Balcombe flow test plans published

191009 Balcombe application section

Proposed equipment required for extended well test at Balcombe oil exploration site in West Sussex. Image: Angus Energy planning application

Angus Energy’s plans to test the flow of oil at its well at Balcombe in West Sussex are now open for public comment.

The application to the county council seeks consent for three years.

A public consultation continues until 12 November 2019.

The company said it sought to test the flow of oil to assess whether the well was commercially viable. The operation would require a 40m high crane, a 13.7m flare and, possibly, a 11.5m coiled tubing unit. The application does not seek permission for fracking.

The Balcombe well, known as Balcombe-2/2z, was drilled by the then site operator, Cuadrilla, in September 2013. That work was accompanied by daily protests.

The site, 380m from the nearest home, is in the High Weald Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB).

Key facts

These details are based on the Angus Energy planning application. DrillOrDrop will follow the application through the planning process and will report responses to the plans.

Application numberWSCC/071/19

Location: Lower Stumble Exploration Site, off London Road, Balcombe, RH17 6JH

Proposal: Remove drilling fluids and carry out an extended well test

Duration of permission sought: Three years

Submitted: 2 October 2019

Validated: 8 October 2019

Published online: 9 October 2019

Deadline for comments: 12 November 2019

Case Officer: Chris Bartlett

Environmental Impact Assessment: Not needed

191009 Balcombe application location

Angus Energy oil site at Balcombe, West Sussex. Red solid line marks site boundary. Red hashed line marks the route of the horizontal well. Map: Angus Energy planning application

Site details

Location: 800m south of the village of Balcombe

Distance from nearest home: 380m (Kemp Farm)

Size: 0.73 ha

Licence area: PEDL244

Operator since 2018: Angus Energy (25% interest in the licence)

Oil accumulation: Downthrown side of Borde Hill Fault

Closest public footpath: 500m north west of site

Designated areas: High Weald Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty

Detailed proposal

191009 Balcombe application plan

Site plan for extended well test at Angus Energy’s oil site at Balcombe in West Sussex. Map: Angus Energy planning application

Stage 1

Operation: Pump out previously used drilling fluids to establish the presence of dry oil – 4 weeks,

Equipment: linear rod pump or pump jack, pipe work and manifolding, surge tank, oil and waste storage tanks, vapour recovery tank, acoustic barriers would be installed if necessary, to minimise noise

Accommodation: portaloos and welfare cabins (number not specified)

Process: Fluids produced from the well would pass through a control valve to the surge tank and on to brine tank.

Working hours: 24-hour operations

HGV movements: 07.30am-6.30pm Monday to Friday and 8am-1pm on Saturdays. No HGV movements on Sundays, bank holidays or public holidays.

Stage 2

Operation: If oil is seen to be present, an extended well test would be carried out over a period of three years

Additional equipment: test separator unit, choke manifold, surface ESD system, on board data acquisition and reporting system.

  • The planning statement did not include in the equipment list a 40m crane (onsite for up to 10 days) or the 13.7m enclosed flare to be used throughout the well test. A 32m workover rig would not be needed, the planning statement said.

Contingency equipment

  1. Nitrogen lift – Coiled tubing unit, nitrogen convertor and 2-4 nitrogen tanks would be used if required to aid the flow of the well;
  2. Acid wash – hydrochloric acid truck;
  3. Inflatable bridge plug run on coiled tubing unit

Accommodation: portaloos and welfare cabins (number not specified)

Process: Main fluid produced from the well would be oil, which would be stored in onsite tanks

Working hours: 24-hour operations

HGV movements: 07.30am-6.30pm Monday to Friday and 8am-1pm on Saturdays. No HGV movements on Sundays, bank holidays or public holidays.

Stage 3

Operation: Demobilisation of all equipment and site restoration to forestry at end of extended well test phase

Future operations

The borehole would be temporarily suspended if there were hydrocarbon reserves that could be viably extracted in future, the application said. A new planning application would be submitted for production.

180918 Balcombe DoD5

Delivery lorry leaving Angus Energy’s oil site at Balcombe during short well test, 18 September 2018. Photo: DrillOrDrop


The following impacts are the conclusions of Angus Energy’s consultants. DrillOrDrop will report on responses to the application from people and organisations which may have different views.

Highways: Proposed operations would have a negligible effect on the local road network

Road safety: Angus said it would carry out minor landscaping work on the access track and site entrance to ensure safe access and minimal disruption. The company said more signs would be installed to the site. There would also be a banksman responsible for ensuring HGVs and other vehicles were guided to the site, the company said.

Noise: The proposed development “does not conflict with the relevant polices [on noise] in the development plan”, Angus said.

Air quality: Angus said emissions from the flare would be controlled by the Environmental Permit. Impact from increased vehicle numbers is not considered to be significant. An air quality assessment concluded the development would have a negligible impact on nitrogen oxides (NOx), nitrogen dioxide (NO2), particulates PM10, PM25 and carbon monoxide (CO).

