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.
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.