Oil company accuses Sussex drilling opponents of “scaremongering” – “nonsense” says “shocked” campaign group

Broadford bridge 170428 Keep Billingshurst Frack Free 3

Broadford Bridge well site, 28 April 2017. Photo: Keep Billingshurst Frack Free

The oil company behind plans to drill in West Sussex in the next few weeks has written to local people accusing its opponents of “unsettling levels of scaremongering” and “extraordinary levels of misinformation”.

UK Oil and Gas (UKOG) has said it expects to drill an exploratory oil well at Broadford Bridge, near Billingshurst by the end of June this year.

Keep Billingshurst Frack Free, which opposes the plans, said it was “shocked” by the tone of the letter and described the accusations as “nonsense”. The group and other opponents have rebutted points made by the company (see second half of this post).

The letter, signed by UKOG’s executive chairman, Stephen Sanderson, appears to have been prompted by a public meeting, organised by Keep Billingshurst Frack Free, in nearby Pulborough tonight (30 April 2017).

The company told DrillOrDrop it had not been invited to the meeting but had seen what it described as the “rather alarming agenda”. UKOG said it was distributing a four-page letter and three-page fact sheet to “as many local homes as is feasible” before the event. It was also sending the letter to local councillors in three villages surrounding the well site at Wood Barn Farm, off Adversane Lane.

UKOG added that it had been advised not to attend the meeting because it would not be “guaranteed a fair hearing”.

Keep Billingshurst Frack Free has said UKOG had been invited to attend through various newspaper articles, although the company may not have been sent a formal invitation. A spokesperson said:

“It’s a public meeting. Everyone’s welcome.”

The spokesperson for the group added that neither UKOG nor its subsidiary Kimmeridge Oil and Gas Limited, the site operator, had arranged any public consultation or meeting with residents about Broadford Bridge.

“You’d think they’d jump at the chance to answer genuine questions from concerned people who live near the site, who will be directly affected by what they do there.

“This letter looks like they’ve suddenly realised more people are about to find out what they’re up to and get some of their PR out – quick”.

Planning permission for the Broadford Bridge well was granted planning permission in 2013 to explore for gas in the Triassic sandstone reservoir. The site was prepared in 2014 but the well was not drilled because of a financial dispute between the then owners, Celtique Energie and Magellan.

In August 2016, UKOG bought the exploration licence for the area (PEDL234) and the right to drill at Broadford Bridge. In February 2017, its subsidiary Kimmeridge Oil and Gas Limited (KOGL) applied for a variation to the environmental permit for the site, revealing details of its plans to explore for oil in the Kimmeridge limestone.

Campaign groups and some local residents have opposed the permit application, pointing out mistakes in the supporting documents (DrillOrDrop report). They have also said a well drilled to explore for Kimmeridge oil would be in breach of the original planning permission. This set a condition which required the development to be carried out in accordance with the environment statement, which was for exploration of the Sherwood Sandstone. Key facts and timeline about Broadford Bridge

  • Tonight’s meeting, chaired by actor Sue Jameson, is from 7pm-9pm, Pulborough Village Hall, Swan View, Lower Street, Pulborough RH20 2BT. More details

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Photos: Broadford Bridge, 27 April 2017. Keep Billingshurst Frack Free

UKOG’s letter and the opponents’ responses

UKOG told residents the main concern about its drilling at Broadford Bridge centred around the use of acidisation. You can read the full letter to residents here  and UKOG’s leaflet 10 things you need to know about Broadford Bridge. A speaker at tonight’s meeting, Emeritus Professor, David Smythe, has written a response: Ten questions to be asked about Broadford Bridge.

DrillOrDrop has extracted some of the company’s key comments and opponents’ responses.


UKOG said

“We have been fully aware of a pressure group in the area who have been spreading extraordinary levels of misinformation about our planned activity, which is causing unnecessary alarm to some residents. However, the feedback we have received regarding public responses to the EA regarding our application has been largely in support.

