Cuadrilla reveals details of tests on Balcombe oil well

Wednesday 21st August 2013. Balcombe South East England, UK. Cua

Cuadrilla’s Balcombe site in 2013. Photo: David Burr

A month-long public consultation began today on regulation of Cuadrilla’s plans to test its exploratory oil well at Balcombe in West Sussex.

The company is applying to the Environment Agency to make changes to its permit for the well, drilled during anti-fracking protests in July and August 2013.

The application, running to nearly 100 pages, includes details of how the company will test the rate that oil flows. This will help to establish whether the well would be commercially viable.

As part of the test, the company said it planned to pump a 10% solution of hydrochloric acid round the well to clean the bore and the rocks surrounding it. There were no plans for hydraulic or acid fracturing, it said.

Cuadrilla estimated the tests could produce up to 35,000m3 of waste gas, which would be burned in a 45ft (13.7m) high flare. The tests were also expected to result in 82m3 of spent dilute hydrochloric acid and produced water from the well, which would be removed by tanker.

The application includes information about a new flare and monitoring arrangements for air and water quality during the well test. But some details have been removed from the application under a confidentiality option open to the company.

There is also a request to remove two waste products from the permit: drilling mud and spent acid and produced water, referred to as “salty water”. The company said it had “no intention to leave any fluid in the formation”.

The Balcombe well has been suspended since September 2013. West Sussex County Council granted planning permission in May 2014 for flow testing, abandonment and restoration. To comply with this permission, Cuadrilla must begin work by 2 May 2017 and complete operations within six months.

Kathryn McWhirter, of the No Fracking in Balcombe Society, said:

“We believe Cuadrilla are simply tidying up their paperwork before probably applying for an extension to their planning permission, and then we expect them to sell on the licence (PEDL) to another operator, probably UKOG.

“They say the impact of emissions from their new flare will be minimal. We disagree. The flare is one of the most concerning aspects of this development for the village.

“They have made a few feeble additions to their monitoring proposals, which remain totally inadequate.

“They seem to want to remove the ‘salt water’ flowback and produced water from the scrutiny it deserves under the minerals waste permit. We believe this waste should be carefully monitored.”

DrillOrDrop asked Cuadrilla when it planned to begin flow testing at Balcombe. This post will be updated with any response.

The deadline for comments is 25 April 2017. Link to consultation page.


The following information (except where indicated) has been extracted from the permit application.

Duration of flow test

3-7 days followed by 10-20 days of shut-in of the well

Flow test stages

Stage 1: Fluid currently in the well would be removed to a tank.

Stage 2: Approx 20m3 of 10% dilution of hydrochloric acid would be circulated in the well in a matrix acid wash. This would remove drilling mud debris from the horizontal section of the wellbore and clean the rocks surround it, the document said. It added that there would be “minimal” penetration of acid into the surrounding rocks – estimated at less than 6 inches – and the pressure used in the operation would not cause fractures.

Stage 3: Well flushed with nitrogen gas to remove liquids.

The company’s planning application said fluids and gases would then pumped from the well for about a week, 24-hours a day. Fluids would be stored in tanks and gases piped to the flare.

Flare and waste gases

The document said:

“This is an oil exploratory operation and we do not expect to encounter gas (although the possibility cannot be ruled out entirely)”.

However, it estimates, as a worst-case scenario, the volume of surplus gas from the well would be 35,000m3 for the duration of the well test.

Cuadrilla said it had developed a flare that would burn these gases at 800 degrees C, converting 98% of methane to carbon dioxide, carbon monomers and waste. If this standard were not achieved, the well would be temporarily shut-in to prevent the flow of gases, it said.

The application added:

“unabated releases of natural gas to atmosphere will be avoided”.

According to the document, the flare has a 15ft high stand pipe and a 30ft high chimney. Air vents had been cut into the chimney. This allows air to be drawn into system during flaring for a more complete burning of gas.

“The chimney suppresses both the noise levels and the light emissions. It also significantly reduces the heat given off by the flame.”

“All gas is trapped in the 30ft chimney and is subjected to a longer burn path, thus preventing any stray natural gas from escaping off to the sides before reaching the flame.”

