Council officials have supported plans for more oil production at a small site in the Surrey greenbelt, saying it would help meet a “growing demand” for hydrocarbons.
In a report for county councillors published today, planners said there was a “demonstratable need” for the proposal.
The site, near Dorking, has extracted no oil for more than three years. When it was in production, it contributed less than a quarter of one per cent to UK onshore oil volumes.
The site operator, Angus Energy, has applied for permission to produce from the site’s BRX4 well until 2036. It also wants to reperforate a section of the well in the Portland sandstone formation.
A decision by Surrey County Council’s planning committee is expected next week.
In their report, council planners concluded that the development was needed to address the “ongoing demand for oil”. They said:
“The Government recognises there is a need to maintain a stable and reliable supply of indigenous energy sources and this would include onshore oil and gas into the future.
“It is therefore appropriate that such indigenous supplies of natural gas and oil, regardless of how small in scale, are properly husbanded to make a valuable contribution by maximising energy recovery of indigenous supplies and contribute to the energy sector.”
But opponents of the application, including Mole Valley District Council, Brockham Parish Council, local campaign groups and residents, have questioned the need for the application.
Weald Action Group said:
“There is no Government energy policy that supports a view that there is a strategic need for further exploration of conventional onshore fossil fuel reserves.”
Brockham Oil Watch said:
“Restarting long-term oil production from a field which has been unproductive for years goes against the policy direction to reduce climate change impacts.
“Contrary to the applicant’s assertions, there is no mention of the strategic importance or need for further onshore conventional oil and gas exploration in current Government energy policy.”
According to official data, Brockham first began oil production in 2002. Since then, the site contributed 0.13% of total UK onshore oil production. In the same period, UK onshore oil was 2.02% of total UK oil production.
Brockham extracted no oil in 77 of the months since production began, the equivalent of almost 6 ½ years.
Weald Action Group has also rejected Angus Energy’s claims that oil extraction would reduce the need for imported resources. It said:
“This is misleading and a deliberate red herring. There is no evidence that increasing domestic oil production will reduce imports.”
The planners described the application as “appropriate development in the Green Belt”. They said it would not harm residential amenity, heritage assets, flood risk, or ground water.
They also rejected arguments that the application should be refused on climate change grounds, despite local and national declarations of a climate emergency. They said:
“Officers consider that the proposed development would not be in conflict with the Government’s climate change agenda.”
Their report recommended that permission should be subject to the views of the Environment Agency, which has not yet responded to a consultation.
There should also be a legal agreement preventing lorries reaching the site through Brockham village, they said.
Last month, the Environment Agency granted a permit allowing Angus Energy to reinject waste water from Brockham into an old oil well at the site. This would cut the cost of waste disposal and help to improve the flow of oil from the reservoir.
The company has said it wanted to bring in waste water from other sites in southern England. The council report said Angus Energy would need a separate planning permission to do this. A permit covering radioactive substances would also be needed from the Environment Agency.
- DrillOrDrop will report from the planning committee meeting at 10.30am on Wednesday 27 April 2022, at Surrey County Council offices at Woodhatch Place, 11 Cockshot Hill, Reigate, Surrey, RH2 8EF. Link to agenda