West Chiltington Web

West Chiltington Web
Sunday, 20 October
WEST CHILTINGTON - OIL EXPLORATION IN OUR PARISH AT WOODBARN FARM, BROADFORD BRIDGE.


This will be a long page. I do, however, urge you to read it all and think about how you feel. Make sure your friends and neighbours have taken the trouble to find out for themselves what is going on. I need to try and maintain a balanced view of the whole issue here, in fairness to all parties. To which end any party involved is welcome to contact me via the contact page to discuss items with which they disagree. I would, however, point out to all of you when you weigh the various positions portrayed that NO financial gain WHATSOEVER will accrue to those opposed to unconventional oil exploration at Broadford Bridge, whilst the companies involved..........?

This is a complicated story. Exploration on the site (now known as 'BB-1') began in 2013 with a company called Celtique Energy. They withdrew from the operation and sold their interest to 'UK Oil and Gas Limited' (UKOGL), formerly known as Celtique Energy. The permit holder for the Broadford Bridge site is 'Kimmeridge Oil and Gas Limited' {KOGL), a subsidiary of UKOGL. Just to complicate things further, there seems to be another 'player' in the game, 'Kimmeridge Energy Limited' (KEL), formerly known as KOGL! All these companies have a man called Stephen Sanderson at the helm. The geological feature in which UKOGL's interest primarily lies is called the Kimmeridge Limestone which runs for more than 30km south west to north east across the Weald. You may find some press releases/licences etc confusing since some are issued by or refer to UKOGL or KOGL - none yet discovered from KEL. I do hope any confusion is purely accidental....

I recommend your watching the short 'local' video on the issues and if you want to follow the problems across the country with the rash of new exploration and drilling sites I recommend Drill or Drop which has a running blog with the latest news on all activities including Broadford Bridge.

It may be of help if I carry the latest news here for you to see. Now that the window for objections has closed, I am reducing the 'latest news' box, but you can still see all of it at the 'history' page.

As of 21st March, drilling has stopped on the site and equipment is being 'withdrawn'. See DrillorDrop.

Initial flow results suggest that the company may need to use extraction techniques 'outside the existing planning permissions' - possibly also known as fracking??

The latest results from the site suggest that there have been a number of problems, including cement bond problems, a washed-out section of the well bore as well as the breach of planning condition by working on Sundays (see 'next'). The company have now taken a £10 million loan to enable work to continue.

UKOG are now accused of breaching planning permissions by allowing working on Sundays. Apparently for 'urgent safety work' !!. WSCC have decided that since the Sunday working does not appear to have affected anyone they will take no enforcement action.

Of some possible concern to our drilling is the (recent) 'unsolved' pollution of the Gatwick Stream - a tributary of the River Mole, which runs close to the Horse Hill site near Gatwick and reported by BBC news on 13th October. Noteworthy is that the site is now operating 24 hours a day and uses a similar acidic fracking process to that at Broadford Bridge where problems with sealing the bores to prevent acid leaks were announced by the company on October 10th. More than 750 fish have been found dead in the Gatwick Stream.

A spike in ammonia levels was noted on Wednesday morning in a three-mile (4km) stretch of the river near Horley, the Environment Agency said.

Dave Webb, fisheries team leader at the agency, said the final number of fish killed could be more than 1,000.

He said someone could have accidentally put the chemical down the drain without realising the effect it would have.

"This is seen as being a very serious incident. It looks as if it's killed the majority of the fish population," Mr Webb added.


Our Parish Council now say we could expect up to 12 tankers a day passing through Pulborough (presumably in both directions) which would cause absolute chaos on the A29, and these in addition to the heavy vehicles bringing in construction materials and chemicals.

BEWARE! - Surrey County Council is in dispute with a company called 'Angus Energy' which has a drilling site near Dorking and claims they are not being honest about what they are doing on site and that they do not have permission for the work they are doing. More at Drill or Drop.

**** - WSCC are in favour of the extension. Permission has now been granted ****

374 objections to the extension from the public and 168 in favour, of which 73% were from outside the South-East!


You can keep up-to-date on 'Drill or Drop'.

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Drill or Drop are reporting some problem with the drilled bore at Broadford Bridge which is delaying progress

Support for the objectors from well-known actors at County Hall. Drill or Drop Report. James Bolam has highlighted the lack of information in our local media ""The media refuses to discuss it. They will not tell people about it. The government will not tell people, and the oil companies are not going to tell people what could happen."

On 25th June, a packed village hall listened to an excellent presentation put together by the Broadford Bridge Action Group (BBAG) ), with talks by several experts on the issues arising from this sort of drilling. The overwhelming feeling of those attending was that they did not like what was happening at the site at Woodbarn Farm.