Before the flow test begins, Cuadrilla said the flare would be hard-engineered to restrict it burning more than 10 tonnes of gas a day. The company would also carry out a review to ensure that it met Best Available Techniques.

Other wastes

  • Well suspension fluid: assessed as hazardous because of the potential presence of crude oil
  • Cement: assessed as non-hazardous; estimated volume 10m3; sent for off-site recycling
  • Nitrogen: assessed as inert and to be vented from the well
  • Spent hydrochloric acid and produced water: assessed as non-hazardous; estimated volume 82m3; sent by tanker off-site for recycling

Risks and monitoring

A risk assessment in the application concluded there would be:

“No significant risk from mud, odour, noise/vibration, waste, air quality and emissions with global warming potential, or accidents at the site”.

It identified measures to reduce risks. These included:

  • “Use of Environment Agency authorised haulage/delivery companies”
  • “Visual inspection of tanks during site daily HSE tours”
  • “Wellhead, pipes and flare stack designed to prevent fugitive gas emissions”
  • “24-hour supervision of pipes and flare during flow testing”
  • “Flare designed for complete combustion at temperature in line with BAT [Best Available Techniques] requirements”
  • “Ability to shut in the well in the unlikely event of an inefficient burn”
  • Temperature monitoring and recording of flare at base and tip. Continuous monitoring
  • Testing of pipework and joints before flow testing

Ground and surface water

The risk to ground and surface water was regarded as low. But the application said metals, hydrocarbons and dissolved methane, carbon dioxide and oxygen would be monitored onsite “to maintain surveillance on groundwater quality”. Metals and hydrocarbons would be monitored onsite for the impact on surface water quality.

Three single samples would be taken at the start, middle and final day of the well test for ground and surface water monitoring.

Air quality and emissions

The application said air quality would be monitored during the well testing programme, with checks at four locations for nitrogen dioxide, sulphur dioxide, hydrogen sulphide, methane, VOCs (volatile organic carbons) and BTEX (benzene, toluene, ethylbenzene and xylene – compounds in crude oil).

Fugitive air emissions were expected to be “very minor” and a low environmental risk. Methane would be monitored twice during the well test.

Noise and vibration

The documents said noise would be maintained at the levels set in the planning permission. The maximum levels were: 55dB from 7am-7pm Monday to Friday and 8am-1pm on Saturday; background levels 7pm-10pm; and 42dB at night (10pm-7am).

Flaring was likely to be a source of noise, the document said. But it said flaring would last for about a week, would not be near homes and the site was screened by trees. Noise monitoring would be “undertaken at pre-determined locations and close to sensitive receptors”. Complaints would be investigated and monitoring may lead to additional mitigation, the document said.


According to the document, the risk of spills was low. But nearby water features would be sampled once a week to identify any contaminants from the site. The quantity of produced water and spent hydrochloric acid would be recorded and sampled. The operations were not expected to produce smells.


The junction of the site entrance and the road would be inspected daily to “ensure potential mud deposits from road tankers does not become a problem”.


Link to permit application consultation

Link to planning application details

DrillOrDrop page for Balcombe with key details, links and timeline

44 replies »

    • The Government states ‘Gold Standards’ would be adopted by the industry. There is no need to flare all gases if ‘Green Completions’ were used. The US has already started with this technology and they don’t have ‘Gold Standards’.

      As Cuadrilla have permission in Lancashire and Balcome you would imagine they would be using green completion at these sites as industry best practice. Uncertainty of the industry and financial restraints are of concern but community trust is an area where the industry is failing badly.

      They should be pulling out all the stops after the failings and bad publicity of their Preese Hall well.

      • Perhaps this is an oil well? The gas is associated only, quantity depends on the GOR. It is only a short, simple well test. And it is legal.

        • John, they are not using a ‘green completion’ for this is because this is not a completion. Its a well test. A completion is the installation of equipment to turn a hole into a producing well. The current operation is to evaluate the producability of an exploration well. If its found to be economic, then a producer would be drilled and THEN completed.

        • Clearly it is an oil well. The flare would be one of the main hazards for the village, like flares everywhere.It has no social licence, It is forced upon us by a bullying industry and a bullying government.

