Council planners recommend consent for flow testing at Broadford Bridge oil site

Broadford Bridge 170827 Weald Oil Watch 3

Broadford Bridge, 27 August 2017. Photo: Weald Oil Watch

Planners at West Sussex Council have recommended granting planning permission for another 12 months at the Broadford Bridge oil exploration site near Billingshurst.

The extension would allow the operator, Kimmeridge Oil and Gas Ltd (KOGL), to carry out testing and appraisal of a borehole drilled in July. 2017.

The planners said there had been no objections from statutory consultees. Of the comments from the public, 374 were objections and 168 were statements in support.

A report to the council’s planning committee, which meets on 12 September 2017, concluded that the 12-month extension to the existing planning permission had the potential to result in impacts on roads, local residents and the environment.

But it said the impacts would be “minimal” and the development would “help to meet an identified need for local hydrocarbon exploration and appraisal”.

The planners said the application complied with local and national planning policy and should be approved subject to 15 conditions.

The original planning permission, issued to the former operator, Celtique Energie, required work to be completed within three years of the start. Site construction began on 16 September 2014 and the permission expires on 16 September 2017.

The report said the development “does not pose a risk to the water environment, either at the surface or groundwater.”

“The impacts of the development would be controlled through the planning regime as well as through the environmental permitting and health and safety regimes to ensure that water quality would not be compromised and that emissions to air would be acceptable.”

On traffic, the planners said the number of vehicles required to carry out the remainder of the development was not sufficient to raise concerns about highway capacity or road safety.

The site had limited visibility and would be for a limited period, the report said, and would “not have an adverse impact on the character of the area”.

On ecology, the report concluded:

“The potential impact of the development on habitats and species would be minimal, subject to controls on lighting, emissions to air and the water environment which would contain the operation within the site.”

The report noted that the site construction and drilling phases of the development had now been completed and the testing phases got under way in late August 2017.

As DrillOrDrop reported, the drilling phase had been delayed because the operator had to drill a new sidetrack because of problems with the first borehole.

KOGL, a subsidiary of UK Onshore Oil and Gas plc, intends to use hydrochloric acid to stimulate the Kimmeridge limestone formation before testing the flow rate of oil. This has been described as a form of acid-fracking by opponents. The original application had sought to explore for gas in a deeper sandstone rock.

Friends of the Earth and the Campaign to Protect Rural England objected to the application for an extension. Sussex Wildlife Trust was concerned there was no new ecological information.

According to the planners’ report, objections to the application focussed on:

  • The application had too many changes to be an amendment to the original permission because KOGL planned to target a different strata
  • Inadequate assessment of risks from use of chemicals
  • A 12-month extension was not needed and would go beyond the expiry of the Petroleum Exploration and Development licence
  • Lack of a financial bond
  • Potential for contamination of water supplies
  • Site is on a fault line
  • Inadequate public engagement
  • Few economic benefits for local people

Research by Broadford Bridge Action Group found that 90% of objectors were from Sussex or neighbouring south-east counties. 75% were from West Sussex and only 10% were from outside the region. The research also found that 13% of supporters of the application were from West Sussex and 73% were from outside the south-east region.

According to the planners, support for the application focussed on:

  • The operator should be allowed adequate time to test for oil
  • The application was not for fracking and a refusal was not justified
  • The importance of exploiting onshore resources
  • Benefit to the local and national economy

The planners recommended 15 conditions on the permission. These included restrictions on work on the site to flow testing and restoration. Work must finish by 15 September 2018. Hours of work would be limited to 7am-7pm Monday to Friday and 8am-1pm on Saturday.

The recommended conditions also required a new fire-fighting plan must be submitted to the county council for approval, relocating fire water tanks to the well site compound. An approved groundwater protection scheme must be followed to dispose of foul and surface water.

  • KOGL has made a separate application to extend permission for security fencing, gates and cabins for a further 12 months. This is likely to be considered at  the earliest at a planning meeting in October. DrillOrDrop report

15 replies »

  1. “Research by Broadford Bridge Action Group found that 90% of objectors were from Sussex or neighbouring south-east counties. 75% were from West Sussex and only 10% were from outside the region. The research also found that 13% of supporters of the application were from West Sussex and 73% were from outside the south-east region.”
    Says it all doesn’t it. Why bother to ask for local objections at all if they don’t intend to take them into account?

