Surrey campaigners shocked by approval of disputed Brockham oil well

180808 SCC planning meeting 1

Opponents of oil operations at Brockham outside Surrey County Council, 8 August 2018. Photo: DrillOrDrop

Opponents of an unauthorised oil well drilled at Brockham in Surrey were visibly shocked by a vote to grant retrospective planning permission today.

People in the public gallery shouted “shame on you” as Surrey County Council’s planning committee voted by seven to four in favour. DrillOrDrop live updates report

Angus Energy had applied for permission to “regularise” the sidetrack well drilled in January 2017. The company’s application to carry out production tests on the well for three years was also granted.

Speakers against the proposal accused the council of negligence and ignoring the views of both experts and local people.

The Green Party MEP, Keith Taylor, said the council had set a “dangerous precedent”. Brenda Pollack, of Friends of the Earth, said the decision made a mockery of the regulatory system.

Angus Energy welcomed the decision and said it looked forward to continuing a “professional dialogue” with the county council. It said work on the Brockham well would follow a seven-day test at the Balcombe oil well in West Sussex, taken it took over from Cuadrilla earlier this year.

Angus shares ended the day up 14.37% at 10.15p.

180808 SCC planning meeting 2

Vote in favour of the application by Surrey County Council planning committee. Photo: DrillOrDrop

The Brockham sidetrack well has been at the centre of a dispute between the county council and the company for more than 18 months. The council said there was no planning permission to drill the well. The company always maintained that the work was covered by an existing consent.

At today’s meeting a report by planning officers described the well as “unauthorised” but it recommended approval of the company’s application. This was despite local objections about traffic, pollution, noise, impact on the greenbelt, the use of acid in the well and the company’s behaviour. DrillOrDrop report on the planners’ recommendation

There were also concerns that the Brockham site was operating under an old-style environmental permit. This means that Angus is not required to collect or maintain details on well stimulation or fluid reinjection. There are no restrictions on how much acid could be used in the well or the concentration. Nor is Angus required to do air or groundwater monitoring. DrillOrDrop report

The meeting also discussed whether there were any links between local oil and gas activity and the recent swarm of earthquakes in the area. On Monday, four senior geologists called for a temporary ban on hydrocarbon activity. DrillOrDrop report


Adriana Zalucka, Surrey CC webcast

Ada Zalucka, one of four speakers against the application, said after the meeting:

“I am in a state of shock.

“I am very disappointed that the planning officers today disregarded what was being said by experts.”

Two councillors called for the decision to be deferred until there was more information on the earthquakes and the new permit. But a vote on deferral was decisively defeated.

Ms Zalucka, speaking for the residents’ group, Brockham Oil Watch, said:

“There clearly needs to be more information on these issues.

“It is ridiculous to say there are environmental safeguards. There is no monitoring in place. There is no mechanism to check anything. This is incompetence and negligence on the part of the local authority.

“This permission has been granted for three years. There is not even a condition to wait for a new-style permit.”

“This is a cause for concern, as Angus are targeting an entirely new geology that has never been produced from anywhere in the country, whilst operating under an old style environmental permit. This puts the local environment and people at risk.”

The committee heard that the industry regulator, the Oil & Gas Authority (OGA), had told planning officers that a link between recent earthquakes and hydrocarbon operations was unlikely.

DrillOrDrop asked the OGA this afternoon for details of what it had told Surrey. An OGA spokesperson said:

“Based on the evidence it is difficult to see how oil and gas activities in the area could be linked to these seismic events. We are working with the British Geological Survey, regulators, operators and other experts to ensure that all the evidence is fully considered.”

But Ms Zaluka said:

“The data available on the OGA’s portal is several months old and only an aggregate monthly number of water injected is provided. This data is insufficient for any kind of credible analysis. We do not regard this as gold standard regulation and are calling for detailed and up to date records of injection data at Brockham to be immediately released to allow for independent analysis.

“The Oil & Gas Authority can hardly be regarded as independent or impartial. It is financed and run by the oil and gas industry. We are disappointed that the planning officers relied on such advice in favour of the recent advice from a group of leading independent geologists.”


Chairman Tim Hall Surrey CC webcast

“Consistency needed from Angus”

The committee’s chair, Tim Hall, told Angus at the meeting:

“Consistency of approach and validity and evidence will be expected at every stage and, if it is not consistent, the nice people from the Environment section [of the council], who are sitting at the back of the room, will be round to talk to you, with our very professional legal department following them.”

But this warning did not satisfy opponents.

Pat Smith

Pat Smith Surrey CC webcast

Another speaker against the application, Pat Smith, said the decision meant that Angus Energy could now produce oil for three years, at the company’s estimated rate of 300 barrels a day, without having to apply for planning permission for production.

She said:

“This is a huge disappointment. The decision ignores objections by Brockham Parish Council, Mole Valley District Council and so many other people.”

