Environmental campaigners have dismissed statements by Angus Energy that proposed production from its Brockham site in Surrey would help meet a national need for oil.
The company is seeking planning permission for oil production from a well at the site near Dorking until 2036. It said the proposal would contribute to improved security of supply and reduced need for imports.
But the Weald Action Group said in an objection to the application:
“There is no need for oil for Brockham”.
It said Angus Energy had not demonstrated a need for the oil:
“there is no current government energy policy that supports a view that there is a strategic need for further exploitation of conventional onshore fossil fuel reserves.”
The group said previous government support for onshore fossil fuel exploration was based on the possible exploitation of potentially extensive shale gas resources.
“The extraction of these resources has now been ruled out, at least in the short term, by the 2019 moratorium on hydraulic fracturing, which appears to have marked the end of the government’s interest in the onshore oil and gas sector.”
Weald Action Group added that the government department responsible for energy had been asked in May 2021 to identify government statements or policy on UK oil and gas. None of the documents mentioned in the department’s response were about the UK onshore oil and gas sector
Weald Action Group also rejected Angus Energy’s statement that Brockham oil would help to reduce imports:
“This is misleading and a deliberate red herring. There is no evidence that increasing domestic oil production will reduce imports.”
The group said the UK had been a net oil importer since 2006. In 2020, the then chief executive of the industry body, UK Onshore Oil & Gas, had said 85% of UK produced oil was exported.
Climate change and emissions
The Brockham application, if granted, would lock-in continued and increased greenhouse gas emissions from the operation of the site and the use of the oil, Weald Action Group said.
The proposal would embed demand for oil for 15 years, the group added. This would contradict national planning policy which supports “the transition to a low carbon economy”.
The National Planning Policy Framework requires local planning authorities to ensure that mineral development does not cause any unacceptable adverse impacts on the natural environment and on human health.
Weald Action Group said:
“Runway climate change clearly will have unacceptable adverse impacts on both.”
The group added that the application also contradicted UK obligations under the Paris climate agreement and the legally-binding ambition to reduce greenhouse emissions to net zero by 2050.
It said the application should be considered as a proposal for new production because the Brockham site had been unproductive for several years.
In May 2021, the International Energy Agency said there was no need for investment in new fossil fuel supply, the group said.
The group said there were precedents for refusing mineral applications on climate change grounds, citing the rejection of consent for a coal mine at Druridge Bay in Northumberland in March 2018.
Angus Energy said greenhouse gas emissions associated with the operation of the wellsite and use of the oil “would not be of a sufficient scale to be considered significant at the local, national or global levels”.
But Weald Action Group said:
” It is unclear how the applicant can judge these to be insignificant as there is no estimate of the volume of oil that would be produced from BRX4, if the application were approved.”
It added that it was hard to see how a decision could be made on the Brockham project without considering emissions from the use of the oil.
The public consultation on the application ended today (20 December 2021).
The scheme is currently listed to be decided by Surrey County Council’s planning officers under delegated powers. This means it would not go before the council’s development control committee.
Weald Action Group said the application was of “high public interest” and the decision should be made by councillors, rather than officers.