Regulation

Reaction to approval of flow testing at Cuadrilla’s Balcombe oil well

20180108 Balcombe vote

Councillors vote unanimously in favour of Cuadrilla’s application

Councillors in West Sussex voted unanimously this afternoon in favour of Cuadrilla’s plans to flow test its oil well at Balcombe. DrillOrDrop live updates

The council’s planning committee added several conditions, including a local liaison group and continuous noise and air quality monitoring.

At the end of the two-hour meeting, some members of the packed public gallery shouted “Shame on you”.

The permission gives Cuadrilla three years to test the commercial viability of the well, drilled in 2013, amid protests which made national headlines.

DrillOrDrop has been collecting reaction to the decision.

Matt Lambert, Cuadrilla director

20180108 Balcombe support Matt Lambert

“We are delighted that West Sussex County Council’s Planning Committee has unanimously approved our planning application to flow test and monitor the existing exploration well at our site at Lower Stumble, Balcombe.  This covers the same scope of work as the previous planning permission granted in 2014. The well requires no hydraulic fracturing because the rock is naturally fractured. The flow testing Cuadrilla is looking to undertake will measure the rate at which oil flows from the well.

“We are aware the planning permission only runs until 2021 and that once we start the work it must be completed within two years, including plugging the well with cement and fully restoring the site.  We will establish a local Community Liaison Group and consult with residents, at the appropriate time, before work commences.”

Helen Savage, Balcombe teacher and resident who spoke against the application

20180109 Balcombe speaker 2

“We are very disappointed but not surprised. We had expected it would be approved because councillors have to work within the planning regime which has been skewed by government policy in favour of the oil and gas industry.

“It’s very frustrating. The country says we must comply with the Paris climate change agreement but at a micro level we are saying that we need oil and gas and must develop fossil fuels.

“We are all concerned about climate change. This decision is opening the way to more fossil fuels when we should be developing renewables for the next generation.

“We’re also concerned about the industrialisation of our countryside. The executive chairman of UKOG has already said oil companies will need to drill wells back to back to make this pay.

“If the council is not going to protect us, we will have to protect ourselves. We already have more than 6,000 paper and online signatures on a petition against oil exploration at Balcombe.

“The liaison group is a small concession. When Cuadrilla drilled the well, we didn’t know who to complain to. I live nearly 1km from the site and I couldn’t sleep with the window open because it was so noisy. We were passed from one organisation to another.”

Rodney Jago, Balcombe resident who spoke in favour of the application

20180108 Balcombe support1

“It is the right decision for the economy and it will do no harm to Balcombe.

“I feel that somebody has got to stand up for our economy, for our hospitals and NHS, as opposed to selfish nimbyism.

“There is concern that the village will be industrialised. This is nonsense. We might see a nodding donkey. It will be a tourist attraction as much as anything else. I see it doing no harm whatsoever to our peaceful village.

“Unfortunately the only impact when the well was drilled was protests. No one is against peaceful protest but when it comes to trespass that is a different matter.”

Brenda Pollack, Friends of the Earth South East campaigner

“This is devastating news for villagers and everyone who wants a clean and safe environment to live in.

“Where is the democracy when over 2,700 people objected to Cuadrilla returning to this beautiful rural part of Sussex?

“Whether it’s fracking or not, dirty fossil fuels must be left in the ground. Allowing companies to drill underground for ever more difficult to extract oil and gas reserves is crazy when it won’t help keep polluting emissions down. We need to see a much bigger push for a cleaner future without an over-reliance on oil. Cleaner transport measures and reducing car and lorry movements is the way forward.

“The residents who came today showed what local people feel about this. Cuadrilla and companies like it are not welcome here. It seems like the government’s support for dirty oil and gas is forcing these projects through.”

Keith Taylor, Green Party MEP, South East England

“It’s a sad day for local residents and campaigners. Councillors have chosen to place the commercial interests of Cuadrilla above those of their own constituents and the planet. The people of Balcombe and voters across West Sussex have registered their opposition to these climate and environmentally-destructive plans time and time again. And we saw by the strength of opposition on the steps of the County Hall in Chichester that residents are continuing to say no – loudly and clearly. Councillors, however, have turned a deaf ear to their legitimate concerns.”

“The fight isn’t over, though, the people of Balcombe have rebuffed Cuadrilla’s advances before and I will continue standing alongside them as they fight to protect their homes and communities once again.”

