Appeal over Balcombe well test not “foremost in our minds” – Angus Energy

Angus Energy is “weighing up the consequences” of appealing against refusal of a well test at its Balcombe oil site. But the decision was not “foremost” in its mind, it said.

Banner outside Angus Energy’s Balcombe oil site, 7 March 2021. Photo: Helen Savage

Councillors in West Sussex voted unanimously in March 2021 against a one-year test. They said the scheme was not in the public interest, rejecting the advice of officials.

Angus Energy has until early September to lodge an appeal against the decision with the planning inspectorate.

Speaking to the Proactive One2One online forum tonight, the Angus managing director, George Lucan, said the question of an appeal was “subject to ongoing discussion with the planning officer and with our partners”.

He said:

“Clearly there are lot of things to consider and it isn’t foremost in our minds.”

George Lucan added:

“Certainly, if we did, the first stage would be to agree with the planning officer at West Sussex points of agreement, which is mostly everything, except the question of whether or not it is in the public interest to be drilling in this spot, which is a very nebulous question. I think ultimately that is what the planning inspector will have to handle.”

He described the environment after publication of the energy white paper last year as “excessively hostile towards oil and gas generally and particularly in onshore UK”.

On the appeal decision, he said:

“To some extent we are reading the runes and feeling the temperature and to some extent we are weighing up all the likely consequences of going to appeal.”

Waste to energy

Angus Energy’s formal presentation did not refer to Balcombe, featuring instead the company’s interest in the Saltfleetby gas field in Lincolnshire, the Lidsey oil field in West Sussex and proposals for geothermal energy in Devon.

But in response to questions, George Lucan said the story of Weald oil had been “greatly overblown” by many commentators. The disappointment in Angus Energy’s sidetrack well at Brockham in Surrey had hit the company harder because expectations had been high, he said.

He also hinted that redundant oil sites in the Weald could be repurposed for energy from waste. This was more than a pipe dream, he said. Angus was “in discussions with experienced operators in that world”.

He added the company had been evaluating its sites for the long term.

“It may be that Brockham is a site that we will retire as an oil site in five years’ time and we are looking over and above that about what we do with it. There are other sites elsewhere. And yes, we are interested in that waste to energy market, we have been for a few years.”

An announcement on this in 2021 was “not be impossible”, he added.

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