Cuadrilla seeks planning consent again to test Balcombe oil well, West Sussex

Balcombe,West Sussex, UK Anti Fracking protests..16th September

Cuadrilla tanker leaving the company’s Balcombe site in West Sussex, 2013. Photo: David Burr

The company preparing to frack for shale gas in Lancashire announced this morning it was applying for planning permission to test the flow of oil in its exploration well in West Sussex.

Cuadrilla drilled the well at Balcombe in summer 2013, attracting three months of protest.

The company ran out of time to do the flow testing and was granted a new permission in May 2014. This was unsuccessfully challenged by local people in a judicial review. The permission expired when Cuadrilla did not start work by May 2017.

Cuadrilla said a new draft planning application had been sent to West Sussex County Council today. If the council had no concerns with it, the final version would be submitted next week, the company said. The application would then be published on the council and company websites. Link to planning application

Cuadrilla Chief Executive, Francis Egan, said in a statement today:

“We were unable to undertake the permitted exploration well testing works within the allocated time, primarily due to the length of time and resource it has required for us to commence operational activities in our Lancashire exploration licence area.

“The new planning application will cover the same scope of work as the previous permission: a flow test of the existing exploration well followed by plugging the well with cement, and fully restoring the site.”

The company said it had contacted Balcombe Parish Council about the application. A letter, dated 18 October, has been written to residents. Cuadrilla said a community liaison group, which was a condition of the May 2014 planning application, had not been established because no work was carried out. But a spokesperson said:

“If granted planning permission for this new application we would, of course, establish a CLG ahead of any proposed works once we know they are going to start.”

Balcombe,West Sussex, UK Anti Fracking protests..10th September

Arrest at Balcombe on September 10th 2013. Photo: David Burr

Well testing and acidising

Cuadrilla said it was seeking temporary permission for six months of work. If the application were approved, the company said it expected West Sussex County Council would require the work to be completed within three years.

The company proposes to acidize the horizontal section of the wellbore at Balcombe before testing the flow rate of the oil. It said acidizing would involve circulating an estimated 15-20m3 of 10% solution of hydrochloric acid into the well. The solution would be pumped at pressures below those needed to fracture the rocks, Cuadrilla said.

The purpose was to remove any drilling mud from the wellbore and clean the limestone source rock within six inches of the well, the company said.

In March 2017, Cuadrilla applied to the Environment Agency to vary its permits for the site in woodland at Lower Stumble, Balcombe. A public consultation closed in April 2017 and the company awaits the decision. DrillOrDrop report

In the permit application, Cuadrilla said gases produced during the flow testing, estimated to be up to 35,000m3, would be burned in a 45ft flare.

“No fracking”

Cuadrilla told the government in 2011 (DrillOrDrop report) that to be successful in the Weald Basin it would

“need to rely, to a significant degree on being able to undertake hydraulic fracture stimulation(s).”

In a letter to the then Department of Energy and Climate Change, an executive said that without the ability to undertake hydraulic fracture operations the company would not be able to attempt to achieve commercial production.

However, since then the company has repeatedly said fracking would not be necessary because it said the Kimmeridge limestone where it is exploring for oil is naturally fractured. It repeated this statement today.


Kathryn McWhirter, of No Fracking in Balcombe Society, said the village had expected the application in September and would oppose it.

“The local community does not want any oil exploration and most particularly we do not want exploration for ‘tight oil’, whether by fracking or by acidising.

“Other Sussex and Surrey communities are already facing the same issue, at Broadford Bridge, Horse Hill and Brockham. Oil-bearing geology is similar across the Weald. These are the first wells in what could become an oil field across the South East. This affects everyone around here, not just the people of Balcombe.

“Like the other oil companies, Cuadrilla continues to manipulate language for PR purposes.

“In 2013 Cuadrilla drilled into a narrow band of limestone within the shale. This micrite rock (Kimmeridge limestone) here in Balcombe is indeed naturally fractured, as Cuadrilla says, but what they don’t say is that those ancient fractures,  so deep underground, are held tightly closed by pressure and stresses. This is not rock through which oil will flow without dissolving the rock with acid and/or. fracking.

“At test stage they will not need to frack. At production stage they would acid frack.