“However, the scaremongering has reached unsettling levels and we feel compelled to respond. We are aware of a meeting taking place at Pulborough Village Hall on Sunday 30th April. We have been advised not to attend because we are not guaranteed a fair hearing.”

Keep Billingshurst Frack Free said

“We are shocked by the tone of this letter, making out the ‘pressure group’ to be ‘scaremongering reaching unsettling levels’ and ‘spreading extraordinary levels of misinformation about our planned activity’ makes us sound like we are nastily whipping up fear with unfounded concerns and  bullying people to believe what we say.

“This is nonsense. Locals have come to us with their genuine concerns, knowing nothing about what is going to be happening at the site but seeing work beginning – as there as been no public consultation by UKOG/KOGL.

“To just dismiss our facts, born out of a lot of research and scientific background, as fiction is insulting, and they are wrong. It is unsurprising that they won’t come to the Public Meeting, but will they even be holding their own and answering our valid questions?

“Anyone would think they were trying to pull the wool over the public’s eyes. But we are watching what they do very closely.”


UKOG said
Opponents had “erroneously and mischievously linked to massive hydraulic fracturing, “fracking”.

“We are not fracking. We do not want to or need to, because the Kimmeridge Limestones rocks that we are targeting are naturally-fractured by mother nature.”

Opponents said
Rocks below Broadford Bridge, though naturally fractured, were held tightly together by pressure and so permeability was very low.

Keep Billingshurst Frack Free said

“Our main concern is not that acidisation techniques are linked to “massive hydraulic fracturing”. We are concerned about the acidisation process itself, after much research.”


UKOG said
Acidising would use a 15% solution of hydrochloric acid.

Opponents said
This makes acidising a more concentrated chemical mix than fracking fluid, which is about 98% water.

Hydrofluoric acid

UKOG said
Acidising would not use hydrofluoric acid, which is used to dissolve silica oxide (sandstone) and is not used in limestone reservoirs.

“Hydrofluoric acid is very corrosive and, as a matter of policy, we would not use it in any of our site operations, now or ever.”

Opponents said
No-one had claimed the company would be using hydrofluoric acid.

“We know that’s for sandstone.”

What happens to the acid?

UKOG said
The hydrochloric acid reacts with calcium carbonate to form water, calcium chloride (CaCl2) and carbon dioxide. In the reaction with the limestone the acid is used up (the correct term is “neutralised”, i.e. it no longer exists as an acid). The process dissolves the calcium carbonate converting it to calcium chloride which is highly soluble. CaCl2 is a major constituent of seawater and human bones, so it is a naturally occurring salt and harmless.”

Opponents said
The hydrochloric acid is not always completely spent and care has to be taken with the “flowback” in case it is not fully spent.

Matrix acidisation

UKOG said
Matrix acidisation was used to dissolve some rock surrounding the wellbore. This makes pores between rock grains large and enables fluids to flow more freely. The process had been used for 120 years to drill water and oil or gas wells.

“The acid used by the drinking water industry in the UK’s limestone reservoirs (mostly chalks), is typically stronger than KOGL will use. It is 20% to 30% acid and hence 80% to 70% water. It’s safe to use in wells used for drinking water because the acid reacts and is neutralised. After acidisation, water wells are also fully cleansed and the water treated before being used for the supply of public drinking water. So, acidisation is safe for drinking water supply and is a standard technique used by the water industry.”

Opponents said
Acidisation had been used for decades without any oversight by regulators or record-keeping. Water companies say they never matrix or acid frack.

“One-time process”

UKOG said
Acidisation was used “in just about every oil production well in a limestone reservoir in the Weald Basin and in the Midlands”. The acid was put into rocks thousands of feet below any fresh water-bearing horizons. Acidisation was a one-time process, used only when an oil well was first tested or prepared for production.

Opponents said
They expected sections of the well would be acidized separately to better target oil.

