Broadford Bridge oil plan reveals divisions over operator’s competence

Broadford Bridge 170327 Charlie Flint 8

Broadford Bridge site, 27 March 2017. Photo: Charlie Flint

Responses to a public consultation on plans to drill an exploratory oil well in West Sussex have divided over the company’s competence.

Supporters of the scheme at Broadford Bridge, near Billingshurst, have told the Environment Agency the operator, UK Oil and Gas Investments (UKOG), is “very responsible” and has “shown an exceptional level of technical expertise”.

But objectors have said the application for a change to the environmental permit has major errors, including references in the waste management plan to the wrong site.

The consultation, which closed last week, is for a permit allowing UKOG to drill and acidise the well and flare up to 250,000 cubic feet of any gas per day. The site, off Adversane Lane, received planning permission from West Sussex County Council in 2013.

At the time of the writing, the Environment Agency had published 50 online responses. Of these 29 were objections and 20 comments in support. One comment had a faulty link and could not be read.

Other responses have been submitted by email and post and some online responses may not have been published at the authors’ requests.


Supporters have urged the EA to approve the permit as soon as possible. Many stressed the competence of UKOG and the economic benefits to the UK of oil self-sufficiency, particularly after the country leaves the EU.

One comment said:

“I consider UKOG to be a very responsible company which will do everything in its power to carry out this project in an environmentally sound manner. Production of oil in the UK will massively reduce transportation costs which is another important environmental consideration.”

Another said:

“I believe the specialists involved have demonstrated an exceptional level of technical expertise and commitment to completing these works to the highest standards and will continue to do so, co-operating fully with the Environmental Agency, Oil and Gas Authority, local authorities and community.”

Another said:

“There will always be concerns from an environmental perspective but the right company will be able to deal with these hurdles. Technology and times have moved-on and such applications are heavily regulated and scrutinised to make sure everything is done properly and to preserve the affected and surrounding environment.”


Objectors to the well plan have urged the EA to refuse the permit application because they said it contained mistakes and included processes that had not been assessed in the planning permission granted in 2013. Their concerns included:

  • In sections about mud on the road, and chemicals, the waste management plan referred to the well site at Horse Hill, in Surrey, not the Broadford Bridge site.
  • The environmental permit application referred to the techniques of acidisation/acidising, nitrogen lifting and hot oil treatment. But these techniques were not mentioned in the environmental statement of the 2013 planning application (see ES Chapters Vol 1). According to the opponents, this made the planning permission invalid.
  • The Health and Safety Management Plan accompanying the permit application had instructions on what should happen if there were an injury or medical emergency. It said casualties should go to Horsham Hospital “if the nature of any injury or medical condition warrants it”. But opponents pointed out that this hospital does not have an accident or emergency department.
  • There were inconsistencies between the Waste Management Plan and the Safety Data Sheet submitted with the permit application. 15 substances mentioned in the Waste Management Plan were not referred to in the Safety Data Sheet. 13 substances which had Safety Data Sheet information were not mentioned in the Waste Management Plan.

Campaigner Emily Anderson said:

“Such sloppiness at this early stage in the process, doesn’t bode well for future operations when there is no room for mistakes of any kind, as these could lead to a serious incident for which the area’s emergency services are not prepared.”

Another opponent described the exploratory oil operation at Horse Hill, in which UKOG is a partner. Alex Gache, who owns Lomond Classical Riding School next to the Horse Hill site, said:

“The first year the drill was here for three months, last year for eight weeks and our lives were ruined. The noise, the smell, the disruption to our rural area were changed to such an extent that we did not want to be here. We cannot prove any connection but we had horses with nosebleeds, clients with headaches, oil appeared all over the land. We don’t know what chemicals were coming and going but we had broken pipes pouring water into our fields and ditches.”

DrillOrDrop invited UKOG to respond to the comments of opponents. A spokesperson said the company acknowledged the points and said they had already been dealt with in detailed discussions with the Environment Agency.

DrillOrDrop summary page on Broadford Bridge: key facts, links and timeline

21 replies »

  1. Oh dear, yet more prominence given to opposition, by people who have no experience or knowledge of drilling. If there are inconsistencies, they can be dealt with.
    Why this fake concern about acidising? Its been going on as a standard technique for decades, with no issue.

