Surrey County Council is standing by its position that Angus Energy does not have planning permission for oil production from a well at its Brockham site, despite an announcement of “final go-ahead” this morning.
Angus told shareholders at 7am that it had received official approval from the Oil and Gas Authority to produce from a sidetrack well, drilled in January 2017. (DrillOrDrop report).
“This OGA approval is the final regulatory consent needed for the Company to begin production from the Kimmeridge layers in well BR-X4Z”.
The company said it intended to begin production once it had installed a connection to the national grid to distribute electricity generated on site.
The BR-X4Z sidetrack has been the subject of a 10-month planning dispute. Surrey County Council told the OGA that neither drilling the well nor production from it was covered by existing planning permissions. Surrey also said it had advised Angus Energy that it should apply for retrospective planning permission.
A spokesperson for the council told DrillOrDrop today:
“Our position is unchanged.
“We are in ongoing discussions with Angus Energy”.
DrillOrDrop asked the council to confirm what action it would take if Angus began oil production. We’ll update this post with any response.
The council’s powers include enforcement action against operations where there is no planning permission. Actions could include an enforcement notice, a stop notice or a planning enforcement injunction.
We also asked the council if the Brockham site has planning permission for electricity generation. This post will be updated with any response.
“Complete disregard for local planning authority”
A local campaign group, Brockham Oil Watch, criticised the OGA for granting the approval:
“The Surrey County planning authority could not have been clearer in their consultation response directly to the OGA that there was no planning permission to drill BRX4Z in January this year, and that there is no permission to produce from it now, so today’s news demonstrates a complete disregard for and a snub to the local planning authority.
“It suggests that the OGA listens to the industry and its advisors and favours their view when it suits them, rather than to the local planning authority.
“It also shows a complete disregard, by the OGA, to the views of local people who have had no opportunity to be consulted on Angus’ current proposals.”
Angus repeated today that it had no plans to hydraulically fracture BR-X4Z.
But Brockham Oil Watch said the Kimmeridge formation was an unconventional shale oil play containing tight oil, that would “almost certainly would require stimulation through acidisation or hydraulic fracturing”.
The group said:
“The British Geological Survey, in a report commissioned by the OGA themselves (as a division of DECC in 2014) compared the Kimmeridge to a “hybrid Bakken-type shale play” in the USA.
“Thousands of wells have been drilled into the Bakken and fracked.
“But because of the artificially high threshold of water used in the definition of fracking in the UK Infrastructure Act, Angus can get away with calling their operations “conventional”, whilst leaving the door open to future non-conventional stimulation techniques, such as acidisation and hydraulic fracturing.”
“Slap in the face for residents”
The Green Party MEP for south east England, Keith Taylor, said it was “wholly inappropriate” for the OGA to give approval before the planning dispute had been resolved. He said:
“It’s a decision that reveals the Government’s claims about so-called ‘Gold Standards’ for oil and gas extraction are little more than an inside joke shared between the Government and its oil and gas industry backers.
“Giving the go-ahead for oil production to a firm that has breached the terms of its environmental and planning permissions and drilled a side-track well without any permission is a slap in the face for the local residents being asked to trust that Angus Energy will treat them and their local environment with respect.”
Mr Taylor added:
“A great number of my constituents living in and around Brockham are quite rightly very concerned about the dangers posed by increased oil production at this site, carried out by a company that has already proved it cannot be trusted.
“Allowing this damaging application to go ahead not only flies in the face of local public opinion but poses a serious threat to the environment and public health.
“Ultimately, the decision runs counter to our legally binding climate targets under the Paris Agreement and the UK’s own Climate Change Act – which obliges the UK to reduce, not increase, its reliance on fossil fuels.”
Share price response
Investors, writing online, were initially excited this morning by the announcement.
But later comments turned to surprise that there had not been a bigger increase in the value of Angus shares. The company, listed on the junior AIM stockmarket, ended the day 2.25% or 0.75p higher.
Edited to remove online comments on investor boards following requests from original posters