Well integrity

UKOG said

“Critically, acidisation is done in an oil well comprising three cemented steel casings (concentric pipes). There is therefore no possibility of a leak to the surface or to shallow rocks.”

Opponents said

“Stephen Sanderson has great confidence in the integrity of his well”.

They added:

“Anyone who researches what oil and gas companies do to the countryside can find out for themselves. It’s not all plain-sailing and pollution-free. Look at what life’s been like for people living next to the Horse Hill site. UKOG can insist it is risk-free to try to allay fears. But that cannot ever be true as every industrial process, especially involving chemicals – and eople – always has risks. The public aren’t stupid enough to believe the industry’s PR, rushed out at the 11th hour before a public meeting they aren’t even going to attend.”

“Permission creep”

UKOG said
Acid would be injected at pressures that were “far too low” to fracture the rock so acidisation at Broadford bridge would not be “fracking by any shape or form”

Opponents said
Permission creep would lead to acid fracking.

Water use in acidisation

UKOG said
Acidisation typically involved about 100 barrels (approximately 3,600 gallons) of mostly water (i.e. 85 barrels of water and 15 barrels HCl). Fracking uses millions of gallons of stimulation fluid consisting of over 90% water and sand plus chemical additives used to lubricate, prevent bacteria from forming in the injected water and to permit the sand to be carried more efficiently.

Opponents said

“We are concerned about the massive volumes of water being in a water-stressed area, increases in traffic volume and pollution and the fact that the Weald is a highly-faulted area, according to many expert geologists we have consulted.”

Geological faulting and seepages

UKOG said
Faults in the Weald, and their ability to allow fluids to move along them, were predictable and well-understood. Faults were under “extensive compressional forces which close them shut” and they were not open and leaky, as had been claimed. The faults did not penetrate to the surface. No fluids could escape from the site to drinking water supplies or into nearby rivers.

CPRE Sussex told the Environment Agency
The Lower Tunbridge Wells sands were an important aquifer supporting water for agriculture and drinking. This formation could connect via a fault with shallow groundwater in the Weald Clay and into tributaries of the River Arun.

Professor Smythe said
Oil seepages in the Weald Basin have been documented for 150 years. A paper by Professor Richard Selley, published in 1992, identified 11 petroleum seepages in the Weald. He questioned how UKOG could identify a fault at Broadford Bridge and drill its deviated well accurately without 3D seismic data.

Naturally-occurring radioactivity

UKOG said
Fluids produced from flow tests from the Kimmeridge Limestones at Horse Hill – the company’s exploration well in Surrey – did not contain any naturally- occurring radioactivity. The Kimmeridge rock composition was consistent across the whole of SE England.

Opponents said
The company could not know there would be no naturally-occurring radioactive material in the waste from Broadford Bridge.

Climate change

UKOG said

“Producing oil local to the UK population reduces carbon emissions since it avoids the need to transport oil vast distances from countries such Saudi Arabia and Russia. The other clear benefits include employment, tax revenues to the Treasury and security of supply in the post-Brexit era.”

Opponents said

“Their ‘fact’ about climate change is laughable. Do locals to the site believe that producing oil local to the UK population reduces carbon emissions, when the amount to heavy traffic to that local area will massively increase? That oil will be transported and processed elsewhere, it’s not going to be piped directly into homes in Adversane Lane, is it? Ours and the whole, massive, environmental movement’s argument is that it’s now way past time. We should be using renewables, thereby increasing energy security in a safer and cleaner way, and keep the oil in the ground”

Conventional versus unconventional

UKOG said
The operation at Broadford Bridge would use conventional oil field techniques.

Professor Smythe said
UKOG should provide information to prove that the Kimmeridge limestones qualified as a conventional formation. This should include the permeability of the rocks, details of the geological structure of the Kimmeridge limestones and an assurance that the formation would never be fracked.

Oil flow rates

UKOG said
Natural fractures in the Kimmeridge limestones would allow oil to flow at good rates without fracking.

