As expected, UK Oil & Gas plc has announced it is to appeal against the refusal of planning permission for gas exploration at its proposed Loxley well site near Dunsfold in Surrey.
The county council issued a decision notice on 15 December 2020 following the refusal at a planning committee meeting on 27 November.
The grounds for refusal were concerns about highway safety and the impact on landscape amenity.
This was the second time Surrey County Council turned down the proposal to drill vertical and sidetrack wells at the Loxley site. The first decision, by the same margin of six votes to five, was rescinded because of technical problems with the online meeting in June 2020.
Both decisions had gone against the advice of planning officers, who had recommended approval. Local councils and 84% of responses to a public consultation objected to the application.
In a statement today, UK Oil & Gas (UKOG) said it would submit an appeal early in 2021. It expected a public inquiry would be held within six-nine months.
UKOG predicted it would win the appeal, based on legal advice from a planning barrister. The company said it had argued, at both planning meetings, that a successful project at Loxley would have a role to play in the government’s low carbon hydrogen policy. Gas from the site could be turned into hydrogen, with an estimated saving of 85% in carbon emissions, UKOG said.
This assumes that UKOG would produce blue hydrogen, where the carbon released by conversion was captured and stored.
Earlier this month, the Committee on Climate Change (CCC) said 85% was the top end of emissions savings from blue hydrogen and savings could be 60%.
The CCC said if blue hydrogen were “deployed in very large quantities, the emissions savings may be insufficient to meet stretching long-term emissions targets”. It also said zero-carbon options, such as electrification, were “strategically preferable to use of hydrogen”.
In today’s statement, UKOG also said domestically-produced gas had about a quarter of the carbon emissions of imported liquefied natural gas. It quoted from this week’s Energy White Paper which said the UK’s domestic oil and gas industry “had a critical role in maintaining the country’s energy security and is a major contributor to the economy”.
Weald Action Group, which opposes UKOG’s activities in southern England, rebutted this argument. It quoted the regulator, the Oil & Gas Authority, which said earlier this year that natural gas from the UK continental shelf created less than half as much greenhouse gas as imported liquified natural gas. But this was offshore gas from coastal waters, not onshore gas. Importing gas by pipeline, particularly from Norway, had a lower carbon footprint than gas from the UK continental shelf, the regulator said.
The Energy White Paper also said UK success rested on “a decisive shift away from fossil fuels to using clean energy for heat and industrial processes, as much as for electricity generation”.
Updated: A notice of strike-off against UKOG (234) Ltd, the company behind the Dunsfold development, was discontinued on 18 December 2020.