  2. Railroading dressed as democracy. We shouldn’t be surprised. Remember Preston New Road. All local democratic processes opposed fracking, and yet it is still going ahead. Something smells bad. A noxious cocktail of money, self-interest, greed, and short-termism. No ‘flare’ will neutralise that. What about the ‘identified need’ for renewable non-fossil energy sources? We live in an Orwellian world in which we are controlled, with our compliance, by the screens that we stare at. A world in which people don’t care provided they are supplied with all that they have unwittingly become addicted to.

  3. Who knows, maybe this will be a case where the planners, with their level of professional knowledge, are followed, rather than those who shriek the loudest with little knowledge other than how to shriek. Doesn’t always seem to be the case, but sometimes it happens.

    Anyway, according to the Prof. not a cat in ***** chance of finding any oil, so all “academic”. Oh, I forgot, that one has already been proven incorrect, and we are now at the “how much” stage. Tad inconvenient, so let’s ignore it, eh?

  4. Morning Martin. If you are referring to David Smythe your statement doesn’t reflect what he said at all. He stated quite clearly that what Stephen Sanderson refers to as ‘mobile oil’ would most definitely be present in fracture zones across the Weald. What I believe him to have said however is that it is extremely unlikely that one can make reliable extrapolations from this with regard to accessible oil across the entire area. He is concerned I believe about the degree of ‘stimulation’ that will be required elsewhere to achieve viable flows and the attendant risks to the environment. Ernst & Young raised similar concerns within the introduction to the viability study that was commissioned from them by UKOG long before drilling began. What IS ‘academic’ regarding these oil deposits is this discussion. With what we KNOW about global warming we shouldn’t be touching them, we should be focussing instead on other energy sources and other materials. No-one is shrieking Martin. People with no vested financial interest in this project are struggling to be heard. If there are no dangers connected to our continued reliance on oil why Kyoto?, Why Paris? And why are so many other governments moving much faster than our own to eliminate fossil fuels from their economies? Tad inconvenient? So let’s ignore it, eh?

  5. Jonathan-I think you will find the Prof. has said many things, but not many of them technically correct, and most of them “mights”. There is a much better technical assessment of his “study” on DOD than I could furnish, I suggest you read it. It will not tell you what you want, but that’s life.

    People would not “struggle to be heard” if they made sensible points. Protestors with “frack off” signs show that making a false statement is seen as a way of getting heard and I am afraid that has spread into many other areas.

    Why do you assume people have a financial interest? Some may, some may not. My pensions give me a “financial interest” in many companies, some I would support some I would not, but if they give me a return I am happy with I am not too worried. Yes, I could spend my life fiddling around making small adjustments but, unlike some, I have better things to do, and maybe not the knowledge to do so.

    I live within 20 miles of the UKs largest oil refinery. It is a good neighbour and receives 15k barrels of oil/day from local sources. The rest comes in tankers from the other side of the world from sources I would ethically prefer not to support (I know the pilot who sees them in and out of the Solent-so far, safely.) This refinery will keep going, together with the chemicals plant next door for decades to come whatever happens on alternatives-and the best alternative may yet end up decarbonised fossil fuel-so, I, and many others simply want the oil utilised in the UK replaced with UK oil, if that is found to be an option.
    It is not about believing in climate change, or not, it is looking at the real world-by pressing the send button you just “touched” fossil fuels. My hybrid car arrives on Thursday, but I will still rely on petrol for a longer journey, or to operate my motor mower, or collect the leaves in a few weeks time. These things will evolve during the next 30 years or so, but they will not change immediately, and trying to stop one thing will not have an opposite direct reaction. UK is signed up to Paris, we will strive to meet those commitments, many will not. 1 tonne of UK oil, used in the UK, will have less adverse impact upon the environment than the 1 tonne of M. East oil it could replace. And the tax taken on that 1 tonne would help fund UK public services, rather than M. East palaces.

