Updated: Angus Energy to apply for planning consent for disputed Brockham oil well


Drilling at Brockham oil site in 2017. Photo: Brockham Oil Watch

Updated 26 October 2017 with statement from Oil & Gas Authority and 17 November 2017 with document released by Surrey County Council

Angus Energy has announced it will submit a planning application for a disputed oil well drilled in January this year.

The well, at the Brockham site in Surrey, has been the subject of a long-running planning disagreement between the company and the County Council.

Angus has always said it had planning permission for both drilling and production from the sidetrack well, called BR-X4Z.

The council has consistently said the well was drilled without planning permission and that production from it would not be covered by existing consent. Since at least March 2017, the council has said it has advised the company to make a retrospective application.

Both sides said they had consulted counsel, who supported their case.

On 19 October 2017, Surrey County Council wrote to Angus, repeating its position. The letter, released in response to a Freedom of Information request on 16 November 2017, welcomed Angus Energy’s decision to submit a planning application.

171019 SCC to Angus letter

Angus Energy’s statement came two days after the company announced that the Oil & Gas Authority had given the go-ahead for production from BR-X4Z.

On 23 October 2017, Angus said the approval of an addendum to its Field Development Plan was “the final regulatory consent needed for the Company to begin production from the Kimmeridge layers in well BR-X4Z”.

In today’s statement, Angus said it would

“perform conventional oil production at Brockham Oil Field from the Kimmeridge Layers in Q1 2018”.

But it said it would be seeking planning permission to what it called “normalise” activities having received a letter from Surrey County Council suggesting it submit an application for operations at Brockham, including BR-X44Z.

The company said:

“This is the first formal request or formal notice received by Angus Energy either prior to or in the 7 months since 9 March 2017.”

However, last month, the chair of Surrey County Council’s planning committee, Cllr Tim Hall told a meeting:

“They [Angus] know full well what we think.

“We have legal counsel’s opinion which says there needs to be an application. We have communicated that to Angus Energy. They know our position full well.”

Today’s statement from Angus said:

“After a careful and considered review, the Management team and Board of Directors of Angus Energy will, as Operator of the licence, submit a normalisation application for the continued surface activities of the production plant required for well BR-X4 and notably, its inclusive sidetrack BR-X4Z. The Board has determined this application – submitted without predjudice [sic] – is a prudent and pragmatic step in the best interests of all stakeholders.

“The Company reiterates it has all the required permissions from all of its regulators to continue production at the Brockham Oil Field including the Kimmeridge layers. In taking this intermediate step, the Company has not relinquished any rights or further options at its disposal to protect shareholders.

“The Company has worked with the SCC [Surrey County Council] throughout this process and will continue to do so without exception. Both parties continue to maintain a professional relationship and on-going communications.”

The statement also includes a comment from the Broad of Directors:

“The Board of Angus Energy does not take any decision concerning our shareholders lightly.  We are confident our actions today have been given thoughtful consideration and fully expect this intermediate step to have minimal impact on our current business plan. We look forward to continued communication and cooperation between Angus Energy and the Surrey County Council.”

DrillOrDrop asked the OGA whether its approval for Brockham was conditional on the planning application. The OGA told us:

“On the 20 October the OGA issued production consent and well completion approval to Angus Energy in relation to the Brockham X4z sidetrack development well.

“Planning permission is a matter for the Local Planning Authority.  The OGA has made clear to Angus Energy that our consent or approval does not provide or imply any other authorisations that it needs to lawfully undertake the operations.

” The consents issued by the OGA and planning permission are separate processes. The OGA is not in a position to form an independent view on the validity and scope of existing planning permissions. This is a matter for Surrey County Council.”

This would be the second planning application made by Angus Energy for the Brockham site in recent month. The company was granted planning consent in September for buildings, fencing and equipment installed without permission. At that meeting, councillors accused the company of betraying the committee’s trust.

Angus shares fell sharply when the markets opened this morning but have since recovered. At the time of writing they were down 9%.

DrillOrDrop asked Angus Energy to comment on it announcement on 23 October. This post will be updated with any response.