      • John
        Green completions is generally the term used for ‘Reduced Emission Completions’ (RECS). It describes an alternative practice that captures gas produced during well completions and well workovers following hydraulic fracturing. Note that these gas sites would be connected to a gas grid, as the sites in Lancashire will be.

        Hence for Lancashire this sounds appropriate. But the Balalacombe well is a conventional oil well, with no fracking as I understand and therefore does not fit the definition of one which green completions can be carried out on.

        What information do you have for such activities being defined as green completions on conventional oil well testing and being used in the US? It would help with the discussion.

        • The government has declared all PEDL s in the Weald ‘conventional’. Their definition is unscientific, yet the industry parrots it, indeed the industry must have persuaded the govt to adopt this definition. In the 14th round of PEDL allocation, all the Weald was described as ‘conventional’. National minerals planning guidance since March 2014 defines conventional hydrocarbon sources as anything in limestone or sandstone. Rubbish. Phone a geologist. He she will tell you that the ‘conventional /unconventional’ divide is based mainly on permeability of the source rock. Micrite, the current source rock in Balcombe, has very low permeability. Oolite, the source rock at some sites in the Weald, is sometimes permeable, but sometimes is’ naturally cemented’ and has poor permeability. It is outrageous to classify all formations in the Weald as conventional! It makes them a non-issue for the public, the media and for planners. True, for the moment, they do not I tend to frack the shale. They intend to acidise the micrite strata within it. And here and there the oolite. Acidising brings most of the negatives of fracking, plus a few of its own.

    • How many million wells has this basic completion procedure been used on Paul? Without comment or issue.

  1. They are running out of time on deadline. Consultation end 25th April and they have to start work before 2nd May???? How is this possible that they can start within 1 week after consultation ended. Only one week to take in all the comments from the consultation?????
    I am not familiar with the process can someone explain if this is practically a new permit? And I thought the article said they had the permit which was granted by judicial review in 2014.

    • It is exactly what happened last time Cuadrilla came to Balcombe, their planning permission was due to expire, they applied for a permit, were granted it within days of the consultation ending despite almost 900 responses. They didn’t at the time of drilling have a radioactive permit or planning permission for the flare but that was not required to drill the borehole. It was clear that there was not enough time for them to complete their operations under the planning permission but they drilled anyway. It is all to do with the Drill or Drop on the PEDL license. They had to drill the well to keep their license.

      25 Jan 2010 – Cuadrilla applies to WSCC for permission to drill the test well which includes permission to frack
      23 Apr 2010 – WSCC grants permission by delegated decision.
      December 2012 – Cuadrilla announced they had no intention of drilling at Balcombe
      May 2013 – They announced via Balcombe Parish Council that they intended to start drilling shortly but would not be fracking
      10 June 2013 – 3 loads of drilling rig arrive at Lower Stumble site
      12 June 2013 – EA send John Gallop to the site and confirm Cuadrilla are drilling a water monitoring hole
      14 June 2013 – EA confirm that Cuadrilla will have to submit a Mining Waste Permit application
      11 July 2013 – Apply to WSCC for a 6 month extension to their planning permission for Cuadrilla to complete activities
      16 July 2013 – WSCC validate Flare Amendment Application to change the flare from a ground flare to enclosed stack flare
      16 July 2013 – Cuadrilla apply to EA for accumulation and disposal of naturally occurring radiation (NORM) permit (public consultation runs until 13th August).
      17 July 2013 – Baseline water monitoring samples taken
      24 July 2013 – Mining waste permit approved by EA 5 days after consultation ends despite 900 comments received.
      15 August 2013 – Consultation for extension and flare amendment end
      16 August – Cuadrilla “close down” site as reclaim the power camp arrives at Balcombe (note I think this was convenient and they shut it the vertical well and tested it during this time although have no evidence for this)
      3 Sept 2013 – Cuadrilla withdraw “legally ambiguous” application for 6 month extension to continue work.
      7 Sept 2013 – Cuadrilla temporarily stop drilling and erect sound baffles due to noise monitoring report showed that sound levels during drilling peaked 20pc higher than allowed.
      28 Sept 2013 – Cuadrilla’s planning permission ends.
      30 September 2013 – The Environment Agency granted a permit to Cuadrilla to manage wastes which may contain naturally occurring radioactive substances arising from their exploratory borehole to test for oil and gas reserves at Balcombe.