“The government-backed unconventional oil and gas rush across the UK will not only despoil this Outstanding Area of Natural Beauty but will ensure the UK fails to meet its legally-binding climate change targets under the Climate Change Act and Paris Agreement.”

“The scientific consensus on the climate breakdown has never been greater. The best chance we have of averting climate catastrophe is by keeping fossil fuel reserves in the ground.”

“Instead of facilitating, and in many cases investing in the dirty oil and gas industry, Councillors had an obligation to take note of the overwhelming public opposition to oil and gas drilling in the region and refuse permission for any new drilling. We need to be working to build a clean energy future – for West Sussex and across the UK.”

51 replies »

  1. 1) Cuadrilla are NOT Fracking at Balcombe as stated in a letter to all resident’s in a letter dated May 2013. 2) There are 1800 people in Balcombe,so where did 2,700 objection’s come from ???,certainly NOT Balcombe resident’s!!! 3) Balcombe has many NIMBYs who want Oil/Petrol/Diesel/Electricity/Heating but OBJECT to Oil being sourced at Lower Stumble,a site you would not even know it was there if it was not for protestors camping outside the site in the summer of 2013. 4) In 1986 Conoco drilled THE SAME SITE for 21 day’s without OBJECTION or PROTEST!!.5) By all means OBJECT to Conventional OIL exploration,but DO NOT USE FOSSIL FUEL in any shape or form or you will be branded as a Hypocrite also!

    • Dear Malc Thomason.
      Maybe it’s the proposed methods of extraction that people are unhappy with? Maybe our awareness of the problems associated with global warming is keener than it was in 1986, when global warming wasn’t really much of a discussion topic at all? Why are you so anxious to brand people with genuine concerns for their living environments and planet as hypocrites? We all have to live. And because of the way our society is currently structured we are obliged to make some use of oil based products. That doesn’t mean that it is theoretically impossible to reorientate our society away from a dependancy on such products. We could. As a species we have the ability to do so. We just need enough people to realise the absolute necessity of such a reorientation.
      Very best wishes,
      Jonathan.

      • Jonathan Plumridge “We all have to live” couldn’t be more true. But you also have choices in how you live. One of those choices available to you is to shut off your gas, stop using petrol, and lead a life that is less reliant on fossil fuels. This would give you more of a high ground upon which to preach with at least a little bit of respectability.

        • Hi EKT (I just can’t keep addressing you the other way).
          Apologies if I sound a bit ‘preachy’ to you. I’m genuinely concerned, and, if affordable eco-friendly choices are genuinely available to me I take them. Very often, when travelling abroad as a vegetarian I am offered a choice of meat or fish only. Generally I improvise and eat poorly. These are the sort of choices that face people in the developed world with ecological or conservation concerns all the time. This year, with affordable options available I shall switch to a renewable energy power supplier. My next car will be far more ecologically sound than my present one, and so on. Thank you for your educative posts. I appreciate them. Coming from an arts and languages background I’ve a lot of catching up to do with regard to scientific issues. I’m doing my best, but there’s a lot of ground to make up.
          Very best wishes,
          Jonathan.

    • Yet another site with planning permission granted years ago yet no works carried out.

      That does say something

      • Thanks Matt

        Cuadrilla told the meeting it had scrapped previous plans at the site because of the fall in oil prices in 2014, but was confident it would act this time.

  2. Hi Martin.
    Here we are again. Let’s have a look of the logic underpinning your statement. 1. One litre of UK extracted oil has a lesser carbon footprint than one litre of imported oil. Okay. Fractionally. However, equivalent non-fossil renewable fuel energy would have a far smaller carbon footprint than either of them. 2. UK oil extraction contributes taxation that can help fund the NHS. Mmmmm. There’s lots of evidence Martin that dirty energy is in fact becoming a major burden on the NHS due to the medical conditions that arise from it. The majority of onshore oil revenue will also pass into the hands of wealthy private investors, as I believe we both know. I believe 6% is the potential taxation yield of the UKOG operation at Broadbridge Heath. And the remaining 94% As a matter of public interest Martin, as someone who has been connected with the oil industry, do you own any shares in any of these projects? 3. Were we to nationalise UK sources of renewable non-fossil fuel energy 100% of its profits could underwrite essential national infrastructures. Just a thought. Another thought would be that part of the reason that the NHS is in such a mess is because of the wanton privatisation and non-connectivity of the services that have been outsourced. Another origin of problems might be the Conservative austerity measures, that even the current chancellor recognises need to be to some extent at least reversed (spending stimulating an economy, austerity strangulating it).
    Over to you Martin.
    Eagerly awaiting your response.
    Best regards,
    Jonathan.