27 replies »

  1. The old Angus backtrack sidetrack backstep frackstop craptop duncestep gobstop quickstep pit stop……..again?
    Till you get it right!
    Or not?

  2. Well well well , I guess they have been given no choice but to admit finally that they needed planning permission for BRX4z . What happened to the QC ? If Angus were so sure they were in the right they wouldn’t have given in at the last minute. They must be cash strapped by now.

  3. John-sorry to burst your bubble! However, most already know the facts behind this situation so no point going through that again.

    Cash strapped? That is easily checked out-why haven’t you bothered to do so? And John, they have not admitted anything of the sort. I think you will find others can do some research, so I am not sure what benefit you think comes from modifying facts.

    A simple, pragmatic, approach by both parties to avoid costly delays and costly litigation. The share price drops a little and investors increase their buying. You see a problem, others see progress and an opportunity. The result will be production starting quicker than it might have done, so whatever spin you put upon it the only losers will be the antis.

    Now it seems someone has realised Gatwick expansion will need to be rushed through, a good job a local source of fuel might help to supply for the extra flights. Plus the electricity generation to mitigate against any wood burners.

    • ‘Now it seems someone has realised Gatwick expansion will need to be rushed through, a good job a local source of fuel might help to supply for the extra flights. Plus the electricity generation to mitigate against any wood burners.’

      Seriously, what planet are you from? Home produced oil and gas is sold on the international markets to get the best price (which is what you want presumably if you want profit) . It has no benefit for the local or national community, unless you call being invaded by a bunch of cowboys a benefit?

      • Hi Dr. Dave,

        Home production does in fact benefit the UK.

        For every extra barrel produced here, that is one less barrel we have to pay for to import – benefiting our balance of payments.

        Even for small amounts of production, it soon adds up – just 10,000 BOPD of ‘home’ production at current prices and exchange rates saves the UK around £140 Million pa.

        • Injuneer. It depends on the quality of the product and if there is a market. These figures are just hypothetical. Add into the mix loss of regional jobs, clean up costs and property price reduction and its repercussions on social care costs and the ‘figures’ will quickly run the other way.

          • Hi Sherwulfe,

            The majority of UK crude production is classified as ‘sweet, light’ and commands a premium on the market – and there is always a market.

            As for the rest of your post, don’t forget that oil has been safely, unobtrusively produced Onshore the UK since before WW2 with none of the effects you claim. In fact, in the Midlands there is a housing estate with an oil well in it, and two oil wells on the local golf course.

            Have you ever been to a restored well location? You’d be very hard put to tell that the Well pad had ever been there.

      • Dr Dave
        In addition to other replies…

        The oil price is an international price, as is gold, silver, copper, coal and so on.

        Those who produce it should benefit. Some become rich, ie Saudi Arabia, some struggle, such as Venezuela, and in others all the profit is creamed off by corrupt politicians

        Gas is not the same, although it’s price shadows the oil price to some extent.

  4. During retrospective application, the planners need to COMPLETELY PROHIBIT SIDETRACK DRILLING. That’s all I request. Should be easy.

    • Cindy
      Why should they do that?
      Would a completely new well suit you better?
      I thought that the less drilling through aquifers the better?

  5. Dr. Dave-just because you don’t understand there is a thing called taxation, do not insult others who do. Some of us rely upon it for our pensions and our NHS. Others, may rely upon dividends from the major oil companies for their pension top ups. What is the UK tax take on gas from USA or oil from Saudi? You will only confirm the stereotype of who posts on DOD with that approach.
    According to my sources Paula, he has not. But that is hardly the point, which is a pragmatic solution appears to have been reached to enable a planning dispute to be resolved and a project to move forward. Check your local council planning situations, if you can, and you will find numerous examples. If you also check back through the history of Angus being discussed on DOD you will find quite a few posts indicating this would eventually happen, if previous alternatives were exhausted.

    • MC, better to ‘rely’ on dividends from clean energy production and supply.

      You would also be easing the lives of fellow retirees who currently live near to the present exploration and production sites……

  6. Don’t trust a word of it especially this bit “submit a normalisation application for the continued surface activities of the production plant required for well BR-X4 and notably, its inclusive sidetrack BR-X4Z”. What about the subsurface sidetrack issue and the actual drilling of it? More to this than meets the eye. Just means they are allowing workers working on BR-X4Z to use the facilities IMO.