She said Surrey County Council told Angus Energy on 16 January 2017 that it did not have planning permission to drill the well.

“On the very same day, Angus Energy opened up the well to drill the sidetrack.

“Surrey County Council has turned its back on the whole issue of trust. Angus Energy is working below ground. It betrayed that trust.”

Outside County Hall, Lynn from Brockham commented:

“I was not angry before. Having listened to that meeting, I am very angry.

“There is one law for residents and locals who pay their council tax, and there is another law for corporations.

“If you are an individual and you build a house without planning permission you would be told to pull it down. If you are a corporation that drills a side track without planning permission that is ok and you can go ahead.”

Comments and statements

Angus Energy

“The Company will perform a 7-day well test on the horizontal Balcombe-2z well at Balcombe prior to commencing today’s approved work.

“All operations at Balcombe and Brockham will be performed through conventional production. There will be no hydraulic fracturing or “fracking”.

“We thank the Surrey County Council for their careful consideration and deliberation on this matter and are deeply appreciative of the time work by all involved to bring this matter to a conclusion.

“The Board would also like to express its sincere appreciation to all of the Mineral Planning Officers for the composition and clarity of analysis contained in their report.

“The Company looks forward to continuing our professional dialogue and working with the SCC to make sure the community remains informed, and the quality of life is preserved.”

Brockham Oil Watch

We’re shocked and disappointed that the members of the planning committee so blatantly ignored the advice they’ve received from experts.

It appeared that the committee was swayed by a-last minute intervention from the Oil and Gas Authority, who officers said was the regulatory body responsible for monitoring and responding to seismic activity. An unofficial statement from them was read out at the meeting saying that it was unlikely there is a causal link between reinjection at the Brockham site and the earthquakes.

They seem to have ignored the significant increase in volume of reinjected water at Brockham reported for April, which coincided with the onset of earthquakes. We think this is concerning and any relationship between the two needs to be investigated further given that wastewater reinjection has been proven to be the main cause of earthquakes in the Central U.S.

We would also like to point out that the data available on the OGA’s portal is several months old and only an aggregate monthly number of water injected is provided. It is insufficient for any kind of credible analysis. We are calling for detailed and up to date records of injection data at Brockham to be immediately released to allow for independent analysis.

The Oil & Gas Authority can hardly be regarded as independent or impartial. Its objective is to support the industry in maximising the economic recovery of oil and gas, and it is largely funded by an industry levy. We are disappointed that the planning officers relied on such advice in favour of the recent advice from a group of leading independent geologists.

The planning permission was granted for the full three-year period, even though appraisal phase normally takes weeks not years. Angus Energy explained that this was necessary to test a new geology.

This is a cause concern, as Angus are targeting an entirely new geology that has never been produced from anywhere in the country, whilst operating under an old style environmental permit. There is a complete lack of monitoring under the existing permit of many of the proposed and ongoing activities. This puts the local environment and people at risk.

The Brockham site is currently going through a re-permitting process by the Environment Agency, a process that started over a year ago. It is unclear when the new permit will be put in place. The EA didn’t submit an objection to the proposals, but they did submit a comment to inform planning officers that a number of issues are still being evaluated and additional data is being sought from the operator, including on the flaring of gas, well stimulation treatments using acid, wastewater re-injection.

We are convinced that Angus will start commercial production under this appraisal permission, which is what they had consistently told their investors. This is reminiscent of the events in January 2017, when Angus drilled an unauthorised sidetrack whilst openly communicating this to investors. It clearly demonstrates a cavalier attitude from Angus to both the local authority and the local community. The assurances from the planning authority that they will expect the maximum standards of professionalism and transparency gives us no confidence whatsoever.

This permission was given against the objections by the Parish Council, the Mole Valley Council and the local people. When this operation begins, it will make the area less desirable to live in and only Angus board members and investors are set to prosper.

Brenda Pollack, south east campaigner for Friends of the Earth

“This really does make a mockery of the supposed “gold standard” regulation system for oil and gas development in this country.

“Angus Energy were told by the council that they needed planning permission before they drilled the well last year yet went ahead without it. It’s no wonder that locals have no trust in this company nor in the regulatory system that we have. The comments by some councillors and the Chair of the committee show that they weren’t happy at giving this permission today.

“With the government’s proposals to fast track ‘non fracking’ in England it feels like we are on the way to completely messing up our environment.”

Keith Taylor, Green Party MEP for south east England

“Dangerous precedent set. The committee votes in favour of the application for retrospective planning permission for a sidetrack drilled without the permission Angus—”the least reliable hydrocarbon operation the council has dealt with” (Tweet)

David Lenigas, oil entrepreneur

“Great to see and watch the Surrey County Council decision today on Brockham. Very exciting for all concerned. Not going to say much more than … This is a very big decision for the UK as a whole and I’m very proud to be part of what’s happening in Surrey. Jobs, jobs and jobs.” (Tweet)

Lorraine Inglis, Weald Action Group

“We’re shocked and disappointed that the members of the planning committee could so blatantly ignore the advice they’ve received from experts.”