    • Jonathan Plumbridge, just to interject a couple of corrections here regarding the above points you make….1) Actually the carbon footprint for imported fossil fuels is substantially greater than for domestic. In some cases the differential can be 30% or more depending on distance traveled, method of transport, and whether or not any type of conversion is needed. 2) It’s a valid fact that hospitalization rates have come down substantially in America as coal has been replaced by gas. As the UK continues to do the same, this should help it eliminate more and more sox, nox, and PM emissions and cut hospitalizations. Renewables help in this regard as well, but at the same time they are expensive and increase fuel poverty which brings more hospitalizations. In addition, renewables need to be backed-up with something and if you eliminate fossil fuels, you will be stuck with a grid that no longer functions and very, very expensive energy. 3) Do you really expect to help budget issues by nationalizing industries? If so, I suggest that you do some more work.

  3. Do you have shares in wind turbines Jonathan? No, it is none of my business and it is none of your business who I own shares in. However, you will find that most of the mature UK population have “shares” in international oil/gas companies within their pensions, as they routinely pay out the largest dividends, and are therefore included in most “pots”.
    There is no sign of oil/gas usage about to disappear. Certainly not in this country (Gatwick and Heathrow expansions to be shelved?)

    I support alternative energy, where it is cost effective and makes economic sense. Indeed, my Hybrid was obtained thanks to UKOG. But there are numerous examples where schemes have been ill thought out and finally get shelved after £millions of public money has been wasted upon them.

    Meanwhile Fawley refinery will continue to flourish, importing tankers of oil from the other side of the world, (as well as Wytch Farm) and hopefully none of them exploding on the way. Yes, dirty energy! Now, what are the figures for pollution in London from wood burning stoves? Oh dear.

    Your politics are interesting but nothing to do with this subject. Have you heard of Corporation Tax?? Bit more than 6%, on it’s own. But, as we all know, taxation levels upon any company are very largely impacted by allowances that can be made against costs and so predictions, at this stage, for the Weald would be wildly inaccurate.

    Anyway, have fun with your renewable non fossil fuel keyboard. Good job those nasty Tories are funding the northern forest as we return to the days of wood and leather. Oops, sorry cows. (Mind you the wood would take about 50 years to grow, so until then, thank you oil for social media.)

    • Thanks for that Eatkaletoday.
      It is always good to be more aware. Regarding dirty air and health issues I was under the impression that this remains an extremely serious issue in the UK, particularly in urban areas obviously. The cost of renewables will come down if our government backs them, as you yourself point out the German government has done. My personal belief regarding nationalised industries is that our core national infrastructure SHOULD be in government hands. We have seen far too many distortions in the service provision of the NHS and the railways due to the fracturing off of the potentially profitable bits into private hands with impossible structural problems still being left with the government to resolve. Why do you feel nationalisation to be such a curse? I’d be interested to know. I know that it is popularly maintained that it is by nature inefficient, but I don’t really understand why that should be inevitably so. Do you consider money to be the only workable motivator in life?
      Very best wishes,
      Jonathan.

  4. Yes John, it does say something-like the company prioritized another project, and held back on this one.

    Two possible reasons why they should now readjust says more.