    • Do any of you protester happen to live near a wind farm ? Thought not or you would not be so keen on the bloody things. They are a living nightmare for people living near by having to put up with the low frequency whine from the rotor blades 24 hour a day 7 days per week give me an oil well any day.

  7. Basically a fudge to allow SCC avoid the costs of a Court case, which they know they would loose, as what goes on below ground level effectively does not come under their remit. It comes under the HSE / OGA and Angus had all the approvals from them in place for the side-track.

    I imagine that the application will get a speedy approval..

    • Injuneer, I thought you would be better informed about this. I’m sorry, you’re wrong again. It is Angus that are conceding here not the SCC. Angus refused to apply for this application for 8 months only now to spare the SCC going to court and avoiding fees? This argument doesn’t follow logic. The planning authority is an important party in the current regulatory system and they do indeed have a say in what’s going on underground, because this will undoubtedly affect what’s happening on surface.

      • Liuseniuk.

        The whole thing basically goes back to sloppy reporting by a BBC Environmental Reporter, which a couple of SCC Councilors jumped on without realising the implications.

        Yes, the planning authority is an important part of the regulatory system.

        However, each Govt Agency has responsibility for a particular area and below ground operations comes under the remit of the HSE / OGA, not SCC.

        By trying to claim they had to approve it, SCC were going into HSE / OGA ‘territory’ – especially since it was well known before operations began that Angus would be drilling a side-track and had approval from the HSE /OGA to do so.

        As for above ground effects, the planning application submitted by Angus obviously did take these into account, as SCC have not raised any non-conformance notices about that operation (yes, I know there are separate issues with fencing and cabins).

        If SCC thought they were on firm ground, they would have either issued a formal letter/notice or taken Angus to Court long before now. However, they knew that had backed themselves into a corner and asking now for this retrospective application is a fig leaf for SCC to hide behind.

        As for Angus, it wouldn’t be in their best interests to take a Council to court when they expect to be working on that location (and others) for many years to come. Far better to give the Council a cop-out route, which SCC have taken.

        BTW “wrong again”? Could you please point out where and how I was wrong the first time?

          • Hmmm, so I’m fixed in my views, but you are not?

            But perhaps it’s because my view is based on actual experience of the planning process for Onshore UK Wells.

            • I thought your experience was in drilling not planning process? Or are you an expert in everything? The onshore oil & gas guidance says that OGA only issue consent to drill once planning permission is in place. So the two are interlinked and there is no division in terms of below or above ground. Planning controls development, whether is below or above ground.

            • LOL – we are often called the ‘Jacks of all trades’ in the oil field!

              As drilling, we get involved in all aspects of the process, right from the initial well concept when the G&G chaps start putting together the prospect proposal, through to surface well location selection (“No, we can’t drill there.” “Why not?” Because it’s Mile Castle 23 on Hadrian’s Wall, that’s why..”), designing the Well itself, providing technical input and helping compile the various applications, liaising with and responding to any questions from the authorities, identifying materials & equipment requirements, getting the contracts and logistics (including access routes, location design and construction, communications, water supply, diesel supply etc) planned and executed etc etc.

              Mind you, Overseas I’ve had to negotiate with locals who have RPG’s slung over their shoulders and are waving AK 47’s in my face – I doubt that would ever happen here….

              Anyway, when that’s all done, we finally get to the fun bit – which is actually drilling the Well.

              Yes, the two are interlinked, but there is a division.

              The ‘surface’ applications will cover things like the planned types and quantities of chemicals that will be taken to location, emergency response procedures, fire water storage on location, agreed access routes etc etc. Usually a basic well diagram is included, but this is only done so for information.

              The actual detailed down-hole work program and well design is submitted and discussed with the HSE / OGA for their approval, not with the Council. The Council simply do not have the expertise to be able to comment on it.

              So that is why SCC were overstepping the mark and straying into HSE / OGA territory.