    • One might take this for incompetence. It’s hard to think otherwise, however you look at it. The poor dears are rather busy in the Fylde. We think they submitted their application for an planning permission extension (a wee bit late) only to be told that their environmental permit was no longer in order. Things move on. So they have had to submit this plea for variation. Indeed, you are right, one week’s leeway. Oh dear. Who’s in the market to buy Cuadrilla? UKOG? Surely not Angus, with their little lateral local difficulty…

    • Why is that Mike? They have very good oil flow from their tested well. I would have thought they are in good position to go full production. Cuadrilla probably have their hands full up in Lancashire.

      • Invertors are suggesting that UKOG drilled into an oil-filled fault in Horse Hill. Anyway, you surely don’t get excited about a few days’ flow. Wait until they acid frack? And then some.

  2. Can anyone detail what “No fracking in Balcombe” concerns are regarding possible flaring? Their spokeswoman says “….This is one of the most concerning aspects…”

    • The emissions from the flare can be compared to emissions from oil and gas operations near communities in other countries. It is important to make reference to studies of these in order to be informed about real and potential risks to human health. Coburn, Schultz, Herrick & Kwiatkowski (2012) documented substances that affect the endocrine system, with reproductive and developmental effects. The endocrine system is susceptible to chemical impacts at very low concentration. There are no safe limits for exposure to polyaromatic hydrocarbons. Prenatally exposed children have been found to have lower IQ scores (Perera, Zhigang, Whyatt et al 2009; Edwards Jedrychowski, Butscher et al, 2010).

      • National standards are typically based on the exposure of a grown man encountering relatively high concentrations of a chemical over a brief period, such as during occupational exposure. Indeed, national standards may even be waived in the case of activities of temporary duration. This does not take into account the exposure scenario faced by individuals (including pregnant women, children and the elderly) experiencing low-level exposure where they live. Safety standards also fail to account for the kinds of effects found from low-level exposure to endocrine disrupting chemicals, which can be particularly harmful during prenatal development and childhood (Vandenberg, Colborn, Hayes et al. 2012).

    • Then there is noise, and the eyesore, especially of a higher flare, while the lie of the land means that the top of the flare would be more or less at the height of the village – the well site is down in a dip, and the prevailing wind blows from the well site into the heart of the village. Th elie of the land and the wind also carries the noise – as we discovered in the drilling of 2013.

  3. Because Flaring produces dangerous particulates. United Kingdom Oil and Gas Authority does not approve of Flaring or Venting but EA is happy with both, how can people feel safe if the regulators cannot agree?

    This is yet another example of Cuadrilla moving goal posts at one of their sites, why can’t they be open and honest, why hide behind confidentiality, they cannot be trusted, full stop.

    • I’d be interested to know how particulate levels from a gas flare (is there going to be any gas to flare during the test? I’ve not seen any numbers for gas rates at Horse Hill) compare with those from wood burning stoves, the values measured in the London Underground, or even burning your morning toast.
      (Emissions from domestic wood burning are increasing in the UK. They accounted for 17% of PM2.5 emissions in 2013, only marginally less than the 18% from all road transport.)

      • James.
        Sad to say….
        A quick review reveals.
        1. Modem wood burning stoves are produce 8000 times more particulates per Kg of fuel burnt than narural gas burners. See ‘Air Pollution From Biomass Energy’ PFPI
        2. Older stoves twice as bad, including 10g benzine, 21g fine particulates, 0.3 g of highly carcinogenic dioxins. EPA, 1984, Larson 1993

        Assumptions … from data above and in article.

        Gas burn is max 10 tonne day. Duration max 7 days. 70 tonnes or 70,000kg

        Assuming wood fire 7000 times worse. Flaring equivalent in stoves = 70,000/7000 = 10

        Therefore the flaring is equal to 10/7 wood stoves day. Say 1.5

        As the flare gas is not pure methane, double up to 3 wood fires a day. For 7 days.

        So it’s the same as 3 modern wood fires burning 24hours day for 7 days.

        Old fires are twice as bad, so 1.5 old fires.

