Work is underway at the Broadford Bridge oil site in West Sussex for the first time for nearly two and a half years.
The site operator has said it plans to drill an exploration well between April and June 2017 and has applied to vary its environmental permit.
Opponents of the work at the site near Billingshurst wrote to West Sussex County Council this week arguing that UKOG’s drilling plans were not the same as the ones for which planning permission had been granted four years ago. Two campaign events have been organised for April.
The former operator at Broadford Bridge, Celtique Energie, prepared the site for drilling in autumn 2014. But the company got into a legal dispute with its partner, Magellan Petroleum UK Ltd, over the cost of drilling.
No other work has been carried out at the site since then. In August 2016, Celtique and Magellan sold the exploration licence for the area (PEDL234) to UK Oil and Gas (Investments) plc. The site is now operated by the UKOG subsidiary, Kimmeridge Gas and Oil Ltd (KOGL).
In February 2017, UKOG announced the Broadford Bridge well would be drilled in the second quarter of 2017. It said the planning permission allowed the company to test the flow of the well for up to 14 weeks. The company told investors if the tests were encouraging, it would apply for permanent production status by the end of 2018.
Broadford Bridge, West Sussex, 27 March 2017. Photos: Charlie Flint
Environmental permit changes
A public consultation is underway until 13 April 2017 on changes to the environmental permit. Link to consultation
The permit application says KOGL wants to drill and test a deviated well, targeting Jurassic age Kimmeridge Limestones at a depth of 3,360-3,580ft.
The company describes the geology as a “look-alike” for the Horse Hill oil discovery near Gatwick Airport. It says the rocks are naturally fractured and so do not need what it calls “massive hydraulic fracturing” or fracking.
The permit application does, however, talk about acidising the well before testing. This involves pumping dilute hydrochloric acid into the well.
KOGL is seeking permission to flare any gas released from the well during two sets of tests: the short drill stem tests (DST) and the longer extended well tests (EWT). According to the application, gas would be burned up to a maximum level of 250,000 cubic feet per day (250 mscf/d). The company has also applied for a standard rules permit for radioactive substances.
Details from the permit
Drilling: 46 days
Acidising: 7 days
Well testing: 12 days
- Water based drilling fluids or muds (255m3)
- Formation or drill cuttings (804 tonne)
- Cement (5-10 tonne)
- Cementing pre-flush/casing cleaning pill (7-15m3)
- General waste (0-1,000kg)
- Oil, natural gas and other fluids from the reservoir
Waste from acidising
- Spent/neutralised acid: 15m3 (about 50% of volume pumped
- Inhibited light brine: 25-30m3
- Surface pad rain water runoff 0-1,000m3
- General waste 0-1,000kg
The permit says the flare has 98% combustion efficiency, according to the application. It says carbon monoxide production has “the potential to be the most significant of the pollutants of interest”. It was “well within environmental standards” but could exceed the Environment Agency’s standards are certain flow levels.
Challenge to planning permission
The campaign group, Keep Kirdford and Wisborough Green, has argued that UKOG should make a new planning application because its plans were “quite different” to those proposed by Celtique Energie and approved in 2013.
A condition of the planning permission required the development to be carried out in accordance with the Environmental Statement. This proposed conventional drilling of free-flowing hydrocarbons in the Sherwood Sandstone formation (shown yellow at almost 10,000ft in the diagram above).
This would have involved drilling through the Kimmeridge Limestones (shown in grey at about 4,000ft in the diagram above) that UKOG now wants to explore.
The limestones may require acid fracturing and UKOG proposes to acidize its well before flow testing. There is nothing in the Environmental Statement about the transport, use or storage of acid, the campaign group says.
Keep Kirdford and Wisborough Green said:
“We sent a letter to WSCC, the Planning Department, this week drawing attention to the differences between the ES and what is planned; and, now.”
Campaigners are organising a photo-shoot and public meeting in April near the Broadford Bridge site:
Saturday 1 April 2017 It’s no joke: Drill due any day now. Photo opportunity about UKOG’s Broadford Bridge well, organised by Frack Free Billingshurst, 2pm-4pm, the Green, Billingshurst RH14 9JH. Details
Sunday 30 April 2017 Drilling on your doorstep, public meeting, hosted by Sue Jameson, with speakers Tom Broughton, Peter Edmunds, Nicola Peel, Professor David Smyth and Kia Turner, 7pm-9pm, Pulborough Village Hall, Swan View, Lower Street, Pulborough RH20 2BF. Details
Broadford Bridge details
Address: Woodbarn Farm, Adversane Lane, Broadford Bridge, nr Billingshurst RH14 9ED
Site dimensions: 55x55m
Existing land: Grade 3 agricultural land (classed as good-moderate quality) surrounded on three sides by woodland
Access: two improved agricultural tracks to points on the B2133
South Downs National Park: 5.5km to east
Listed buildings: Broadford Bridge Farmhouse (500m), Brook House Farm House (600m), archaeological site of Beedings Copse (950m)
Ancient woodland: Steepwood Copse (1.3km), Marringdean Wood (450m)
Rivers and ponds: Tributary of the River Adur 400m, ponds 200m and 320m
Aquifers: Upper Tunbridge Wells Sand (Secondary A aquifer) drilled at 160m depth. Well may penetrate secondary aquifers formed by sandstone and limestone lenses within the Weald Clay. Application states the Upper Tunbridge Wells Sand “has no practical connection with groundwater beneath the site or through which the proposed hydrocarbon exploratory borehole will penetrate.”
Groundwater vulnerability: Assessed as low – relatively resistant to any pollution at the surface
Flood risk: Flood Zone 1 (low probability of flooding)
Petroleum Exploration and Development Licence: PEDL234
Planning permission: WSCC/052/12/WC granted 11 February 2013 by West Sussex County Council
Information taken from the environment permit application