            • Well design and down hole work programme might be not for the council, but drilling of boreholes for oil exploration does need to be permitted by planning. According to your argument, none of the wells or sidetracks should go through any planning. That is simply not the case (at least under the regime that we currently have).

    • That is an odd situation isn’t it injuneer, getting permission to operate below ground, while simultaneously being forbidden to mobilise above ground?
      One would presume that bgl operations cannot take place without the ogl permission, that neither ogl or bgl permission cannot happen without both permissions?

      Is this not time to enable combined planning permissions to be able to rule on both ogl and bgl permissions by the way of some sort of combined OGA/Planning expertise commissioned in tandem where both are required?
      Otherwise we have this impossible dichotomy? That also enables local issues to be able to rule on both above and below ground permissions and a situation would then require both expertise’ under the auspices of one combined co-ordinated commission?
      Or is that too logical?

      • Hi Phil,

        It’s a function of how dysfunctional our planning system is, so yes, you can have permission to do work below ground level and not have permission above ground level and vice versa.

        Similarly, you can have requirements put into the approval process by different Govt agencies that are mutually exclusive. There was one recently reported on here (sorry, I can’t find that particular post – it may actually have been reported in the comments) where the EA put an additional monitoring period into their requirements, which meant that the Operator would not be able to start in the required time-frame to meet the planning approval conditions set by the Council. I’ve come across this myself several times – and not just in the UK.

        It would be nice for the process to be more streamlined under fewer Govt agencies – but that would mean some agencies giving up some of their ‘responsibility’ and ‘power’, and that’s not going to happen any time soon!

        Having said that, to some extent there already exists a combined work frame, which is where the County Planning Officer comes in, as he/she can (and does) closely liaise with the Operator and the HSE / OGA to discuss the various aspects of the proposed program. Unlike the Councillors, the Planning Officer has normally at least attended introductory courses so they have some knowledge of the process whether it be the Oil Industry, or building etc) behind the planning application.

        One thing to make clear is that there is an awful lot of work done before anything is presented to the Council, which involves the Operator and Planning Officer discussing what will and will not be acceptable when the application is lodged – the application doesn’t just come out of the blue – the Planning Officer already knows what is in there.

        The problem then becomes if one Govt body strays into another Govt bodies ‘territory’ – which is what happened in this particular case – or (as we know from reporting on here has happened several times) when the Planning Officer recommends approval but the Council over-ride and reject the application.

        Until a few years ago, Councils could reject applications for pretty much as long as they wanted, basically by raising different objections each time the application was presented again.

        Now (and I understand that this is not just for the Oil Industry), they have to give specific reasons for the rejection. The applicant then has a set time period (I forget how long) in which to address these reasons and present the application again. If the reasons for the objection have now been properly addressed, the Council cannot (unless there are exceptional circumstances) raise different objections.

        It’s not just the Oil Industry that has these problems either.

        For example, as is well known, there is a severe housing shortage here and the Govt have given each Council targets for the number of homes to be built in the next few years. The problem in places like Sussex and Surrey is that there is very little land left that can be built on without infringing on ‘green belt’ land – which essentially is forbidden in UK Law.

        Even when it doesn’t infringe on green belt land, any building work will affect local communities who inevitably raise objections.

        Everyone can at least agree that the planning system MUST allow genuine concerns to be heard and properly addressed, while at the same time not allowing the process to be unduly delayed by frivolous or non-relevant objections.

        On the other hand, we certainly do not want to go too far the other way, so that the first time that people find out a factory is being built next to them is when the bulldozers turn up.

        It’s a delicate balance and no matter what, you will never be able to keep everyone happy.

  8. Sherwulfe-as many of those “clean” energy companies have to rely on large subsidies FROM the tax payer to make their projects work, I can’t see that there will be plump dividends being paid out, and certainly not on any scale, especially when a report came out only yesterday stating that energy bills for individuals and business in UK were being excessively inflated from attempts to moderate climate change. Wonder where that will lead?

    Biogas company into liquidation. Can’t see dividends there.

    Think there are a lot of happy, wealthy retirees around Wytch Farm. Why should sites in the Weald be so different? If anything, with improvements over the years new sites should be much better in this respect. You almost slipped into the scaremongering there!

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