        Open fires, say one in an old oil drum at the top of the garden, even worse. So say 0.5 such burners. So if you find anyone using one of these near the site, to keep warm, say, they will be producing twice as many particulates than the flare.

        All rough stuff and happy if anyone can provide the particulate production of the flare in gm per tonne flared it would help. Happy to correct it all if required.

        Just off to double check wood pellet boilers quoted as 2000 times worse than natural gas as the primary school converted a few years ago from LNG, so presumably dropping all these toxins on the kids. But more reading required. There are a few web sites out there who are anti biomass, some seem quite angry about it.

        So yes, some people see biomass burning as a greater evil than gas!

        • I refer here to the work of Professor Lawrence Dunne, who happens to live in Balcombe:

          The gas that will come off this oil will will not be pure methane! Cuadrilla said (but this can be challenged) that the composition would be:

          • Methane 88.35%
          • Ethane 4.02%
          • Propane 4.88%
          • I-butane 0.30%
          • N-butane 2.45%’

          Is Cuadrilla implying that gas from the micrite has lower sulphur content than that from the Kimmeridge clays?

          For certain polyaromatic hyrodrocarbons that are likely to be emitted from the flare there are no known safe limits of exposure. The Kimmeridge clay/limestone into which Cuadrilla has drilled hold oils with very high sulphur content. The drilling and extraction of hydrocarbons from the target reservoir will result in a very high sulphur content being present in the gas flare.

          The Research Journal of Environmental and Earth Sciences 4(5): 525-528, 2012 states:
          ‘Gas flares have harmful effects on the health and livelihood of the communities in their vicinity, as they release a variety of poisonous chemicals. Some of the combustion by-products include nitrogen dioxides, sulphur dioxide, volatile organic compounds like benzene, toluene, xylene and hydrogen sulfide, as well as carcinogens like benzo(a)pyrene and dioxins. Humans exposed to such substances can suffer from variety of serious ill-health effects.’

          Cuadrilla assume the wrong composition of the flare, stating it will be a dry gas flare, whereas the gas produced by the flare will contain sulphur-rich ‘wet gas’ with about 4% hydrogen sulphide and mercaptans. No analysis has been produced of the gas to be flared, yet Cuadrilla assert that the assessment does not address sulphur dioxide as there is no sulphur present in the gas.

          The total harm caused by pollutants is more than the sum of the individual components.

          The dispersal model calculations for the expected emission exclude the complete calm situation with no wind. This will lead to build up of pollutants (nitrogen dioxide, sulphur dioxide, polyaromatic hydrocarbons [PAH] and soot) well above the legal limit for the site staff and in the vicinity of the nearest houses.

          There are no emission limits for the mostly toxic gases likely to come from flaring. The air will be spot-sampled for a selected few chemicals by Cuadrilla.

          The Air Dispersion Study provided by Cuadrilla (in Cuadrilla’s appendix H) in support of an application for planning consent for well pre-test and testing operations at the Lower Stumble Hydrocarbons Exploration Site has been subjected to review. On the basis of the inspection and appraisal of the details provided, further information is needed.

          Cuadrilla has presented an air dispersion study of carbon monoxide (CO) and oxides of nitrogen (NOx) emissions from flaring, affecting properties down the prevailing wind from the flare.

          Sulphur dioxide (SO2)
          At room temperature, sulphur dioxide is a non-flammable, colourless gas, heavier than air, with a very strong, pungent odour. Inhalation is the major route of exposure to sulphur dioxide. Most exposures are due to air pollution, and this has both short-term and chronic health consequences for people with lung disease. Inhaled sulphur dioxide readily reacts with the moisture of mucous membranes to form sulphurous acid (H2SO3), which is a severe irritant. When exercising, people with asthma can experience increased airway resistance with sulphur dioxide concentrations of less than 125 micrograms/m3. Children exposed to the same levels of sulphur dioxide as adults may receive a larger dose because they have greater relative lung surface and are shorter.