“So they are not fracking yet. And when they do acid frack the limestone, it will no longer be legally defined as fracking. Westminster changed the definition of fracking in the Infrastructure Act of 2015, dividing fracking from not fracking according to the amount of water used. Today, 88% of the oil wells that have been fracked in the USA would not count as having been fracked under UK law. And once they have acid fracked the limestone, they will hydraulically frack the shale.”

Link to planning application

57 replies »

  1. By the way Sherwulfe that reference takes less than 30 secs to get you to the content-just done it. [Edited by moderator]

  2. Sherwulfe/Jack-I gave you the reference title and the author. It takes 30 seconds to access that through a search engine, yet you both insist as there is no “link” it is somehow impossible to find the text??? I could explain your inability to do that, but even the kindest suggestion would be moderated, so I shall not bother. If you do read the text, I would just add my own view to it. I do run a hybrid vehicle (funded by Ukog/Angus indirectly) but I have it on a short term lease. Why? For the same, smaller scale consideration, that Mr. Dudley supplies. Maybe me being foolish? Not if you look at current depreciation on these vehicles, driven by this years model being out of date almost immediately-and this is supported by the exceptional deal that was offered on the vehicle lease fee as the supplier recognises what was “state of the art” a few months ago, is rapidly becoming out-dated. Out-dated to what is the key question. You refer to alternative energy, I just don’t happen to agree that today’s alternative energy is tomorrows. But we have discussed that before.

    Have a good weekend.

  3. Jack-when I posted that I refuse to read certain posters, you ignore why I stated that. I stated I will not read posts that are based upon incitement. I make my own judgement upon that. If you think that debate is helped by that I am surprised, but you make your judgement and I will make mine.

    • That is completely untrue martin, i am one of the few protesters and protectors (GBH) against fracking and the ohandgee onshore industry unwanted invasion in general that does not support incitement to illegal action, and not i might add because it does not achieve the news, clearly it does and raises the subject to public attention because it doesn’t get aired in the media in any other way.

      For your information and enlightenment, clearly a requirement, I don’t support illegal action because it plays into the hands of the likes, or dislikes, of Ineos Third energy, Cuadrilla, Angus, Ukoog et al and gives them ammunition to attempt to change freedom of speech and protest and cripple democracy in this country via injunktion(s). Were it not for that one aspect at this stage, i would stand in front of the tanks myself. who knows, it may come to that yet.

      The strange illogic illustrated by such comments as you illustrate above, it that it seems to be not reading what others write because:

      Firstly it contradicts established and jealously protected industry comfort blankets and excites frantic dogmatic industry fundamentalism which then fills these pages with enormous diatribes filled with insults and name calling.

      Secondly that the industry cant risk raising particular subjects for discussion because they are too revealing, and the strategy is then to consistently resort to personal comments, we see that all the time here from the anti anti’s which is the last resort of the unscrupulous.

      There was a very revealing clip from an American game show that shows just why Americans are not in mass revolt against fracking which is causing devastation daily across the US and there is a clue also to why certain people here don’t read contraversially revealing comments and refuse to comment, ony resorting to strategy one above.

      The second clips are just cognitively embarrassing for information challenged American youth and explains an awful lot.

      Fortunately English people are far too intelligent to let this pernicious industry ride rough shod over our rights to freedom of speech action and protest, and they are willing to sacrifice their personal freedom to raise the issue to the attention of the objectively issue challenged deliberately somnambulist media.

      Aren’t you going to welcome me back? Did you miss me?

  4. Interesting that today a letter was stuffed though our door ?by Cuadrilla? We had already received the ‘Dear Resident’ letter, shortly after the press release. This letter was to my husband, who happens to be chair of the parish council. Same letter as to the residents, except in a different layout. So Cuadrilla was being economical with the truth in saying that in the press release that they had already contacted the parish council. They had been told that they should now contact Sue as oil person, Rosemary as clerk and Charles as chair. Maybe they sent it in advance to previous council contacts. If so, those contact did not pass it on.

  5. Kathryn

    They should have sent it to the clerk, who logs said communication and forwards it to council members I guess.
    Just requires a trip to the website to find out who to send it to. They must have pulled out the old file.

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