  5. Hi Martin.
    I knew I could rely on you for an interesting comeback. No I don’t have shares in wind turbines. But it is something I might consider were I to purchase any shares. I’m not invested in anything except my own company in fact. Not even in terms of a pension. Thank you for unwittingly revealing that you are invested in UKOG. An amusing moment that, given that you had previously told me that it was none of my business who you were invested in. Happy to hear that you’ve bought a hybrid, even if it was only to save money 🙂 You’re right, there won’t be any signs of oil/gas being about to disappear unless people demand it, and that’s what people such as myself ARE demanding. Mmmmm. Economic sense. How much economic sense does it make to contaminate the only planet that we have to live on? Even pigs don’t shit in their own homes. (I quite like pigs actually, brighter and more affectionate than a lot of humans I’ve known). Interesting speculations regarding UKOG corporation tax Martin. What’s their balance sheet currently showing? And your hybrid, bought from UKOG profits? Or from the strategic selling of UKOG shares? I don’t recall hearing that they’ve actually made a profit have they? Could it be that horse trading shares is actually a more profitable business than unconventional onshore oil extraction? I’d be interested to hear your opinion on that one Martin. You talk about numerous examples of publicly owned enterprises that get shelved after millions of public money have been wasted on them. And yet, how much public money has been wasted on the privatisation of the railways (with state subsidies)? Or the privatisation of the NHS (with state subsidies)? And didn’t we the public bail out the big banks at a huge cost to the public purse? Corporations demand playing fields skewed in their favour from governments, and then if they eventually run into trouble as huge monopolistic entities (which they not infrequently do) they are considered ‘too big to fail’ and subsidised once again. The oil and gas industry has demanded favourable conditions from our Conservative government and they have responded by redefining the established definition of ‘fracking’ and tying the hands of local authorities to the extent that it is almost impossible to refuse planning permissions. Oh yes, and they have also dramatically cut the subsidies that formerly underpinned the development of renewable energy sources (the competition to oil and gas). Local populations frequently say ‘no’ to unconventional oil & gas extraction. Even Lancashire County Council said ‘no’ to unconventional oil & gas exploration. The national government forced it upon us. Now. Why are you suggesting that the only alternative to oil and gas is wood? When you know that clean energy sources are perfectly viable. It’s simply a question of which option our government sponsors. And this one favours the existing sources, which will lead us to perdition. I’m glad that you find my politics interesting, but I’m not even sure what they are myself. I was attempting to discuss economics. A different thing entirely. Regarding my keyboard, I am at present obliged to use a laptop comprising a number of oil-derived elements, if I wish to use a laptop at all (which I do). Should a laptop become available that makes use of other more ecologically sound materials I would most certainly consider investing in one, and would happily pay extra to do so.
    As ever, eagerly awaiting a response.
    Very best wishes,
    Jonathan.

    • Dear GottaBKidding (I bet your pissed with your parents for giving you a name like that!).
      Renewable energy isn’t nonsense. Most Western European countries (you know, those ones that are all experiencing much more growth than us at present) have serious short, medium, and long term strategies for conversion to renewable sources. We’re pretty much alone in not formulating one, and I suspect that we’re also pretty much alone in reducing our investment in their development.
      Flipping heck!
      Best wishes,
      Jonathan.

      • Jonathan Plumridge, It also might interest you to know that the industrialized country which has made the most significant inroads in cutting carbon emissions is the country that has embraced fracking. Also note that most western European countries may have strategies for conversion to renewables, but most appear to have pulled back on their commitments in the face of stark economic and reliability practicalities. Most western European nations who have aggressively pursued renewables have some of the highest electricity rates in the world and the least reliable grid. Something to chew on!

        • Having chewed on this for at least a minute … it’s a somewhat skewed perspective that you’re offering. EKT. Firstly the big decline in emissions in the USA is primarily due to the rapid divestment from and closure of old style coal burning power generating stations. Shale gas extraction and energy production is cleaner in some ways and worse in others (e.g. in methane emissions). The situation would be a whole lot worse if renewables weren’t also being developed at pace. The same applies to Western Europe but that picture is distorted, e.g. for Germany, by their accelerated foreclosure of nuclear generating capacity – with fossil fuels and renewables making up the energy shortfall in the interim. What never gets mentioned regarding Germany’s electricity prices is their increasing ability to go off grid and/or reverse charges: http://www.independent.co.uk/news/business/news/germany-energy-consumer-christmas-paid-supply-demand-outstrip-renewables-wind-solar-a8129716.html . Their ‘aggressive’ renewables investment is beginning to pay off big time.

          • Fascinating Philip. Thank you so much for your ‘take’ on this. The article on Germany is particularly heart-warming.
            Very best wishes,
            Jonathan.

        • Hi Eatkaletoday! (thoroughly approve of the sentiment 🙂
          Which industrialised country are you referring to that has embraced fracking and made the most significant inroads in cutting carbon emissions? I’d also be most interested in further details regarding your second assertion that aggressively pursuing renewables results in high electricity rates and unreliable grids. Nothing here that I can fact check or learn from.
          Best wishes,
          Jonathan.

    • Is there a disease called ‘renewable blindness’? If there is GBK has it in it’s most aggressive stage.

      https://futurism.com/tesla-building-another-massive-battery-australia/

      http://bgr.com/2016/08/08/tesla-gigafactory-size-cost-elon-musk/

      https://www.energyvoice.com/otherenergy/160603/tesla-powers-new-york-gigafactory-solar-roof-assembly-line/

      Meanwhile Carbon Capture and Storage is just an idea that so far has shown to be technically challenging and very very expensive.

