The Environment Agency has given the go-ahead to Angus Energy for appraisal at its Brockham site in Surrey. But the company does not yet have consent for production.
The local campaign group, Brockham Oil Watch, described this as “another hastily made decision to accommodate an operator” that would fail to reassure residents.
In a briefing issued today, the Environment Agency (EA) said Angus had complied with three pre-conditions to an updated environmental permit.
But the EA said one of the pre-conditions, PO 01, on a gas management plan, had been split into two parts.
This pre-condition had been approved for appraisal on 11 December, the EA said. But it added:
“We have not yet approved PO 01 for the production phase”.
The other preconditions, on acid wash and hot oil treatment of the well, were approved yesterday and today, the EA said.
Angus told shareholders yesterday it had begun the flow test programme at the site near Dorking.
The EA issued the permit with pre-conditions last month, without a normal “minded-to” consultation. It said this was because flow tests were imminent on the BrX4Z well which targets the Kimmeridge formation.
The EA said it had carried out a total of four recent announced and unannounced visits to the site. There had been no permit breaches and Compliance Assessment Reports of the visits, known as CAR forms, would be published in January, it said.
The permit does not include consent for reinjection of produced water at Brockham.
The EA said today:
“We have ensured the latest plans associated with the environmental permit do not have a connection drawn between the processing area and the reinjection well. When on site we have checked there is no physical connection to the reinjection well. In line with the environmental permit, no re-injection is taking place at the Brockham oilfield.”
The EA added that during inspections of the site, including one today, it did not find acid stored or used on the site.
“Desperate attempt to gain regulatory control”
Brockham Oil Watch criticised the EA yesterday for failing to keep it informed on the pre-conditions. In a statement this afternoon, the group said:
“First the EA issues a new permit in a desperate attempt to gain some regulatory control over activities at Brockham whilst denying the due public consultation stage, and then they go back on their own requirements written in this new permit.
“This is another example of the weakness of the system which allows for constant moving of the goal posts. It is hardly reassuring for the local people, and certainly not gold standard.”
The group questioned why the pre-condition on gas management, PO 01, had been split into two parts covering appraisal and production.
“There was no mention of this in new permit issued recently, which states that PO 01 must be agreed ‘prior to commencement of appraisal or production operations in the Kimmeridge Clay Formation from BRX4-Z’.
“There was no mention of this split in the CAR dated 29 Nov either. This looks like another hastily made decision to accommodate an operator that has little regard for the regulatory process or the local community.”
The group had complained that the EA was treating its questions as FOI requests, with no obligation to respond in under 20 working days. It asked more questions today about the divided pre-condition PO 01.
“There is no clarification of what is appraisal and what is production. These are not terms that the EA use in their regulations.
“EA officers told us in a meeting attended by CPRE and eight councillors from parish to county level that ‘appraisal’ and ‘production’ have no meaning in the EA’s framework.
“Can the EA confirm what these terms mean exactly in the briefing issued today? And how does this square with the planning application covering appraisal only?”