    And, yes, there is plenty of shrieking, and you know it, because I have seen that you take part in the discussion about it. Or, maybe, someone else is touching fossil fuels, under your name?

    • The UK can expand its world-beating offshore wind capacity to almost five times its current level by 2030, and that the nation has the most economically attractive offshore wind resources in Europe.

      It’s a shame this Government cannot see the obvious and maximise on our cheap onshore wind potential and solar.

      1GW of electricity produced from home grown renewables would have less adverse impact than 1GW of electricity produced from gas sourced from abroad. Of course not forgetting that fossil fuel is finite and will have to be replaced eventually.

      Common sense really.

      I presume those who do not like importing from Norway and Qatar do not have Chinese made goods in their houses.

  6. Thank you for your reply Martin. This is a terribly polarising issue and I appreciated the measured way in which you have written to me. Thank you for pointing me in the direction of the critique of David Smythe’s recent submission. It is a little technical, but I will do my best to get something from it. My point regarding ‘no vested interests’ was to point out that protestors do not benefit financially from what they do, they protest on the basis of a conviction (feel free to enjoy the ‘double entendre’) whereas many that are vocally supportive of unconventional oil and gas do benefit from it in some way, though quite clearly not everyone. I both appreciate and acknowledge that. The levels of risk surrounding these new technologies are challenging to understand and many that have technical competence in this area rely on the energy industries for their livelihoods, having invested a substantial chunk of their lives in acquiring their expertise, and because they are so heavily invested in that sense it is hard for us that lack technical expertise to have full confidence in them. I am not in favour of us importing oil from abroad either, in much the same way that I’m not in favour of us supporting dubious regimes such as that of Saudi Arabia both regarding oil and in other ways. I would favour a much more moral governance that more fully represented me and my views, even at something of a personal financial cost to myself. I understand that I ‘touch’ fossil fuels as you describe it in many ways during an average day, but I do not wish to do so, I am compelled to do so by the lack of other options. I happily pay a little extra for healthy foods and would also purchase oil avoidant options in other goods and commodities were I able to do so. I am afraid that I do not necessarily agree that people who make sensible points do not struggle to be heard. Suffragettes had a hard time of it, as did anti-apartheid campaigners, and those that have opposed the tobacco industry. I’m pleased to hear that your proximity to an oil refinery doesn’t disturb you. There are many, many instances however of people living in close proximity to unconventional oil and gas extraction sites having suffered grievously as the direct result of highly questionable practices. Very best wishes, Jonathan.

    • Hello Jonathan,

      If you have any questions on my response to Professor Smythe, please let me know and I will attempt to answer them for you.

      Having lived and worked Overseas for many years before coming back to the UK, I must admit to being more than somewhat puzzled by the outcry over frac’ing in The UK – are people unaware that frac’ing Onshore Wells in the UK has actually been occurring for many years? I know at least one Company that frac’d a Well in Sussex in the early 90’s and I’m sure that was not the only one in Sussex, never mind the rest of the UK. I would guess that the number runs into the low hundreds – I’ll do a little more research to try and find out.

      There also appears to be a presumption that any Well that is going to be drilled and tested will be frac’d, which is not the case at all.

      The actual frac’ing process itself is quite old – the first Well that is recognised as being frac’d was done back in the 1940’s and the fundamentals are well understood, so it really isn’t new technology in that respect. Like in many areas of engineering, there have been substantial improvements over the years – especially with respect to reducing the number and volumes of chemicals required and computer modelling of the anticipated results – and new methods and techniques are being developed all the time.

      For what it’s worth, the UK regulations which govern the Oil & Gas Industry are – overall – pretty much the best in the world. No regulations are perfect and it’s likely that there are areas where the UK regulations could be improved. Having said that, in Countries I have worked in over the last few years, we (at least the non-US Companies) frequently use the UK guidelines in running the operation, because they far exceed local requirements. In many areas, UK Regulations have been, or are being, adopted by authorities as examples of ‘best practice’.