  6. Jonathan-
    Spec Savers are good. Please do tell where I have said I am invested in UKOG? There is the past, the present and the future. They are not necessarily the same. Additionally, I have never (to my knowledge) invested in unconventional onshore oil extraction. Bog standard, yes. And did I state my Hybrid was “bought”? Depreciation!!!
    The one piece of economic fact you accidently picked up on is that investing in oil exploration is unlikely to be that profitable until it goes past the exploration stage, and tax take will follow the same pattern.
    “Clean energy sources are perfectly viable”. Yes, in some cases they are, in others they are not. Hence your admission that you want to use a keyboard so you wanting oil/gas to disappear does appear a tad nonsensical and limiting. Chicken and egg-no chickens, no eggs.

    And I did not talk about “publically owned enterprises being shelved” (unless I mistyped) but was referring to alternative energy schemes being shelved after public money (taxation) had been invested in them.

    Sorry to be pedantic Jonathan, but I spent a lot of years negotiating with very astute buyers and have this overhang of being specific in what I say and what others say to me. Drives the wife mad but assumption can really be a dangerous habit. I recall quite a number of those astute buyers receiving a P45 for exactly that. May be helpful advice with you invested in your own company.

    Tesla making money yet John?? Will the performance match the PR one day?
    Countries with “serious strategies”. Seen a lot of those-a few actually happen, the majority do not.

    Anyway, my serious strategy is to now partake of a little of Nicola’s spirit, to ease the aches of digging out and constructing a soak away today (no fracking utilised.) So, play nicely.

    • So how did you ‘obtain’ your hybrid Martin? (Sorry for the misunderstanding). And what part did UKOG play? I’ve no idea what you mean by “Depreciation!!!” unfortunately. Re the chicken/egg thing I’m a vegetarian and make as little use of eggs as possible. Perfectly nutritious alternatives ARE available. So what DID you mean by “there are numerous examples where schemes have been ill thought out and finally get shelved after £millions of public money has been wasted upon them”? You’re right. I did make an assumption. Because you were talking about ‘public money’ I assumed you were making a comment about my suggestion that our infrastructure requirements should be in state hands. The state has no monopoly on failure. Private businesses fail all the time. Many people maintain in fact that failure is possibly more important than success, as more is learnt from it. Neither do alternative energy schemes have a monopoly on failure. Millions of public money were pumped into the banking system to sustain it. Millions more have underwritten the failing privatised railways. I’ve no problem whatsoever with you being pedantic Martin. I appreciate accuracy and the careful expression of ideas, and I fully agree that assumption can be a dangerous habit. I’m not sure what your advice was, but thank you anyway for offering it. No. Tesla isn’t making money yet, but Elon Musk is doing okay at over 20 billion USD. Amazon didn’t make money for a while either. Thank you for your admonition to ‘play nicely’. I try to. And I really appreciate it when others make the effort too.
      Enjoy your evening!
      Jonathan.

  7. You are wasting your breath. It has been decided. Exploration will go ahead and final. Cuadrilla will hit a dry well, will quietly pack up their kit and leave with their tail tuck between their leg. Done and dusted.

  8. Have a look at depreciation on Hybrid or Electric vehicles, Jonathan. As would be expected, it is awful, simply because new models mean few want a second hand one which is old technology almost immediately. It’s quite straightforward, but I do find it is mainly those insisting we all make the move who can’t grasp there are some serious financial limitations-including the political parties. Probably why a lot of the antis still chug from site to site in their diesels!

    • Thanks Martin. Glad to hear that when I change my car to something more eco-friendly it won’t prove too expensive. I still don’t get the connection between your hybrid and UKOG however. The problem that most people that dedicate themselves to protest have is that they are often cash-strapped, and cannot therefore afford the energy efficient transport that were they wealthier they’d undoubtedly purchase. As for me, I drive an unleaded fuelled Honda that I can’t wait to rid myself of. Great engine. Lousy visibility (almost blind to the rear). I can see that there might be serious practical and financial consequences for someone switching to an eco-friendly vehicle, but these could be overcome at least to some extent by the government via their control of the taxation applied to such vehicles (VAT? Road tax? Etc.). It is a question of political will more than anything else I feel.

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