COUNTY NEWS: Cuadrilla to submit new application to test oil well

The exploration well in Balcombe. Picture: Steve Robards

Oil and gas exploration company Cuadrilla says it plans to submit a new planning application to West Sussex County Council to flow test and monitor its existing exploration oil well at its site in Sussex.

Cuadrilla was granted planning permission for the site in May 2014 to flow test and monitor the exploration well at its site in Lower Stumble, Balcombe, which was drilled in the summer of 2013, but this permission has now expired.

The Lower Stumble site was the target of a vociferous campaign by groups opposed to the use of the technique known as fracking, properly called hydraulic fracturing.

The controversial process uses large quantities of water, sand and some chemicals to fracture rock to release gas or oil.

At the time Cuadrilla gave an ‘unequivocal assurance’ to Balcombe Parish Council and said it would not be using fracking.

However, thousands of people marched in protest on the site in 2013, when Cuadrilla came in to drill the exploratory well.

Francis Egan, CEO of Cuadrilla, said in a statement this week: “We were unable to undertake the permitted exploration well testing works within the allocated time, primarily due to the length of time and resource it has required for us to commence operational activities in our Lancashire exploration licence area.

“There were also changes to the environmental permitting requirements for the Lower Stumble site which required assessment.

“The new planning application will cover the same scope of work as the previous permission: a flow test of the existing exploration well followed by plugging the well with cement, and fully restoring the site.

“Cuadrilla made a new application to the Environment Agency to vary permits in accordance with the new requirements.

“The Environment Agency ran a public consultation on these proposed variations and are now going through their own determination process to assess them.

“The well at Lower Stumble requires no hydraulic fracturing because the rock is naturally fractured.

“The flow testing Cuadrilla is looking to undertake will measure the rate at which oil flows from the well.”

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