      From what I have seen on this site so far, it seems that many are drawing comparison to events that may (Sorry, I have to say that –
      some did and some did not, but far too complex a subject to go into here!) have happened in the USA.

      I can assure you that the regulatory environment Onshore the USA is much, much looser than here – they can still use working practices that we could not in the UK back in the 1980’s, and the UK Regulatory environment has been further tightened since then.

      I appreciate your point about vested interests, and while it’s perfectly sensible to ask for an independent review of the drilling and frac’ing process on a Well (or any engineering design process for that matter) the reality is that to have a serious understanding of what is required to drill and complete a Well, you have to have worked in the industry.

      As an analogy, I love reading about aeroplanes (spent enough time on them!) and like to think I know a lot about what goes into the design. But could I verify that the design of a plane was safe? No, I could not.

      With respect to climate change, in my experience there are very few in the oil industry (at least, outside the USA) who would deny that climate change is a serious issue that needs to be addressed.

      However, we also recognise that the use of oil in our society is so pervasive, it is not something we can wean ourselves off in the space of a few years – especially when there are Billions of people in the under-developed World who aspire to Western standards of living.

      In the meantime, at least as far as the UK is concerned, within about five years we will be importing around 75% of our oil and gas requirements. Not only will this have a bad effect on energy prices (you think energy bills are expensive now…) and the energy security of the UK, it will leave us dependent on some regimes which are neither reliable nor have good records on human rights (or the environment, for that matter).

      In that respect I fully agree with your thoughts and Martins comment about 1 Tonne of UK vs. 1 Tonne of Middle East or Russian oil.

      Right, I have wittered on enough!

      Best Regards


      • Middle East and Russia mentioned quite a lot.

        Meanwhile our Home grown UK energy base fuel suppliers are ramping up at a furious pace.

        20 billion plus barrels to go at and new seismic offshore data attracting much attention. Real fossil fuel security whilst we move swiftly on to maximising our renewable potential.

        Common sense really. A home grown win win scenario.

        Home grown North sea oil and gas.Cheap and plentiful and supporting an experienced workforce of up to 440,000

        The cost of decommissioning is not relevant. We all pay that regardless.

        1 tonne of UK proven North sea oil with experienced work force and infrastructure in place away from local villages and water tables versus a speculative maybe onshore industry needing back to back drilling in rural communities.


        That said the offshore industry states it will need investment but with 20 billion plus barrels to go at and new Government sponsored seismic data attracting great interest it looks like the North sea is where the real UK security lies.

        I wonder how much oil and gas the North sea would produce if they were offered the same tax incentives as onshore shale?

        If we do run short we could always look at not exporting our home grown North sea oil and gas.

        That would mean less need to be dependent on some regimes which others say are neither reliable nor have good records on human rights (or the environment, for that matter).

        • Hello John,

          As the article clearly says, the fields currently coming onstream are due to investment decisions made when oil was $100+ / bbl and investment in new projects has all but dried up in the last three years. This has resulted in the loss of around 90,000 jobs (current work force is around 300,000).

          Also, while an extra 230k BOPD sounds impressive, it took 14 fields coming onstream to do that. In the early days of the UKCS, we would get that from just one field coming onstream – Forties was over 500k BOPD by itself. The DECC website is a good source of information in that respect.

          In the halcyon days, there were over 100 Rigs operating in the UKCS, now there are barely 10% of that. UKCS peak production was around 3 Million BOPD, now it’s struggling to stay around 1 Million BOPD.

          While 20 Billion bbls sounds a lot, all the low and medium hanging fruit were got at a long time ago. The oil left is in smaller accumulations and technically more challenging (e.g. HPHT, West of Shetland, low gravity) with the result that the development and production costs are high.

          The North Sea is actually a high cost environment, both to develop and operate.

          Taking Premiers Catcher Field as an example, they are spending $1.6 Billion to develop a field that they expect to produce 96 Million bbls from – a development cost of an eye-wateringly high $16.6/bbl. It’s an FPSO, so add in production costs of an equally eye-watering $35/ bbl (my estimate, I cannot find the actual figure), plus finding costs of around $6/bbl and you can see why Premier very nearly went to the wall. And the anticipated lifespan of Catcher production is just 7 – 10 years.