          The gas feed entering the flare stack is a wet gas (not dry as stated by Cuadrilla) and has the range of 0-8% molar composition expected for a solution gas coming out of the very sulphur-rich Kimmeridge oil. A mathematical model of the air dispersion was constructed assuming that the transport of flare emissions is largely convective. The model was parameterised against the Aermod calculations submitted by Cuadrilla. In the vicinity of the houses within about 400 metres from the flare (at Kemps House and Holts House), a sulphur dioxide concentration in the range 0-500 micrograms/m3 is predicted. This is up to 4 times the National hourly Air Quality objective for sulphur dioxide (125 micrograms/m3). Cuadrilla has not considered that sulphur dioxide would be above this level. Furthermore, Cuadrilla is very likely to have current data on the chemical composition of the wet gas entering the flare. Therefore further, more accurate air dispersion calculations for sulphur dioxide should be undertaken.

          Polyaromatic hydrocarbons
          PAH are by-products arising from incomplete combustion of organic matter. They are produced in flares. Many PAH are strong carcinogens and have been linked to increased incidences of various types of cancer in humans, for which there is no known safe threshold concentration or exposure time.

          Flare-feed composition data and literature values for emission factors (0.001) for PAH from the flare and the dispersion model described above was used to estimate the likely PAH concentration. In the vicinity of the houses within about 400 metres from the flare (at Kemps House and Holts House) the PAH concentration is expected to be around 6ng/m3. This is 24 times the National Air Quality Objective for PAH (0.25 ng/m3 ). Therefore further air dispersion calculations of this are necessary.

          Particulate matter (PM)
          Nano-sized soot particles are generated in the flare, which are detrimental to public health. Using similar models to the above, it is estimated that the total PM concentration in particular in the vicinity of the houses within about 400 metres from the flare is 100 micrograms/m3. This is 4 times the National Air Quality Objective for PM2.5 and PM10 (25 micrograms/m3). Therefore further air dispersion calculations are necessary.

          Radon emissions
          The emission of the radioactive gas Radon 222 from the waste is not covered at all in the assessment under the heading of NORM. The application for environment assessment (HSE-Permit-BAL-003) has clearly considered NORM to be only solids in drilling waste and sludge – not a gas. But Radon 222, which is part of NORM, is a gas and will be emitted from the NORM wastes. It has been assumed that all NORM waste will be stored and removed in tanks; there has been no provision for control or safe disposal of Radon. If these tanks are vented (for example during loading or filling), then radon will be released. TENORM (Technically Enhanced NORM) is the usual term used in the US literature on this subject – this reflects the way that the drilling processes (such as acid etch) create a sludge that concentrates the NORM.

          Radioactive radon gas has a half-life of 3.8 days, alpha decaying to…
          218Po, 3.10 minutes, alpha decaying to…
          214Pb, 26.8 minutes, beta decaying to…
          214Bi, 19.9 minutes, beta decaying to…
          214Po, 0.1643 ms, alpha decaying to…
          210Pb, which has a much longer half-life of 22.3 years, beta decaying to…
          210Bi, 5.013 days, beta decaying to…
          210Po, 138.376 days, alpha decaying to…
          206Pb, stable.

          (Po is Polonium, Pb is Lead, Bi is Bismuth)

          Radon is a constituent of the flare emissions, producing radioactive products which, following inhalation, can remain in the body for years (see above), causing cancer. Radon is the second most common cause of lung cancer in the UK. Balcombe air normally has a low Radon content due to the nature of the geology, which prevents significant radon leakage from the depths. Radon is almost eight times heavier than air and, if allowed to collect on the surface, tends to stay in a cloud even when blown by a wind. On a windless day, any radon emissions will be a real hazard to workers on the site because of the bowl-like nature of the location. On a windy day, radon will be blown directly over the centre of the village.

          Al, you eat burnt toast if you want to! But Hewes62, let us not add to existing pollution?

    • James
      The OGA understand that flaring and venting may be unavoidable during, appraisal, commissioning and production phases. They prefer it to be kept to a minimum. I would not say that The EA is happy with either, but they do issue the consent, which has quantities in it. I’d it is not an open ended consent to flare or vent unspecified amounts.

      Hence Cuadriller mentioning the worst case scenario.

      Hence the regulators are in, maybe grudging, agreement.

      Others can comment on green completions but I suspect there is no convenient gas pipe in which to put the gas if cleaned up. Is this issue the one re moving goalposts or is it something else?

