The UK onshore oil and gas exploration firm, Hutton Energy UK Limited, was dissolved today.
It applied to be struck off the Companies House register in November 2021.
This is the second onshore company to go out of business in less than a fortnight. DrillOrDrop reported last month that Warwick Energy Exploration Limited had also been voluntarily struck off.
The latest closure reveals details of what can happen to oil sites when companies go out of business.
At times in the past seven years, Hutton Energy UK Limited held four exploration and production (PEDL) licences.
These included PEDL254 in the green belt near Radcliffe on Trent in Nottinghamshire.
PEDL254 had an oil exploration site next to the A52 road. BP drilled the Harlequin-1 well here in 1953, under an earlier licence.
The site, confusingly called the Harlequin-3 site, was granted planning permission for oil exploration five times over a period of 15 years.
But no new wells were drilled. The only work carried out was the construction of a hardstanding fenced area and a bund of stripped topsoil.
The most recent consent for oil exploration at the Harlequin-3 site was in 2014.
In that year, Hutton acquired PEDL254 and the site from Newton Energy Limited.
Hutton told local people the planning permission allowed it to drill two 950m oil exploration boreholes.
In 2016, the company said it planned to drill in the first quarter of the year. But that work was never carried out either.
The consent expired on 31 October 2017.
A condition of the planning permission required the site to be cleared and restored to farmland by the deadline.
But more than four years on, the hardstanding and soil bund remains.
So why wasn’t the Harlequin-3 site restored under the planning condition?
Change of use
Just over three weeks after the planning permission expired, J C Samworth Farms made a new planning application to keep the existing hardstanding and use it for agricultural storage.
The application, which was no longer for minerals, was decided by Rushcliffe Borough Council, rather than the mineral planning authority at Nottinghamshire County Council.
A spokesperson for Nottinghamshire County Council told DrillOrDrop:
“Permission was granted for this by Rushcliffe on 2 February 2018 and therefore the hardstanding has been retained under this permission and there is no obligation to restore the site under the permission issued by the County Council as minerals planning authority.
“The site was subject to regular monitoring during its set up stage and restoration pursued on expiry of the permission ultimately resulting in the new permission detailed above.”
A planning officer from Rushcliffe Borough Council gave permission under delegated powers for the agricultural storage. The officer’s report said:
“The hardstanding represents an engineering operation and, in this case, it would not conflict with the purposes of including land in Green Belt, and it has a limited impact on openness. Consequently, I consider that the hardstanding is an appropriate form of development in the Green Belt.”
Storage of agricultural machinery would have some impact on the landscape but it would not be significantly adverse, the officer said.
Hutton Energy UK Limited relinquished PEDL254 in 2018. It gave up the other three licences in 2016-2018.
In the most recent accounts for the year ending June 2020, it owed more than £670,000 to its parent company, Hutton Energy Limited.
Hutton Energy Limited, which is still operating, was awarded five oil and gas licences in the 14th round in 2016.
All but one have been relinquished. The licence that remains, PEDL306, is now held by Egdon Resources and Petrichor Energy UK Limited.
The web domain, HuttonEnergy.com, formerly used by Hutton Energy Limited, is for sale.
Updated 2/2/22: Hutton Energy Limited applied to be struck off the companies’ register.