Reporting from this meeting was made possible by donations by individual DrillOrDrop readers

Updated 9/8/2018 with additional comments

41 replies »

  1. Just an aside.

    What do you get if you ain’t got gas?

    The Guardian reports that this week a Government commissioned review has suggested Britain should offer subsidies to developers of mini NUCLEAR PLANTS to replace ageing coal plants that are due to close by 2025.

    The government has been investigating whether mini nuclear plants could offer a solution, and whether the industry might boost exports after Brexit. I heard James Lovelock singing the praises of nuclear this morning on Radio 4, good man.

    We already have mini nuclear plants powering our nuclear submarines, I gather the fuel is put in when the vessel is built and lasts it’s lifetime.

    Personally I’m all in favour, what do other readers of this site think? Surely better to have a nuclear power station in every county than those pesky gas pipes.

  2. The idea looks fine Shalewatcher, but concerns about securing such sites from terrorists, or others. Also, we need to crack the disposal of the waste-doesn’t seem we manage that too well with plastic, so would need some convincing that radio active waste could be managed any better.

    Another interesting little aside for the solar panel brigade. Anyone noticed that when a solar farm is passed through Planning it opens the gates for other development on farm land? I certainly know of one where the neighbouring field is now having houses built on it and an application is in for a gas fired power station on another! Seems that lawyers see the “gate” has been opened and rush in. Not very good at joined up thinking in this country, are we?

  3. MARTIN …..


    Sir Jim Ratcliffe is leaving the UK and taking his £21 bn with him to the tax haven of Monaco.

    Will he still continue , against the will of the people be trying to force Fracking on the people of England ?????

    Britain’s wealthiest businessman Jim Ratcliffe is ‘leaving the country and taking his £21bn fortune to Monaco

  4. Ahh, but what you two “forgot” is that the company office will stay in London, so taxation from the business will not be altered. Wonder how you missed that, and considered everyone else would as well. You are confused with the finances of the business and the personal wealth of the owners. Easy to do-just look at Mr. Musk! But his business doesn’t make a profit to pay taxes upon.

    I suspect Jim will realise that two thirds of the people are not against fracking in England, the current Government is not, so he will hardly change his plans because he buys a house in Monaco. He already had one in the south of France. There are some anti fracking persons who live outside of the UK, but operate in the opposite way. Seems a fair balance.

    Clever chap, Jim. He operates a GLOBAL business, he can live where in the world is best for him. Can get to his football club a lot easier from Monaco.

    Perhaps Nicola may pick up the message?

    Perhaps ask Mr. Corbyn as to how his role playing of preventing capital flight is going? It’s started.

    • Martin, am so sorry that he forgot to let you know he was going….you may as well unpack your bag; he’s not coming back, and neither are his henchmen….something is afoot.

    • MARTIN

      NO, I did not miss the fact that the INEOS office will remain in London .

      BUT PLEASE, let me give you an idea how beneficial a Tax Haven like Monaco will be to Sir Jim Ratcliffe and how much UK tax he will possibly be able to avoid …..

      With a £21 bn nest egg, that could be a HUGE SAVING for him.

      To be honest MARTIN , you don’t think that the worlds Billionaires are all clambering to get into to Monaco just for the motor racing do you ?????

      Take a look at this Step by Step simple guide to becoming a Tax Exile , you never know MARTIN , it may be useful to you if the Fracking industry takes of in the UK.

      Join the club and become a tax exile.

      I hope if above simple Tax Exile guide does become of use to you in the future and you do avoid paying a small fortune in UK tax , you will remember you adversary ( friend ) jackthelad. An all electric car and fixed outdoor Solar panels at home would be a nice gesture …..Thanks .

  5. Don’t be silly Sherwulfe. He will spend the required number of days in Monaco, and the rest of his business time around his various world wide operations-including his head office in London-just as he does now, except for the bit in Monaco. You can read the facts-I have given you the link in the past. Obviously you didn’t follow it.

    I suspect he might even continue to fund HUNDREDS OF £MILLIONS of charitable donations in the UK. Shame others can’t be more charitable.

    There may be something else afoot. There are certainly rumours they have another major acquisition in mind.

    • Don’t be silly Martin; I realise you are upset he has gone without you; if he had gone on his own I see your point, but taking his real friends with him seems a little fishy to me. Am sure the story will play out; am sure you are not a character in it.

  6. Perhaps, because the three are the owners of the company, they have similar financial concerns? And maybe, being in the same place, they can continue to manage their plans as a team? DOH!

