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. Ahh yes, Jonathan, the old political will! Like my Hybrid which does 20 miles on electric before it needs recharging, but I can drive 70 miles to London and achieve all sorts of lovely tax advantages! Maybe best to keep politicians away from energy policy. And, if I did the 70 miles in cold weather unlikely to run for any distance at all off electric. However, it serves me well, but if I was a betting man I would look further ahead to hydrogen fuelled cars, with the hydrogen being produced from fossil fuel. That is purely me speculating, but I think you might be able to find references from both Oxford and Cambridge Universities, probably under the umbrella of decarbonising fossil fuel. And then the residual carbon could be seen as an asset. Meanwhile, many poorer countries in the world have their cities stuffed with low polluting gas fuelled buses. Can’t see why we haven’t latched onto that, even as a stop gap-bioethanol into diesel is a poor alternative.

  2. I would not have your heart warmed too much regarding Germany, Jonathan. Or, perhaps you just want to sweep their record ref. VW under the carpet, where they are likely to have caused deaths running into hundreds of thousands around the world via their “clean, efficient diesel technology”. The courts have yet to get to grips with that, but it will come. It’s a bit like saying Vlad (the Impaler.) was intent on supply of runner bean poles, so to be admired for his green credentials.

    • Hi Martin. How does the VW scandal feed into the German state’s renewable energy policy? You’ve lost me again.

  3. Simple Jonathan. Even if you have a clean energy policy that operates (big question there), do you say to the relatives, “sorry, we ruined the health of your uncles, mothers etc but we are trying to improve the air now for their final days”.

    Or, put another way. Best to consider actions than promoted intentions. For a country that swung back to coal so recently as well, they have a lot to do to make up for both actions. I would be cautious of PR against that background.

  4. Hi Jonathan – I wouldn’t read any credibility into the assertion “a country that swung back to coal so recently” (re. Germany). It’s the kind of humbug the fossil fuel brigade love. When a 1 percent upswing was observed in Germany’s coal usage from 2016 – to make up for the earlier than planned decommissioning of some of its nuclear powered baseload – they completely failed to recognise it for what it was, a mere blip in the downward trend of German coal usage. Fantastic stuff for the FF propaganda machine though – for them it meant the whole country is turning back to coal 🙂 . I wouldn’t equate the VW scandal with a state-backed scheme either, that’s more about corporate mischief … rather akin to the cover-ups you get from the Oil and Gas about the ‘harmless’ impacts of the shale gas industry.

  5. Germany’s Energy Consumption and power mix in charts.

    The charts are worth looking at.

    Coal use has remained stable while nuclear has reduced. Ie Coal has not shrunk as fast as it could have, and lignite ( the dirtiest ) has kept its share. It was a surprise to the German coal industry, but nuclear issues saved their bacon, and their livelihood so far.
    So you could say they turned back to Coal in order to displace nuclear, but it came as a surprise!

    Overall Electricity Power Production. Coal 37%, Renewables 33.1%, Gas 13.1% nuclear 11.6%. Others the rest

    Primary energy consumption. Oil 34.6%, Gas 23.7%, Coal 22.2%, renewables 13.1%. Nuclear 6.1%

    So …. they need to install 1.5 Times again the renewable capability ( be it generation and storage ) to replace coal and nuclear, while keeping gas stable.

    There is more of a union lobby for coal in Germany than the UK.

    On primary energy consumption, there is a long way to go to replace hydrocarbons which account for 80% of the supply.

    One could say that the UK has done well to reduce coal burning faster than Germany, we certainly have disposed of the deep mining industry sharpish, but then our gas imports are a bit more secure I guess, and nuclear has not been ditched.

    • Yes (hewes62), the union issue is a big one and Germany has some of the biggest mines in Europe. But the real surprise is the earlier (than originally planned) decommissioning of the nuclear facilities. I haven’t looked at that in any depth but it’s perhaps not such a surprise when considered in the wake of Fukoshima with its ongoing (post earthquake/tsunami) issues and contamination headaches, has been a wake-up call to world-wide nuclear industries. France took some nuclear plants off-line for testing in 2016 also and Germany has been selling cross-border power to them and a couple of other countries (to make up their shortfalls) from its spare coal-fired capacity. So whether it’s accurate to say the minor upswing in coal usage has been just down to German consumption I’m not so sure.

      Thatcher gave the coal unions a lot of grief in the 80’s (a massive issue then) leading to their break-up. I can imagine the German politicians not wanting to get into that sort of thing head on. What they have been busy at though is modernising and reducing emissions from older coal plants.

      • Another thing … a huge CCS (carbon capture and storage) scheme which would have helped Germany hit their carbon targets had to be abandoned as non-viable. But this has also happened for UK and US schemes as well. CCS raises more problems than it solves (it appears).

  6. The little difference you miss PhilipP between us and Germany is that roughly 10% of our GDP comes from industrial output, 25% in Germany. That has a lot to do with energy sources in Germany. Additionally, gas supplies for Germany are pretty insecure.

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