Several areas of interest were covered, from the technical side of 'acidisation', which will be used at this site, to issues involving the abundant wildlife areas around the site. The meeting highlighted the fact that the expiration of planning permission for exploratory drilling at Broadford Bridge is 15th September 2017 and thus the need for timely opposition to any extension renewal (plans for which have been announced since the meeting for a 12-month extension). UKOGL have plans for more sites across the Weald including up to 10 wells at Broadford Bridge and up to 8 across the Weald between Broadford Bridge and the Gatwick area.

The speakers at the meeting raised points about which we should all be concerned:-

The risk to our water supply was emphasised, e.g. our local rivers and at Southern Water's intake at Hardham, near Pulborough. The risks inherent in the geology in the area were explained, including the risk posed by a fault near to the current drilling site and the inter-dependence of underground aquifers.

The potential damage to wildlife: 24-hour drilling and noise and light pollution were said to disturb creatures such as bats and birds, and any contamination of water sources would be disastrous to wildlife - for example in the flood plain area of the RSPB reserve at Wigginholt. Reference was made to the SSSIs and nature reserves in the local area and to the ancient woodlands near to the site.

Significant risks are involved in the transportation of potentially hazardous materials in and out of the site on the narrow country road that runs past it. The information supplied by the company to the Environment Agency listed 26 chemicals, of which it is understood that 9 are now planned to be used. These include carcinogens and some chemicals that are very toxic to aquatic organisms. The processes can also possibly involve the use of low-level radioactive matter. There would be a significant increase in heavy vehicle traffic around the area, not least for the transportation of oil in tankers as well as the movement of heavy equipment and chemicals.

The subject of road traffic merits further discussion. Most of the site traffic is thought to arrive and depart via the cross-roads at Adversane via the A29. Any significant oil extraction will have to be transported by large tankers, possibly up to 12 a day, and will in all probability head for a refinery at Fawley, meaning this traffic will have to negotiate the two mini-roundabouts in Pulborough and pass onwards through Coldwaltham on the A29.

The overall plan for oil extraction in the Weald is thought to involve a significant number of wells, each with similar problems for communities, and represents a significant "industrialisation" of the Weald.

One of the major concerns is the ability of the drilling company to handle any serious event involving spillage off-site or leakage of contamination underground. It was observed that while the site appears to have adequate on-site surface catchment areas, any leakage underground from the deep drillings could well not be discovered for some time, by which time significant damage to the environment could have occurred. It was said at the meeting that the cost of a serious environmental incident could result in a huge cost to taxpayers, and it was suggested that residents should contact West Sussex County Council to ask whether there is catastrophe insurance and a bond in place (given that the accounts for UKOGL and KOGL showed limited funding to cover such).

Questions were also raised about the Environment Agency's 'assurances' that adequate monitoring would take place, since the number of inspectors would not be adequate for the scale of work envisaged. It was suggested that in order to monitor this site alone effectively, 3 independent inspectors would need to be employed to cover activity 24/7. It was also pointed out that at one site it was only due to the vigilance of the so-called 'protectors' (those volunteers monitoring the site and taking part in protests) that Surrey County Council discovered that one exploration company was working through the night on a 'daytime only' permission, and that had these 'protectors' not reported the incident, no action there would have been taken by the regulatory authorities since the site was not constantly monitored.

BBAG reported that UKOGL had suggested that there were 'only 3 people in our area who were objecting' to the project. Clearly there was no evidence to support this claim, as a cursory glance at the local news and the hall would show. Here is a picture of some of the 3 people concerned.

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One of the speakers also pointed out that government assurances on the safety of oil exploration should be balanced by the knowledge that 1768 spillages or leaks had occurred in the last four years in the off-shore oil industry. The following reports from one resident living next to the Horse Hill drill site near Gatwick is alarming.

"UKOG DRILLING AT HORSE HILL, NEAR GATWICK, 2016

Alex Gaché, owner of Lomond Classical Riding School, Surrey, adjoining the HH drill site, said

"The first year the drill was here for three months, last year for eight weeks and our lives were ruined. The noise, the smell, the disruption to our rural area were changed to such an extent that we did not want to be here. We cannot prove any connection but we had horses with nosebleeds, clients with headaches, oil appeared all over the land. We don't know what chemicals were coming and going but we had broken pipes pouring water into our fields and ditches (which continue to the River Mole)."

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The company is said to have 'promised' to make payments to the local community, but how much of this will be swallowed up by policing costs and the costs of any incidents? It is of interest that a press release by UK Oil and Gas quoted in the Argus on 15th June 2017 talks of only about "£12 million to all local district and parish councils" which is thought to INCLUDE the element of business rates.

The meeting was opened to the floor afterwards and many concerns were raised by the audience. There was a lot of discussion about the damage caused to the environment by the burning of hydrocarbons and the need to move away from dependency on such for energy, heating and transport.

It was also stressed that any landowners who might be concerned about possible contamination of water supplies - e.g. boreholes - would be advised to have tests carried out now before oil extraction takes place in order to establish a baseline for any changes.

