Correspondence seen by DrillOrDrop shows that the planning application submitted by Angus Energy for its Brockham oil site late last year has been found to be invalid by Surrey County Council.
We reported that the company had submitted an application on 20 December 2017.
According to pre-application discussions between the company and the council, Angus appeared to be seeking retrospective permission to drill the sidetrack well, BRX4Z. It also wanted consent to evaluate the flow and volume of oil from the well.
The application and its documents were not published on the council’s web site after Christmas.
An email from a council officer to a resident last week now provides an explanation.
The email, dated 17 January 2018, said:
“The application was found to be invalid and the applicant has been informed. A revised submission is awaited and will be considered on its merits.
“We will let you know when a valid application has been received.”
A spokesperson for Surrey County Council said the authority was waiting for additional information form Angus Energy. The application would then be validated and put online. The spokesperson was unable to say when this would be.
“Production from two Brockham wells in Q1”
The council email was sent two days after Angus Energy told investors it would be producing oil from two wells at Brockham in the first quarter of 2018 (January-March).
In a statement, the company said it would reactivate the currently suspended well, BRX2Y, to resume production from the Portland reservoir.
The statement also said it would begin production in quarter one from BRX4Z, which drilled through both the Portland and Kimmeridge formations.
The BRX4Z has been the subject of a planning dispute for a year. Angus has maintained it did not need planning permission to drill the well and the council said it did.
To meet the timetable of production by the end of March from BRX4Z, Angus’s planning application would have had to be ready to go before Surrey County Council’s planning committee on either 21 February 2018 or 21 March 2018.
Meeting this target now looks unlikely.
Questions over production from the Brockham sidetrack
It also looks unlikely that Surrey County Council had been expecting an application for production, based on correspondence with the company.
Documents released under a Freedom of Information request have given more details on pre-application discussions between the company and the council over oil production from Brockham.
In one document, requesting a screening opinion, Angus Energy made it clear that it was seeking what it called “production evaluation” of the sidetrack and not long-term production. The company said:
“In order to assess BRX4Z it will be subject to an extended period of production evaluation in order to confirm whether the volume and flow of oil is economically viable to support commercial production.
“In order to allow sufficient time to complete this process, permission will be sought for a 3 year period. Wherever possible these works will utilise the existing site infrastructure.”
The company also said:
“The proposed application will not seek permission for long-term production.”
Surrey County Council wrote to Angus on 7 November 2017 to confirm that the application did not need an environmental impact assessment (link to email).
Two days later, the council’s planning development manager wrote to the company to “clarify a couple of points”.
This email said:
“Firstly, production evaluation is not a terminology that we are familiar with. We understand this to equate to appraisal, the second stage of development as stated in the NPPF [National Planning Policy Framework], and not production, the third. We consider that the temporary nature of the proposal points towards this.”
The email from the council continued:
“Secondly, after further consideration, our view is that the proposed application would be for a stand-alone permission”.
The council said the application would not seek to vary a permission granted in 2007 for oil production at Brockham until 2036.
According to the email, that permission, reference MO06/1294, related solely to two other wells at the site, BRX1 and BRX2.
The email concluded:
“I trust that now you have received our screening response, a planning application will be submitted shortly. If you would like to meet with officers in advance of your submission, we would be happy to accommodate that.”
Comment from Angus Energy
DrillOrDrop invited Angus Energy to comment on the invalid application. This post will be updated with any response.
Updated on 21 January 2018 to include a redacted version of the email with the permission of the recipient and on 22 January 2018 to include a quote from Surrey County Council