Professor Smythe said
Why had the Weald limestones never been exploited as conventional plays, despite exploration by BP, Shell and Conoco

Other issues

UKOG’s letter addressed what it said were “false claims” about a lack suitable disposal facilities in SE England. It said “the majority of waste produced from the site will be sent to an Environment Agency licensed facility in Kent”. It said its operations were designed to prevent any spill from penetrating into the ground.

Professor Smythe said information submitted by the company to the Environment Agency on the geology expected to be encountered in the well was “seriously in error and internally inconsistent”. He said: “There is a section absent where it should be present and vice-versa”.

He also said the site at Broadford Bridge was south of the limit mapped by the British Geological Survey for mature Kimmeridgian oil.

“Why is KOGL persisting in using a drill pad set up for a deep, well-defined Triassic sandstone target, when a much more suitable location for its Kimmeridge project would be several kilometres to the north, while still lying within its PEDL234.”


UKOG’s full letter to residents

UKOG’s full leaflet 10 things you need to know about Broadford Bridge

David Smythe’s Ten questions to be asked about Broadford Bridge

Key facts and timeline about Broadford Bridge




30 replies »

  1. About time your scare mongering rubbish was exposed.

    People will realise now what lies you activist tell.

    • I really cannot understand why the standard oilfield practice of an acid wash in a limestone reservoir is cause for concern. The acid is immediately neutralised into common salts. This is genuine and deliberate scaremongering. The anti groups are becoming more and more hysterical in their false and ridiculous claims.

      You can buy 10% HCL in B and Q for about 6 quid for 5 litres. I have used it to clean my patio and flush it straight onto grass. It causes no harm and this is direct contact. How fluids that are harmless at the surface could cause problems a few thousand feet underground eludes me.

      As to why retired ‘Prof’ Davis Smythe is involved, his ideas have been shown to be barking mad for years. See the dismissal of his paper about shale gas in Bowland shales. Basically complete rubbish.

    • Ninety seven percent of the global scientific population believe man kind is responsible for global temperature increase. These elevated levels are causing droughts, flooding, and starvation. The speed at which that is happening is accelerating.

      NASA supply the proof that climate change is real and the pentagon consider the movement of people as a threat to national security.

      All species move when their survival is threatened. Humans have the ability to move easier than most mammals.
      Any attempts to remove and burn more fossil fuel will add to the speed at which humans will migrate to safer areas.

      UKOG need to understand the reality of more fossil fuel extraction. OPEC will not be producing less because we produce more.

      As temperatures increase the movement of people will be towards places that appear to be the safest. The UK will be one of those places.

      Climate change is happening now. The burning of fossil fuels is a major contributor to temperature rise. Science and common sense clearly points to the advantages of maximising clean renewable energy.

      Anyone who supports new fossil fuel developments would be wise to look a little further down the road and see what is heading their way.

      That road is not as long as you may think.

      • For the last 5 years the industry and those who oppose it have put forward their arguments. All the information is available and can be accessed through numerous sources for verification.

        People can and have made informed decisions.

        Nearly all the national and local surveys show the majority oppose more fossil fuel development. Divestment from fossil fuel is growing rapidly.

        The facts are clear. We do not need more fossil fuel. We do not want more fossil fuel.

        It is in ever-bodies best interest to maximise on renewable energy and minimise on the amount of fossil fuels we need to burn.

        Science, common sense, and glaringly obvious.

        • Absolutely John, an excellent discussion on Andrew Marr’s Start the Week on BBC 4 this morning on just this need to move away from unlimited growth.
          Worth checking out on listen again.

    • What would be the point of the industry attending a meeting which, if past occasions are anything to go by, would just be a shouting match in a kangaroo court?

      When anti-oil groups fail with local authorities, then fail at Judicial review, far from accepting verdicts as do those who respect the rule of law, they simply abuse the right of peaceful protest by resort to mob rule.

      The industry are surely right to ignore them & put their case directly to as many local residents as possible.

      Regarding Horse Hill can anyone tell me what suffering has been inflicted on the residents other than by protest mobs?