          In addition, that 20 Billion bbls includes over 100 discoveries which are simply not large enough to economically develop.

          So going forward, presuming there is a reasonable recovery in the oil price, the future of North Sea production is in developing small, expensive accumulations which will barely make a dent in our production decline curve.

          I don’t expect the new Seismic to change that at all.

          Onshore costs are, obviously, much lower. If an Onshore Field of 10 Million bbls was found, finding costs would likely be in the region of $2-3/bbl, development costs around $ 6-8/bbl and production costs around $15/bbl – so it is clearly more cost effective to develop, and the 90,000 unemployed UKCS workforce would love to get involved.

          Incidentally, the overall recovery from an Onshore Field is better as well, because the operating costs are so much lower than offshore it’s economic to keep going when it’s producing just a few bopd.

          In the meantime, we don’t export our oil and gas – far from it. The UK has been a net oil importer since around 2005 and net gas importer since around 2010. The level of imports will continue to rise as our production declines – especially gas.

          Finally, could you please let me know (or point me to a website) which shows what tax breaks are being given for Shale that the North Sea does not get? Thanks!

  7. Thanks for your considered response Jonathan. We will obviously have different opinions but one area I would suggest you avoid is “throwing the baby out with the bath water.” Technology is moving at a rapid pace, faster than it has done ever (with the exception of WW2). I am unconvinced that fossil fuels are the whole problem, remove carbon from those same fossil fuels and they will be very much the answer, or a big part of it. Then, you have “taken back control” of the carbon and it can be used instead of wasted. The $trillions involved in fossil fuels makes this a pretty achievable prospect, redirect some of that investment into this area and things could happen pretty quickly. That is a much more likely prospect, rather than saying to the fossil fuel companies and countries “your $trillions are now worthless”.

    In terms of living close to a refinery I am not blinkered. Of course, they have inherent dangers but there are millions of gallons of water every day being discharged into the Solent cleaner than when it was extracted. As the Solent leads to the two major salmon rivers in England (Test and Itchen) I am quite comfortable with that.

    Yes, my hybrid arrives this week, but I have hedged my bets-it is on a short term lease! (I suspect it may well be a “bridge” to something else, and not necessarily from Tesla.)

  8. Only 20 billion barrels left to go at John! Well, the estimates for the Weald are much bigger than that.

    I state that because it is irrelevant in itself. What is relevant is what is there in the UK N. Sea sector has had all (most) of the “low fruit” removed, and there are considerable difficulties/costs extracting what is left. I have friends in Aberdeen, and that is very evident.

    I do not have a clue as to what the total Weald reserves will be, how much could be extracted, and what the costs will be. BUT, I would like to see tests conducted, and concluded, to establish that. Why would it be acceptable to do that miles out to sea in the N.Sea but not on land in the UK? There has been much more pollution and accidents already from the former than the latter, and I remember the Torrey Canyon. (I would rather Wytch Farm oil travels all the way to the refinery by pipe, but it doesn’t. Maybe the Weald oil could.) The only person who could object to that is Queen Nicola, but she objects to most things and therefore has little time left to achieve things- which Scotland noted during the last election.

    This is not a debate about climate change, as Injuneer has also said. It is about utilising our own resources, if we can, to replace someone else’s resources. There are environmental benefits, security benefits and revenue benefits (to name a few) if it is possible. Equally, there is a morality of ignoring your own resource (“keeping it in the ground”), buying someone else’s and removing it from a market where billions of people require it, and would rather our inaction didn’t increase oil prices to them.

  9. If anyone is really interested in the real picture currently in the N.Sea, try reading Emily Gosden, P35, todays Times. Plus look at the business section today on BBC today-60k jobs lost in the sector in 2016, 13k more predicted for 2017.

    Somewhat different picture to the one John paints. That’s the way it goes, but some will do their own research.

  10. A little bit more reality (I apologise for that being inconvenient). UKOG RNS a short while ago. Seems a little bit of disagreement compared to the Profs. “review”. Not long to go to see the actuals against the mights.

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