  2. The three comments in support have a distinct ring of being contributed by members of the industry connected to this proposed operation.

  3. You came to that conclusion Michael because they seemed to know what they were talking about?!

    Apart from that, the comments are pretty bland and simply register support. They could be individuals who believe we should utilise our own resources rather than someone else’s. Or, they may feel security of energy supply is important in a very uncertain world. Or, they could have just received their second price rise from EDF.

  4. Certainly beats the idea of having a new nuclear plant owned by a French company. I just wish the Gatwick Gusher, Broadford Bridge, Brockham and Co had kicked off before that deal was signed!

  5. Beware the body who enforce planning conditions!
    At PNR a simple matter like wheel washing for vehicles entering and leaving site was too much for Lancashire County Council to enforce. Even now after 3 months activity there is no wheel washing just, eventually, a couple of jet washes manned by security staff directed by Protectors!
    They have not got enough staff or the will at Lancashire County Council to enforce the really important stuff further down the fracking process!
    Gold standard monitoring, never in a million years!

  6. Oh yes, John! (Except the Weald area is predominantly about OIL production, and the UK uses very little oil for generation of electricity.)

    And please explain about Fawley oil refinery. You know the one, that produces oil products for millions of consumers in the UK and huge income via well paid jobs. The one that produces aviation fuel for strategic use and also for people to enjoy overseas holidays and travel abroad on business. The one that gets about 15k BODS from an on shore site already and a few more barrels from smaller sites-without any problems. So, what is the problem with that? You would rather oil be delivered by ship? Remember the Torrey Canyon-and others?

    Need a bit more than wheel washing then!

  7. I said a couple of posts ago that the o&g industry seems to actually want to pollute our fresh water, its interesting to see that the big banks are buying up fresh water everywhere. Some are saying that water is the next oil, i hate that sort of tabloid nonsense headlines but there are some facts that perhaps could be considered if you wonder why fresh water is so under attack? Remember nothing is done by accident, link below:

    • The Stockbridge oilfield is under steady production with 30? wells through the chalk aquifer. That’s the same chalk aquifer that feeds the river test one if the finest salmon and trout fisheries and runs down the test valley.. I’ve not seen one story about the oil pollution of the test, only farm pollution.

      Very few people in Stockbridge or Romsey know its there.

      • Hi Tony – you will be pleased to hear that I was the ops drilling engineer for the first six or seven wells at Stockbridge (Larkwhistle Farm) and nearby Goodworth. Good to learn that we didn’t pollute anyone. Some of the wells were very highly deviated, acidised, oil based mud, and still we didn’t kill everyone and everything and the trout have survived. And Phil C we used shaped charges to perforate the wells but the countryside hasn’t been swallowed up by sink holes. And the cows are still milking. Most of the anti stuff on this BB is complete rubbish.

        • When we have quite finished with self congratulatory back slapping can we get back to reality? Doesn’t wash, sorry about that, still asking questions, still not getting any constructive response but epithets and innuendo, to be expected i know, but sad none the less…..

            • Its the same reality, just a different opinion, Oh, Mr Angry you mean? Such a high horse? Clearly an American, figures in inches, we have been metric here for at least 3 decades, still interesting but of course does not even approach the original question. Such ruffled feathers? Far too sensitive on this subject, must be something there for you all to get so uptight. Never mind.
              Not impressed by the way, too many egos for anything real to be discussed, same old same old.

  8. Simples. Water is a resource. We use it as if there is a never ending supply but population keeps increasing and each person is using much more water than in the past.

    There have been wars concerning water supplies throughout history, and there will be more in the future. (A visit to the Dead Sea is quite interesting.)

    Sorry PhilC, but absolutely nothing to do with o&g. Fracking in place of farm land might actually decrease chances of water pollution-but, we all know, that good management for both will be the answer. (Could actually get to a situation where farm tractors wash their wheels before they are allowed on the roads-to keep Peter happy!) Perhaps graphene filters will be an answer? De-salination is not so straight forward. Energy required is pretty high. Not sure how much energy required in comparison to produce graphene filters, but I’m sure it is being examined.

Add a comment

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s