      The claim that we should abandon all drilling for oil & gas is just ludicrous. However huge the public funds diverted to subsidising wind & solar farms, & however many squire miles of countryside we blight in the process, some oil & gas will be needed for many decades to come.

      All the eco-warriors & their nimby friends are doing is ensuring maximum reliance on imported energy.

  2. This article says

    “Our main concern is not that acidisation techniques are linked to “massive hydraulic fracturing”. We are concerned about the acidisation process itself, after much research”

    So where has the link come from?

    “The draft plan has separate policies for oil and gas developments which use hydraulic fracturing and those that don’t. But some campaigners are concerned that neither policy mentions the use of acid in techniques, such as acidizing and acid fracking.

    These techniques involve pumping acid into some limestones and sandstones where the oil will not flow at commercial rates without stimulation. They could be used at a well site at Markwells Wood, in the South Downs National Park, where UK Oil & Gas Investments plc is applying to produce oil for 30 years.

    Acid fracking is likely to fall outside the legal definitions of hydraulic fracturing set in the Infrastructure Act. ”

    Looks like the lies are untangling. ..

  3. I have been following this story for some time with an open mind to both sides of the arguement. It is very obvious that this company deals with facts and the activists deal in what if’s….

    I am totally happy with the progression happening here and the professional manner it is being conducted.

  4. That is scaremongering about scaremongering which was proved to be a scaremongering in the first place.

  5. Strange how this has not been a topic earlier? How come no-one had even heard of this until now? i certainly had not? I smell a false flag PR exercise at the heart of this, so, lets think about this for a moment shall we? Before the whole fracking industry farm agency joins in the howling witch hunt and screams for blood.

    “the film was posted on the Facebook page on April 5 by York-based activist and photographer Dave Marris, who commented on the social media site: ‘I made this because I am disgusted with the police tactics being used against the peaceful people trying to protest at Cuadrilla’s Preston New Road site.”

    The video was removed from the site after about a week, but not before Ms Allanson had complained to police, saying it should be viewed as a ‘hate crime”

    Mr Marris, speaking at his home near York yesterday, confirmed he had made the video, but added: ‘I can’t see anything offensive on there. It is up to people to draw their own conclusions.’ However, writer and broadcaster Rabbi Jonathan Romain said: ‘Whatever one’s views of fracking it is not genocide – in fact it is a million miles from genocide. Using the Holocaust in this way not only demeans the Holocaust but undermines the case of the protesters.”

    Exactly, it does undermine the protesters and that is why it is so suspicious, i have always known that the industry leaves nothing to chance and i have said so before, this seems to be exactly the sort of dirty tricks department false flag exercise i was expecting sooner or later.

    Anyone who knows me knows i don’t support the extremist view and i doubt their motives and their agenda, i would say most of us feel the same way, descending into the gutter with the industry is counter productive, as i have said before, to me this little exercise simply is designed to play into the hands of the industry, so alarm bells are ringing loudly here.

    What fascinates me is the timing and content designed to blacken the protest movement and the Green Party and blacken Tina Rothery at the same time just prior to a local and general election, perfect PR fodder for the industry, it will be interesting to see who this individual is and how he is funded and triggered to do this at such a critical time. Is he an industry sleeper i ask?

    This really is quite a sophisticated coup attempt, 9/10 to whoever thought this one up in the dirty tricks department, but 0/10 for for anyone but Mr Marris having anything to do with it, if anyone on the protest side had seen it they would have squashed it or disowned it loudly before it saw the light of day,

    “Cuadrilla declined to comment last night, but chief executive Francis Egan recently complained about intimidation and harassment by ‘irresponsible’ activists.” “irresponsible activists”, we see it there, the attempt to tar us all with the same brush, too smooth, too timely, too suspicious…..

    What i always remember is that the fracking protectors have said far worse against protesters themselves, but it does not get into the papers. Fascinating how this undermines the protest movement in the most right wing media of them all? Well done! nice try, it wont work.