    Maybe he found the Solent too congested for his yacht with 22 million tonnes puffing up and down each year to Fawley Refinery? Or maybe he was fed up with certain Unite idiots causing offence to his family?

    See an anti fracking activist is calling for his knighthood to be removed. Wonder how much that person donates to charitable causes? Good job such people are a minority.

  7. Oh dear Jack!

    You do get so easily confused. You have no idea what Jim’s personal wealth is. The figure you have seen is for the valuation of INEOS divided between the owners! That is totally different-unless he is going to move all those assets to Monaco with him-but it just isn’t big enough. Not getting at you Jack, others have made the same error today who are in positions where they should know better-and they do, but it doesn’t excite the public so much.

    Being serious-I suspect the owners will pay a dividend out of INEOS to themselves and the tax liability will be reduced in Monaco. Maybe they will all then invest in new yachts or maybe they each have personal projects they want to develop outside of INEOS. Plus if Corby gets in they will already be protected. Don’t suspect the first will be commonly applied by others, but the latter will, so best to move before Monaco is swamped.

    Meanwhile, INEOS as a global business will continue much along the same lines but continuing to grow. Plans have already been announced for several new projects in Europe and several more in infancy, including the vehicle project and UK fracking.


      Thevanswers are all there in the link heading …


      Britain’s wealthiest businessman Jim Ratcliffe is ‘leaving the country and taking his £21bn fortune to Monaco’

      • UNLESS YOU MARTIN, are really Sir Jim Ratcliffe , or one of his very close personal friends , none of which would surprise me taking into account your relentless push for UK shale . You won’t either have any idea of his EXACT personal fortune .

        MAYBE he will , financially asset strip the company , just leaving a shell ….. Now there is an interesting thing to consider .

  8. Jack-that really is poor!

    I will leave it that you don’t understand reality and believe anything put in your view. Good luck with that-it does explain a lot. Fake news/speculation/fabrication has found a home.

    “We value INEOS at £35Billion. That put’s Ratcliffe’s 60% stake at £21 Billion.” The Sunday Times Rich List 2018.

    That’s where your link comes from. Shame it’s rubbish. That is an asset value/profitability formula-and estimated. Maybe he won’t asset strip anything when he is busy adding extra assets?

    Maybe I can only afford to buy a couple of rounds at the pub tonight as I don’t think they will accept the £40k in the car park.

    Anyway, based upon your gullibility they had better check his hand luggage for Grangemouth, Antwerp, numerous ships etc. etc. stuffed in the pockets!!

    Thanks for that Jack. It explains quite a lot.

    • JR’s ‘fortune’ is just a number on a computer. His assets ‘revalued’ by ‘someone’ to say he has more. In the meantime no taxes paid; 540 million that did not go into the NHS……this guy is not for sharing.

    • WOW…… MARTIN

      I never knew you would be so affected by Sir Jim Ratcliffe jumping ship .

      Your anger is clearly getting the better of your posts ………. NOW that is a lot of HUFFING and PUFFING you’ve done in your above post , but MARTIN , you’ve done it again and backed up your words sweet NOTHING .

      JUST your words and opinions only.

      THAT’S ALL and you say I don’t, quote, ” understand reality ”

      Whatever Sir Jim Ratcliffe is worth, that’s his private business…. The headline says, he is leaving the UK and taking £21 billion with him to the Tax Haven, Monoco.. THAT’S IT…………NOW IF YOU HAVE A PROBLEM WITH THAT , then I suggest you talk to Sir Jim yourself .

      Here is the headline story again , just in case you didn’t read it properly.

      As an extra bonus, here is the simplified guide on how to join this exclusive club and become a Tax Exile……… JUST LOOK AT ALL THE PERKS .

      • SHHHHHHH ….. MARTIN, keep this one to yourself .

        Between YOU and ME , I think after INEOS receiving a firm and solid thumbs down for Fracking in Scotland by the Scottish government and the people .

        Also taking note of the solid and firm resistance by the people of England, against Fracking.. .

        This wise and clearly very shrewd businessman has seen the writing on the wall for Fracking in the UK and is moving on with a large slice of his cash to new pastures ……

  9. Thanks for confirming my suspicions Jack. The Daily Mail produce a nonsense story, so it is fact??!! I have shown you where the “fact” came from. It did not come from Sir Jim, because the original did not.

    There is absolutely no story around INEOS asset value being released. This is about the INEOS owners moving their residence so their INCOME receives lower taxation, and can not be subject to any UK political changes.

    You really need to do some proper research. Fracking in the UK is not a part of INEOS current business. It is a new project, yet to be developed. The £21 Billion is an estimate of the share of the current business.

    Buy the book, Jack. You will be rewarded with knowledge rather than nonsense, but it seems you don’t want that. Hey ho.

    Have a good weekend. Footy time for me.

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