oil and water storage tanks, unit to separate oil and water, tanker holding area and 2.5m perimeter fencing.
Under the permission, construction work will be carried out only within the hours 8am-7pm Monday-Friday and 8am-1pm on Saturday. Production will be a 24-hour a day continuous operation. Maintenance during the production phase will be carried out during construction phase hours.
During construction, IGas has forecast the work would generate 44 heavy goods vehicle (HGV) movements a day (22 in and 22 out). This compares with a peak of 50 movements generated by Cuadrilla’s proposed fracking sites at Roseacre Wood or Preston New Road in Lancashire. There would also be 20 movements (10 in and 10 out) of light vehicles and cars.
During production and restoration, the company predicts four HGV movements and 8-16 light vehicle or car movements.
IGas argued in its planning statement that the proposal did not conflict with the openness or permanence of the Green Belt because the sites had already been built.
It said: “The extensions are minimal and plant is well screened. The Development’s temporary nature means that the Green Belt characteristics of this site for the long term will be secured.”
Before work can start on site, IGas must meet 46 conditions. They cover working hours (see above) and noise, and agreed arrangements for soft landscaping, fencing, pipeline work, electricity connections to the grid, lighting, drainage, restoration, aftercare and protection for reptiles and archaeological remains. Work must begin within three years of the permission date and cease within 15 years of the start of work.
During construction and decommissioning of the site access road, conditions require noise to be limited to 70 decibels within 200m of Tilburstow Hill Road.
At Bletchingley Central, conditions limit noise to 45 decibels at homes facing the site during the day and 40 decibels at night.
At Bletchingley-2, daytime noise from flaring and the workover rig is limited by condition to 65 decibels at homes facing the site and night time noise to 42 decibels. During other phases, noise is limited to 47 decibels during the day.
Permission granted to Esso to drill at Kings Farm (GO/R7442). Three of the four boreholes were successful.
Planning permission granted for gas exploitation at Kings Farm (GO/R7442A)
Permission granted to service the wellhead to confirm the integrity of Bletchingley-2 (TA89/181). Bletchingley 2 has since been capped and there has been no activity since then. Bletchingley 1 and 3 have been abandoned and are being restored.
Permission granted for an appraisal wellsite and up to two boreholes at Bletchingley Central (TAO6/1788)
Permission granted for revised site layout at Bletchingley Central (TA08/1592)
Permission granted for retention of Bletchingley Central for up to three years
Permissions granted for retention of Bletchingley Central (TA2014/872) and Bletchingley-2 (TA2014/871) for a further 12 months and restoration of Bletchingley-2 (TA12/929)