Plans to drill for oil near Billingshurst in West Sussex needs a fresh planning application because the exploration target has changed, campaigners said this week.
The Keep Kirdford and Wisborough Green group has written to the county council saying plans by UK Oil & Gas to drill a well at the Wood Barn Farm site at Broadford Bridge were different to those granted consent four years ago.
The former operator of the site, Celtique Energie, said in its planning application, approved in 2013, that it wanted to explore the Triassic sandstone reservoir for gas. It said the gas should flow naturally into the well and it would use conventional, rather than unconventional, drilling at Broadford Bridge. The application said:
“Celtique Energie can guarantee that it will not be using hydraulic fracturing on this well”.
But in August 2016, before drilling the well, Celtique sold its exploration licence for this area to UK Oil and Gas Investments plc, the major investor in the oil discovery at Horse Hill.
A subsidiary of UKOG now wants to explore for tight oil at Broadford Bridge.
Stephen Sanderson, UKOG executive chairman, told DrillOrDrop:
“Our focus [for Broadford Bridge] is on the shallower, naturally-fractured Kimmeridge Limestones as tested [for oil] at Horse Hill.”
This has concerned the campaign group, Keep Kirdford and Wisborough Green (KKWG), which successfully opposed plans by Celtique to drill for oil near the two villages in 2014.
Its chair, Jill Sutcliffe, said:
“Tight oil is a different substance requiring the use of unconventional technology. UKOG’s overall exploration and appraisal strategy is geared towards oil extraction from previously unrecognised naturally-fractured rocks within the Weald.”
In a letter to the county council’s planning officer, Dr Sutcliffe said unconventional techniques brought new problems. They include pumping acid or other fluids into the well. She said:
- Unconventional techniques had detrimental environmental impacts
- The use of fluid in drilling in faulted geology risked groundwater contamination, and
- According to the Environment Agency there were no suitable facilities in the region for treating waste fluids.
Dr Sutcliffe said Condition 3 of the planning permission required that the development be carried out in accordance with the environmental statement. This proposed only conventional drilling to target the Sherwood Sandstone formation.
The environmental statement included a diagram showing the well passing through the limestone layers that UKOG plans to target. But she said:
“There are no proposals to fracture any of those rocks, either with acid or hydraulically”.
Dr Sutcliffe said
“Failure to develop in accordance with Condition 3 should attract immediate enforcement action, if necessary involving a Stop Notice.”
She added that there was no proposed facility to store acid and no mention of transporting it to the site.
“The absence of any proposal to bring acid to the site and store it there is in our view a sufficient material consideration which, by itself, ensures that UKOG requires an amendment to its planning permission before it could proceed to carry out acid fracturing from its current permission at Broadford Bridge.
“This application now requires re-consideration and a new application to be submitted involving public consultation”.
In reply to Dr Sutcliffe, West Sussex County Council said:
“The planning permission we have issued relates to a specific development, as set out in the Environmental Statement and plans set out in condition 3. If the operator wishes to carry out a different development to that approved they will need to amend the permission.”
Dr Sutcliffe said:
“The local community believes that given the plans lack full information the company should prepare a new application, which should be subject to public consultation.”
- Kimmeridge Oil & Gas Ltd, the UKOG subsidiary, has applied for an environmental permit for the storage and handling of crude oil at Woodbarn Farm. The application can be viewed at the Environment Agency offices, Guildbourne House, Chatsworth Road, Worthing BN11 1LD. A public consultation runs until 20 March. Link to permit information