Angus Energy could have avoided another planning application for its extended well test at Balcombe in West Sussex, the company admitted this evening.
In a conference call with shareholders, the company said planning permission had unexpectedly lapsed after short-term tests in September 2018.
Managing director George Lucan said:
“Before I took the helm at Angus, my predecessor [Paul Vonk] confirmed to the [West Sussex County] council that the testing was over and I don’t think he was aware that this would result in the requirement for a further planning application.
“Had he not made that statement, we could have continued under the existing planning consent and we would be addressing Balcombe some months ago.”
Instead, Angus said, it had been required to update information about the site, carry out new environmental surveys and prepare a new planning application. The company said the new application would be submitted next month (August 2019).
This explains why Angus Energy announced it would be returning to Balcombe in mid-February 2019 but then did no work on the site.
Angus carried out limited flow tests at Balcombe in September 2018. The company reported that it had encountered unexpected water in the well and ran out of time because of equipment failure.
This was the first work at the site for five years after Cuadrilla drilled the well, known as Balcombe 2z, in 2013. Angus took over as operator in May 2018 and the well has now been suspended for more than nine months.
Lord Lucan, who became managing director in January 2019, said Angus had allocated £600,000 for the Balcombe planning application, well preparation and initial equipment for the extended well test. He said:
“Production from the extended well test should be sufficient to cover all long-term equipment and provide a profit.”
Andrew Hollis, the company’s technical director, told the conference call, the company fully expected to see oil production at Balcombe. Asked how much would be produced, he said:
“If we saw, say, 300 barrels of oil per day, which the Horse Hill well has been producing, we would be delighted. I think that would be a good result. We may achieve a little more than that because we have a slightly thicker section.”
The Angus executives dismissed concerns about the water problems at Balcombe. Geoscientist Freddie Holt said it was fluid that had been lost to the formation during the drilling the well.
“The drilling fluid that was being recovered was dense and can prevent oil flow so we had periods when the well was flowing and it was being killed by this dense fluid.
“We are confident that if we can recover this in the initial stage of the extended well test we will be able to produce from the well.”
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