    People protest because they are threatened by the fracking industry which has shown itself to be poisonous, complacent, incompetent secretive and aggressive and had lied about death threats before, the publicity that will inevitably be thrown around about this is clearly an attempt to resurrect that. The industry doesn’t obey what few regulations there are and has co-opted government and the police to do its dirty work for it.

    So my guess is that this illustrates a far dirtier agenda to wave around in the face of the public.

    • Hahaha Phil. You seem an ok kinna guy but sometimes you’re just too out there with your conspiracy theories.
      There was an anti fracking film with Matt Damon in it (can’t remember name) where the pro setup a scenario that made the antis look like they were lying. It was a decent watch and showed some smart tricks.
      But sorry to burst your bubble on this one….. The anti mob actually made this film genuinely thinking it would bolster their cause. You need to be careful of the dark side of the left!

  6. The Mail article notes that the video was posted on the “Frack- Free York Facebook page”. I don’t use TwitFace but can anyone post on anything – is it not moderated in anyway? The implication being that Frack- Free York were quite happy with it to be posted on their medium?

    “the film was posted on the Facebook page on April 5 by York-based activist and photographer Dave Marris, who commented on the social media site: ‘I made this because I am disgusted with the police tactics being used against the peaceful people trying to protest at Cuadrilla’s Preston New Road site.’ ”

    Dave Marris is very real, anti fracking (Mr. Google demonstrates this well), has even featured on Drill or Drop before:

    Phil C – are you trying to tell us Mr. Marris is a plant for the oil companies? You are joking surely?

    • There are two theories about timely events such as this, particularly in business and politics, those two cosy bedfellows, one is conspiracy theory, the other is cock up theory, the actual reality is usually an uncomfortable combination somewhere between the two.
      This is too timely and too single handed to be cock up theory alone….there is a verbal avenue I wont pursue…..
      What would be interesting is to see who commissioned this little diversion, no genuine protester would sacrifice the whole issue to give such a propaganda coup to the industry with this clumsy own goal misguided effort. It is also interesting how the Daily Mail, that well established paragon of balance of journalistic integrity and fair mindedness, chose this as an issue to pursue, when plainly no one else had since the 5th April and nothing here or anywhere else that I was aware of.
      Therefore I suspect other motives here, perhaps that will be revealed at some point, time will tell. Clearly this was not going to be allowed to sink without trace, too much invested interests for that to happen.
      I am always conscious how the o&g industry likes to play things, close to their chest and mark all the cards, I suspect that this is just such a marked card probably with a preprogrammed cock up joker in the pack.
      As usual its the timing that fascinates, this is clearly either originating as, or is being used for, a diversion away from the technical issues of acidisation and the rest of the process.
      Don’t you just love politics?

      • What appears to have happened is the antis got caught out, removed the offending video before it went National (after all, how many people look at Frack Free York TwitFace page – or have even heard of them?), crossed their fingers and hoped no one would notice. Fortunately someone told the Daily Mail, not my favourite paper, but at least we (including you) got to know about how extreme some of the antis are and how this impacts on normal residents who have some genuine concerns about impacts where they live. And I recall Tina has proven to the Court she doesn’t have any money and therfore did not pay Cuadrilla anything. But Enemies of Industry has plenty, they could easily support a legal action – or the Green Party who are also tarnished by this in that she is / was one of their candidates.

        • Don’t you mean that the Zealot Enemies Of Progress can afford it?
          Listen to Radio 4 Andrew Marr’s Start The Week this mornings discussion.
          Responsible husbandry of this fragile planet is where the future will be assured, its the only intelligent way forward.

    • There you go, the tactics just drop into place don’t they? Interesting how The Symbol ! Previously Known As Cuadrilla have ensured that Tina would not be able to afford lawyers? Perhaps they would like to pay for it as before?
      Anyone else you would like to seek to blacken by association with this?
      Ahhh gowan! You know you want to!

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