Water: Angus concluded that any effects on flood risk, hydrology and drainage were considered to be “minor to negligible”

Landscape: Angus concluded that the direct effect on landscape character and the AONB would be “locally minor adverse reducing within the wider area to negligible”. There would “barely perceptible change in views” from the 40m crane, the company said

Ecology: Angus said there would no direct effects on nearby designated or non-designated sites but indirect effects, such as run-off, light spill and effects to air quality needed to be considered. The potential impact on habitat and species would be minimal if emissions to air and water were controlled.

Oil: Angus said the need for oil was supported by the National Planning Policy Framework, Planning Practice Guidance and policy M7a of the Joint Minerals Local Plan.

Planning background

1986: Drilling platform constructed and Balcombe-1 well drilled into the Great Oolite, Portland Sandstone and Kimmeridge limestones

January 2010: Planning permission granted under delegated powers to upgrade platform and to drill another exploratory borehole

September 2013: Balcombe-2 and Balcombe-2z sidetrack drilled to vertical depth of 2,200ft and horizontally to 1,714ft

May 2014: Permission granted by planning committee to flow test the Balcombe-2z borehole

May 2017: Planning permission expired without work carried out

10 January 2018: Permission granted by planning committee for further well flow test

Autumn 2018: Seven-day well test proved the presence of light moveable oil in Kimmeridge upper limestone, Angus Energy said, but returns went back to being almost 100% water. Angus said it believed this was drilling fluid that remained in the well, not formation water.

2 August 2019: West Sussex County Council decided that an extended flow test application would not need an Environmental Impact Assessment

28 August 2019: Balcombe Community Liaison Group met for first time (four members of Angus Energy, members of Balcombe Parish Council and Mid Sussex District Council, local police, representatives of West Sussex County Council)

2 October 2019: Application for extended well test submitted to West Sussex County Council





13 replies »

  1. Why not?

    Plenty of time for an application that has been expected for many months, and is pretty bog standard. Ships were built in less time back in the 1940s!

  2. Bog’s the word. Or worse. Why do we need more time? For communities this is not paid work. We have to fit it around our jobs, families, life. This bunch of cowboys (C+A IMO) has stolen our free time and our peace of mind for 8 years now. They, and the automatons in the planning department of West Sussex County Council, can at the very least allow us adequate time to scruninise and criticise their papers, long-winded (yet vague and evasive) as they are. The paid planners will tick their boxes. The community understands the true implications of the proposed return of this industrial plague to our village. It would be courteous to allow us adequate time to read the voluminous rubbish and express our concerns after careful communal consideration.

  3. Cutting and pasting only takes a short while.

    You have obviously already made your decision from your post and there is nearly a month to go!

    By the way, there has been no industrial plague. This site has yet to be flow tested. The only plague was a load of protestors, protesting against something which never happened, and is not intended within this application. Not sure even another month would get your story correct, and now that the BBC has lifted the lid others will be aware of the background.

      • Yes, Malcolm, but a very limited and incomplete one.

        Seems pretty reasonable after all this fuffing around that the site is fully tested and then either put into production, or re-instated.

        Positively green, as much of the initial work already done!

  4. I’m curious to know who put the BBC up to that programme, and then brain-washed them (IMO). The programme was unbalanced. The subject was ‘the incorrect way fracking in Balcombe was reported in 2013’. But no one from the anti-fracking side of the argument was consulted or interviewed. No member of the Balcombe community was contacted, and no Balcombe resident was heard in the programme. The programme focussed on the industry’s view.

  5. The programme was very poorly researched, in so many ways. It was based on an incorrect assumption that fracking was never planned for Balcombe. That is not true. Cuadrilla had clearly announced at public meetings and in letters that their intention was to frack.

  6. The ‘we are not fracking at Balcombe’ message came out only in January 2014. In 2014 and 2015, the government, supportive of the oil industry, changed the legal definition of fracking and the definition of ‘conventional’ oil and gas source rocks in planning guidance. Subsequently, many activities that would have been called fracking would not now be called fracking. This ‘Corrections’ programme was about alleged manipulation of vocabulary. They failed to mention those two important cases of manipulation of definitions.

  7. Oh dear !!! This has been ongoing since 2013 when the ‘RENT A MOB’ made up of Grade 1 hypocrites ruined Balcombe and divided a village. As stated on this website before,many Balcombe resident’s are quite happy with drilling at this site. In 1986 Conoco drilled the same site for twenty one day’s without one protestor outside the site. By all means protest – moan – groan etc but do not use Electricity/Cars/Planes/Trains/Heating/Oil by products etc. The world is full of hypocrites, a lot live in Balcombe. ps Kathryn McWhirter (Metcalfe) failed to mention that Cuadrilla stated to every Balcombe resident that Fracking would not take place at the Lower Stumble site.

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