Regulation

EA minded to permit waste water reinjection at Surrey oil site

The Environment Agency is seeking public comments on its proposal to allow Angus Energy to dispose of waste water underground at the Brockham oil site in Surrey.

Angus Energy site at Brockham, Surrey, on 16 December 2018. Photo: Brockham Protectors

Despite local concerns, the EA said it was minded to permit water reinjection at Brockham.

In a draft decision document, the EA said it was satisfied that risks had been identified and that operating procedures were “sufficient to mitigate the risk to groundwater”. There was no need for groundwater monitoring, it said.

A public consultation opens on Wednesday 29 December 2021 and runs until Monday 31 January 2021. Comments can be made online or by email

Details

Waste water, also known as produced or formation water, often comes to the surface during oil and gas extraction.

It is usually very salty and may be radioactive. Companies seek to reinject it back underground to avoid expensive water treatment and to support the pressure in the hydrocarbon reservoir, improving hydrocarbon flows.

Angus Energy has previously said it would give up the Brockham site if it could not reinject waste water.

The EA refused a reinjection request for Brockham in November 2019, saying there was a “lack of suitable information” in Angus Energy’s hydrogeological risk assessment. The EA also had concerns about the integrity of the BRX3 borehole where the water would be injected.

The new application, made in March 2021, sought permission to reinject waste water from the Portland sand and Kimmeridge clay formations. The water would be disposed of into the Portland sand layers.

The waste would come from Brockham and other fields, particularly Angus Energy’s Lidsey oil site in West Sussex, the EA said.

In considering the new permit application, the EA twice asked for more information.

Local concerns

Local people remain concerned that water reinjection at Brockham could pollute groundwater.

But in its draft decision document, the EA said:

“There is a negligible risk of pollution to groundwater from the reinjection of produced water into the Portland sandstone formation”.

The EA also said the reinjection of produced water into geological formations from which hydrocarbons had been extracted was the best environmental option to “minimise the exposure of the public to ionising radiation from the disposal of radioactive waste”.

Brockham Parish Council, local councillors and campaign groups said they were also concerned about Angus Energy’s operational record at Brockham.

The EA said it acknowledged “historic issues in respect to operator competence”.

But it said “there is no known reason to consider the applicant [Angus Energy] will not comply with the permit conditions” or not be “financially able” to comply.

There were additional concerns that water reinjection could cause earthquakes. The site is 7km from the area around Newdigate in Surrey, which saw a swarm of earthquakes in 2018.

The Environment Agency said it had not asked for additional seismic data from Angus Energy and it was satisfied with the information it had. Seismicity linked to oil and gas operations was the remit of the Oil & Gas Authority, it said.

Angus Energy would be allowed to reinject a maximum of 24m3 of produced water per seven-hour day, the EA said. This was a “minor volume” of produced water, it said.

The injection rate would be a maximum of 1.3 litres/second. Pressure would be below that needed to fracture the formation, the EA said, and company procedures would ensure there was no over-pressurisation of the reservoir.

Angus Energy has permission to handle radioactive material from Brockham. But the new permit would not allow it to receive radioactive waste water from Lidsey or other sites.

Surrey County Council has confirmed that Angus Energy also does not have planning permission to accept waste from other sites.

The company is currently applying for planning permission to produce oil for 15 years from the BRX4 well at Brockham.

9 replies »

  1. Quote: ‘In a draft decision document, the EA said it was satisfied that risks had been identified and that operating procedures were “sufficient to mitigate the risk to groundwater”. There was no need for groundwater monitoring, it said.’
    I would recommend looking to carry out baseline testing and monitoring of local boreholes, or any water source with the potential for contamination. Without a baseline, there can be no evidence of change.

  2. Always beware when a government department says it is ‘Minded’. This is the exact wording used by Sajid Javid used when Minister at the BEIS. Everybody, including a planning inspector after a 6 week public enquiry, had recommended refusing planning permission for fracking at Roseacre Wood in Lancashire yet Javid still said he was ‘Minded’ to allow it. ‘Minded’, in government speak, means “We’ll pretend to listen but whatever anybody says we’re going to do it anyway.”

    • In this case, Javid went against the inquiry inspector’s recommendation to refuse Roseacre Wood on traffic safety grounds and said he was ‘minded’ to permit the proposal and re-opened the inquiry. He also ordered a different inspector because he claimed the first one had made up her mind. In other words he was giving Cuadrilla another go. As it turned out, it backfired on Javid when the late James Brokenshire became the Secretary of State and thankfully was not so minded and dismissed Cuadrilla’s appeal.

  3. I agree. ‘Minded’ surely also carries an implication of serious informed consideration – quite an irony where this government is concerned.

  4. Oh dear.

    Minded was the comment from the EA!

    Yet, it is highjacked to present an opinion on this government.

    Back to the actual subject, I do not always agree with the EA, but they do a lot of good work with regard to the environment. Obviously there are areas that some will disagree with, and that is okay. Sour grapes are common at Christmas, even after all those transport emissions have been produced to deliver them.

    An application for a standard procedure, that is minded to be approved. The only reason why approval would be questioned is if there were particular circumstances relating to this individual site to justify that. There do not appear to be any of significance, and “this government” is certainly not one.

    Merry Christmas, Boris.

  5. How can the EA proposed taking no monitoring actions or say Angus’s activities will not not impact on the ground water when this site has historically managed to pump water out at times it was supposed to have been pumping out oil!

  6. Caroline-just about every oil well pumps out water in addition to oil. Many also pump out gas.

    Perhaps the EA know a little more than those who make such statements.

  7. Fantastic progress being made.
    Angus Energy is slowly turning around all their stalled projects. Brockham detailed EA response is a credit to due diligence.
    Its about time the likes of certain groups (3x of them) stopped harassing the company. Then again its in their interest to discredit the company and this project.

    Well done Team. Sanity prevailing with the EA at last!

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