  4. I like the comparison between wood burning stoves and flaring especially in relation to my obsession with risk perception.

    Wood burning stoves……cosy, “organic”, familiar, “safe”, low tech…but in fact polluting and potentially very unsafe (especially if not properly vented). Fuel needs to carefully replaced by replanting if it is to be carbon neutral.

    Flaring…..scarey, violent, unfamiliar, industrial ….in fact a long established method of burning stranded methane into CO2 which has lower potential as a GHG. Burning subject to strict safety regulations, ….not sure about particulates but given we burn a similar product on our kitchen stoves every day straight out into the kitchen I presume we would have heard if there were high emissions.

  5. Lot’s of people flare gas each day in their kitchen without problem’s ! Do they stand and protest outside the house? Let us get drilling our own oil and fracking our own gas asap instead of importing!.

  6. Interesting discussion on PM. You have only taken a small part of the story at Balcombe. The other issue with particulates involved in this process is the increase that will be coming passed the school in the form of heavy articulated lorries, along with all the other nasty diesel related chemicals. The play areas of 2 classrooms at the school are only a pavement width from the road, and the fumes from traffic can be smelt in the school field. Next to the school is also an area where traffic often stops and idles because of children crossing and parked traffic further down the road.

    I think the possible release into the atmosphere of these chemicals: “nitrogen dioxide, sulphur dioxide, hydrogen sulphide, methane, VOCs (volatile organic carbons) and BTEX (benzene, toluene, ethylbenzene and xylene – compounds in crude oil)” – is extremely concerning, these are particular oil related chemicals, that are cancer causing, and nasty. We have concerns about the levels of NOX (dangerous oxides of nitrogen), which are likely to be present. In Cuadrilla’s last application there was no admission of the fact that sulphur dioxide will be present. We know it will be because the Conoco well drilling reports from the 1980s record it. Yet in their previous assessment on gases this very significant gas (that would have exceeded air quality levels for some) was ignored. Levels of Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons and PM would also have exceeded national air quality objectives for certain areas of the village in their last application. So you see, trust in the industry here is very low.

    These are the kinds of things that will cause concern from a village close by, down wind of the flare, where the main road passes the school and housing is right up to that road for a large stretch of the route. Don’t forget either that we remember Cuadrilla’s promises about sound last time, and the fact that they didn’t stick to them, they also lost air samples…and what was the bright yellow/green water coming out of a culvert in the ground nearby – an industrial tracer dye? They promised not to take traffic past the school at pick-up and drop-off times, yet they still did. There were those in the village whose porches vibrated with the sound, I remember not being able to sleep because of it. I would also love to know if the HSE will actually make a visit, because last time they promised too and didn’t, they were supposed to make a visit in person to guarantee the integrity of the well, that never happened.

    We have learnt through bitter experience not to trust the industry.
    Oh yes, there are many, many reasons not to want the oil and gas industry as your neighbour!

    I’m glad to say that many of us in Balcombe are able to think beyond ourselves, in this world where we should be investing in alternatives and looking for renewable clean sources, pouring money into the weald oil-field is a blind-alley. People want to see these kinds of resources being put into developing renewables. The Weald oil field plans are a sad indictment of a government that is more keen to serve the fossil fuel industry than the health, well-being and will of the people.

    • The Horndean oilfield has been producing for years. Can anyone provide any data regarding the health and well-being of nearby residents? (Cowplain, Horndean, Waterlooville). Does the local council keep a list of complaints? It would be great to have some actual data rather than speculation.

      • By the logic of the antis, oil and gas workers, particularly those working and living on offshore on large production platforms such as Brent and Forties for 6 months of ever year, should be suffering from all sorts of diseases. I worked in the industry for over 30 years, including on offshore platforms where huge volumes of gas were flared, and do not recall anyone getting sick from industry related activities. There were early issues with asbestos used in accommodation modules – the same as throughout the world, and also an issue with using oil based mud when diesel was used as the base fluid and skin protection was inadequate. Norway undertook a major study on cancers and found little or no diference between oil and gas workers and their citizens who did not work in the industry. Our biggest risk was transport – onshore it was RTAs and offshore helicopter accidents.

