Angus Energy does not have planning permission for its proposal to dispose of waste water produced at oil and gas sites across the Weald, it was confirmed today.
The company has said it intends to inject formation or produced water, which comes to the surface along with oil and gas, into a well at Brockham, near Guildford in Surrey.
It said the water would come from Brockham itself, another Angus Energy site at Lidsey in West Sussex and “compatible producing fields in the Weald Basin”.
But Surrey County Council has confirmed that Angus would need to apply for planning permission to put the plan into action.
The local county councillor, Helyn Clack, shared a letter from Surrey’s head of planning services. This said:
“planning permission was granted in 2007 (MO06/1294) for the continued use of the Brockham wellsite for the production, treatment and export of crude oil until 31 December 2036, which included the facility to reinject water separated from the production including rainwater into the reservoir rock.
“There is no planning permission for the importation of any separated/discarded water from other well sites. I have informed/reminded Angus Energy of this fact.
“If Angus Energy want to import separated waters from other well sites, they would need planning permission.”
Angus has sought consent for the process from the Environment Agency (EA). A public consultation is underway to vary the environmental permit for the Brockham oil site. But so far, there are no signs that the company has applied for planning permission.
George Lucan, managing director of Angus Energy, told DrillOrDrop:
“The Company is aware of all its duties and responsibilities under its existing planning permissions from Surrey County Council for the Brockham Field but notes that the immediate determination to be made is one by the Environment Agency regarding a permit to resume water injection at this site.”
Opponents of oil operations at Brockham said this was another example of how oil and gas sites “continued to fall through the cracks of the regulatory regime”. [See full response at the end of this article].
Restarting oil production
Angus said water reinjection at Brockham was needed to increase formation pressure. This would improve oil flows and allow the currently mothballed site to restart production.
The company said the volume of produced water from Brockham alone was “insufficient to restore reservoir pressure to the target pressure” and freshwater was unsuitable for water injection.
“Typically, injected water should be of a broadly similar salinity to the water present in the reservoir to avoid swelling and mobilisation of clays and deposition of salts etc. The Weald Basin waters are of a similar salinity across the basin.”
It said an independent review had concluded:
“produced water from across the Weald Basin will be compatible and pose no risk to the reservoir and fluids contained therein.”
Angus said water from the Brockham production well would be “supplemented by similar and compatible brines from other producing fields within the Weald Basin”, including Lidsey.
Water reinjection would also be cheaper than treatment or incineration. An Angus Energy investor presentation put the current cost of waste water disposal at £49 a barrel.
In October 2020, Angus said it would “look to abandon” Brockham if the permit changes were not allowed. The EA refused a previous application in 2018, saying Angus had not provided required information.
“Falling through regulatory cracks”
Opponents of oil operations at Brockham compared the current situation to 2017, when Angus drilled a sidetrack well at the site. The county council said there was no planning permission for the sidetrack, although the company argued there was.
A spokesperson for the community group, Brockham Oilwatch said:
“The EA issued a permit for the drilling of the famous side-track despite the lack of planning permission. In fact, all regulators other than the planning authority approved it.
“When this was queried, the regulators cited their specific regulatory remit and the policy of not getting involved in another regulator’s territory.
“This is how things continue to fall through the cracks of the regulatory regime without accountability.”
After 2017, the EA said:
“We are in regular contact with the planning department to ensure there is no conflict between the permit requirements and the planning permissions/requirements.”