The company exploring for oil at Broadford Bridge in West Sussex announced this morning it had received permission to flow test the well.
In a statement to investors, UK Oil & Gas Investments plc (UKOG) said the Environment Agency had formally granted the environmental permit to carry out the work.
The local Green Party MEP, Keith Taylor, said the concerns of local residents had been ignored and local residents said the EA had prioritised “perceived short-term commercial need over long-term impacts”.
UKOG’s subsidiary and the site operator, Kimmeridge Oil and Gas Ltd, has been drilling at Broadford Bridge since 29 May 2017.
The permit now allows KOGL to acidise the well and carry out 12-weeks of extended well tests on two sections of Kimmeridge limestone.
UKOG’s executive chairman, Stephen Sanderson, said today:
“This [permit] enables us to move onto the next phase of operation at Broadford Bridge. Our drilling and comprehensive coring programme has been very successful and we look forward to equally positive results from our flow testing operation.”
Opponents of operations at Broadford Bridge accused KOGL of making mistakes in the permit application documents. During a public consultation, they raised concerns about contamination risks to ground and surface water and urged the Enviornment Agency (EA) to refuse permission for acidising the well.
Broadford Bridge Action Group said this evening:
“We are shocked and dismayed that the Environment Agent has issued a permit for flow testing at Broadford Bridge before conducting full environmental impact assessments or carrying out the monitoring needed to understand the level of risk to our water, land and air from the use of toxic chemicals in the acidisation process.
“The EA is supposed to be there to safeguard the public instead of which they appear to be prioritising perceived (short-term) commercial need over the long term impacts on the health of residents and the wider countryside.
“We are not aware of UKOG being required to provide insurance against anything going wrong nor are we aware of any baseline testing or plans to do underground monitoring during the flow tests. We will be demanding that the EA states publicly what testing they have done and what they intend to do.”
Keith Taylor, Green Party MEP for southern England said:
“I’m very disappointed the Environment Agency has ignored the concerns of local residents. Despite claiming that the rocks are naturally fractured and there are no plans for hydraulic fracturing, the application describes acidising the well before testing.
“Acidisation shares many of the negative impacts of fracking: traffic, air pollution, flares, intensive water use, potential drinking water pollution, spills, leaking wells and faults, large volumes of toxic liquid waste and stress on communities.”
“The local community at Broadford Bridge is rightly concerned about the risks posed by acidisation in an area near protected sites and ancient woodland, where the balance of water resources has been assessed by the Environment Agency itself as “seriously stressed” and the high density of geological faults could lead to the contamination of the region’s surface and groundwater systems.”
“Allowing this needless and damaging application to go ahead flies in the face of local public opinion and poses a potentially serious threat to the environment and public health.”
The Environment Agency (EA) published the permit this afternoon. The conditions include:
- KOGL must provide an approved method of calculating emissions from the flare before flow testing can start.
- The flare must be monitored for nitrogen oxides, carbon monoxide, volatile organic compounds, methane concentration, the feed rate and combustion temperature.
- Ground and surface water must be monitored for a range of substances.
- Emissions from the activities to be free from odour, noise and vibration at levels likely to cause pollution outside the site.
- The amount of gas that can be flared is to be limited to 10 tonnes per day and produced water from the well cannot be reinjected.
The EA also published its decision document, which sets out why it approved the application.
“We took these decisions after completing a rigorous assessment of both the application and the public consultation responses we received.
“We are confident that these operations can be carried out safely and that the permits will ensure people and the environment are protected.”
The EA said it regarded acidisation as “de-minimus” or of no environmental significance. It said chemicals proposed to be used in the flow test would not cause environmental harm at the rates and levels proposed. Activities at Broadford Bridge would not result in “significant pollution or harm to human health”.
“The Environment Agency … is satisfied that the risk of any significant pollution is minimal.”
On the operator’s competence, the EA said:
“We have no reason to believe that it would not comply with the permit requirements and conditions.”
On threats to heritage, the EA said:
“We concluded that the site was not within the relevant distance criteria of a site of heritage, landscape or nature conservation, and/or protected species or habitat.”
UKOG reported yesterday it had taken all the core rock samples from the well at Broadford Bridge.
UKOG said the well was now being drilled towards the remaining target zone and the planned final depth of around 5,740ft. Electric logging and formation imaging would then begin, followed by flow testing.
The company’s executive chairman, Stephen Sanderson said yesterday the coring programme continued to “provide supporting evidence” that Broadford Bridge had “possibly encountered an extensive oil-filled natural fracture network”.
UKOG has previously reported oil seeping from the top of one section of the well. Mr Sanderson said:
“The observed light mobile oil, together with the indications of a possible thick gross oil zone within a geological feature without any conventional oil trapping configuration, provides further “proof of concept” that the Kimmeridge of the central Weald may contain an extensive, thick, continuous oil deposit.
“This is an important milestone for the Company.”
UKOG said it had taken 13 cores, totally 554ft. 12 of them (493ft) were from two sections, known as KL3 and KL4, the fractured limestone and shale reservoir sections. One 61ft core was taken from the KL2 reservoir.
The company said fractures were seen in the limestone and calcareous shales throughout the cores. It added that two “significant lost circulation zones” were observed during coring. This, UKOG said, demonstrated that the Kimmeridge section of the Broadford Bridge well had a “well-developed and spatially-connected natural fracture system”.
UKOG said oil was recorded seeping from the top of the KL4 section and recovered from the drilling mud below the base of KL2. Wet gas was also recorded and the readings mirrored those seen at the Horse Hill well near Gatwick Airport in Surrey, UKOG added.
At the end of June, KOGL applied to extend planning permission at Broadford Bridge for a year to the dismay of local opponents. DrillOrDrop report
Broadford Bridge Action Group, an alliance of environmental groups and individuals, described granting an extension to planning permission as “writing a blank cheque without any proper controls or environmental impact assessment”. It called on the Environment Agency and West Sussex County Council to insist that UKOG applied for new permissions that reflected the work they were planning to carry out.