  7. Yes, you make a very good point. There has, as far as I’m aware, been no long-term health studies on the health of people living near our oil producing wells in England. I did find something British, by a council I think, on ill health effects of living close to flares when Cuadrilla first arrived in 2013, it’s hard to find it now as medical searches are swamped with studies on living near fracking sites. The government or industry has never funded a study in this country. I grew up downwind of an oil refinery and it was often blamed for the high levels of child leukemia, I know a health visitor who lives in an area where oil is produced who says they know that certain post-codes have very high levels of cancer rates, but they don’t know why (could be any number of things) but that doesn’t precipitate a flood of money to do a study unfortunately.

    According to Sussex resident Professor Lawrence Dunne (an expert in chemical physics):

    ‘No long-term study has been done anywhere in the world on the health effects of chronic exposure of human populations to the emissions from gas/oil extraction. Hence, the long-term risk is not known. However, it is known that extended exposure to the radioactive and chemical emissions typically associated with gas/oil operations poses a serious mortality and morbidity risk. The risk to residents living within a few hundred metres of a well pad may be very significant.

    ‘Of very considerable concern is the potential use of extremely toxic hydrofluoric acid for the extraction of tight-oil in the Sussex Weald. Very few politicians and councillors appreciate the risks involved.’

    Coburn, Schultz, Herrick & Kwiatkowski (2012) documented substances that affect the endocrine system with reproductive and developmental effects. The endocrine system is susceptible to chemical impacts at very low concentration. Polyaromatic hydrocarbons are not dependent upon dose and there are no safe limits of exposure. Prenatally exposed children have been found to have lower IQ scores (Perera, Zhigang, Whyatt et al 2009; Edwards Jedrychowski, Butscher et al 2010). PAH’s will be produced by an oil flare. Many of the chemicals that have been found to cause illness in fracking related air studies are still present in normal oil flaring operations. PAH’s were predicted to be 24 times safe levels at Balcombe when subject to expert review in Cuadrilla’s last application.

    The government’s AMEC report by the DECC talks about “air quality impacts on sensitive receptors including residents and biodiversity. “there could also be emissions from flaring during exploration activities, which would primarily result in the production of CO2 but could also result in the production of NOx SO2 Co and Particulate Matter..” Most of these gases are mentioned to be present in the Cuadrilla operations as well as the VOC’s (mostly BTEX) which are known to be cancer causing oil derivatives.

    THe problem is that most of the regulations around oil and gas have been drafted from off-shore practices, where residents and ecology living nearby are not a problem where air is concerned. Of the 4 statutory bodies involved in making the decisions there is not one that has a specific remit to look after human health. The EA is closest which I was told ‘should take advice from Public Health England’ .

  8. That’s really interesting Paul and I take your point. Certainly workers on fracking plants in the US do report all sorts of diseases as a result of working in fracking, but there are various additional nasties involved in unconventional forms of extraction – silica sand, flowback waste water problems and so on. If we are just talking about ill-health effects of a flare, the flare is designed to push the gases up and away from the site, so they don’t, I have been led to believe, effect the workers immediately below, but effect a radius further out where the gases sink again (of course different gases behave in different ways on dispersion). You don’t want to be, ideally in the path of the prevailing wind, where you will be receiving varying doses of what is coming from the flare. There is also a level of radioactivity which comes from underground too.

    People living in the gas fields of Australia report being able to ‘taste’ when the flaring is really high in the air because living in a gasfield creates a multiplicity of wells and allows the air to sit over the gas field (creating gas field haze). The industry’s plans are to have ‘incremental step-outs over quite a large area’ (12000 square miles or more of the Weald where there are oil deposits) according to Stephen Sanderson of UKOG (Horse Hill). If this is the case then we would be looking at an unprecedented level of onshore drilling and flaring than has ever been seen before in the UK. Then we will also be at risk of developing some kind of oil field haze as a result of gases/chemicals hanging over a large populated area. When you factor into this Gatwick airport expansion, general traffic increase as time goes on etc, we will be looking towards a general reduction in air quality over this rural region (when we know we already have serious air quality issues in our cities). When you consider the synergy of emissions from the traffic and flaring involved in oil extraction/acidisation, you can see how this could be a significant contributor to lowering air quality in the Weald.

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