It appeared that many local people envisaged a similar 'nodding donkey' system as at the Storrington pumping site, but residents should be aware that the process for extracting oil at Broadford Bridge would be totally different.

In order to present a 'fair' position, here is the Q&A session held by Stephen Sanderson, the CEO of UK Oil and Gas in an interview in The Argus on 15th June 2017. Note the following quote in this interview: "Mr Sanderson has dismissed their campaign as "scaremongering" and likened the oil to be pulled up from the Sussex earth to "locally grown vegetables".

Q&A: UKOGL BOSS STEPHEN SANDERSON

How much would the oil discovery you are hoping for be a game changer?

Clearly for UK Oil and Gas it will be a game changer. It would put us up with middle size of oil and gas companies in terms of the recoverable oil reserves that we would have.

If we show that this oil deposit does extend pretty much 30 odd km to Horse Hill and that it exists over a much larger area, if we use a small number of sites we can make inroads into our daily oil demands of 1.4 million barrels. Thirty per cent is imported at the moment but by 2030 it will nearly be 70 per cent so it's clearly very beneficial to have indigenously produced oil and gas.

What would you say to the opponents of the scheme and the concerns over the environmental impact of the scheme?

I can reassure people there is no impact at all on drinking water regardless of whether or not there is a drinking water source round here or not. There is no major water aquifer under this site but we use essentially water mixed with potato starch to drill the well. It's exactly the same as what companies use to drill wells for the public water supply so it is safe enough for public water, it is going to be very safe for these oil wells.

Have protesters disrupted work here at the site?

We fully support people's right for public protest, that's a basic right we all have. But some of these people go a little too far, they try and stop us going about a lawful business. That's fine but it's an irritant.

I think the most important thing, it actually causes quite a lot of disturbance to the locality, the police have to close the road which is very irritating for resident who have to go through a long cut through so they are not helping themselves by alienating some of the residents.

Some opponents to the drilling have been threatened with legal action over things they have published. Is this gagging opposition?

No, I think we're very open and honest. We have put almost everything we do on our website. We are all subject to the rule of law. People can say what they like as long as they don't transgress the bounds of law and if they do they should probably realise there will be consequences. It's not to stop people expressing their opinion, it is to ensure what they say is backed up by hard information.

The Conservative manifesto proposes easing planning process for oil drilling. Should this be a priority for UK government?

The whole regulatory process takes quite a long time here. It's getting better and we can work with that. But we would like to see it far more streamlined. The Government have to decide whether or not this is of national significance then they have to step up and enable us to do it safely and environmentally soundly but knowing when we can actually do things. The biggest problem is the uncertainty of timing with planning permission and regulatory permission.

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It should be noted that his comment "water mixed with potato starch to drill the well" refers to the drilling of the well and not to the subsequent use of acids, etc. to extract the oil.

Somewhat belatedly, and following enquiries by BBAG, West Sussex County Council have produced a 'FAQ' article. This is included here for balance and you can view it here.

Of interest is the last statement from WSCC:

"There are a number of matters that lie outside the planning system and which are not the responsibility of the County Council, as the Minerals Planning Authority.

These include the provision of seismic surveys, whether drilling would go through faults, the types of chemicals used, health and safety concerns (including the location of the nearest hospital), and the disposal of waste."

In other words, in issuing licences or permissions, the Council is not responsible for some of the significant issues which concern us.

It was said at the meeting that UKOGL's 'Hospital Plan' appears, from what was said at a site visit, to involve shipping any local casualties following any incident to Horsham Hospital (which does not have an A&E department?)

So, if you are concerned and need more information- what to do?

KOGL have now applied for an extension to the Planning Permissiion granted to Celtique Energy for their planned exploratory drilling (which is due to expire on 15th September) for one year. They simpy cannot achieve their exploration targets nor return the site to the required state by 16th September.

Here's what you can do:

Write to your councillor at West Sussex County Council and the Planning Department at West Sussex County Council and to your MP. Make it clear to them that, if you think the current planning permission should not be extended, that UKO&G should make a new planning application and that there should be proper public consultation. ALSO ask WSCC whether UKOGL/KOGL/KEL have in place a bond and catastrophe insurance or whether any environmental clear-up costs will fall on you, the tax-payer.

Write to the local press and ask why there has been so little public information made available by West Sussex County Council and UKOGL/KOGL/KEL about the drilling.

Tell your neighbours what you know, and follow Broadford Bridge Action Group on Facebook.

Here are your contact details:

West Chiltington Parish Council: Email the clerk

West Sussex County Councillor: Pat Arculus Email Pat Telephone 01798 813258.

The Leader of West Sussex County Council: Louise Goldsmith Email Louise.

Our MP: Nick Herbert Email Nick. It should, however, be remembered that Nick is a member of the Conservative Party whose policy is to push ahead with this sort of oil extraction and exploration.

It has also been suggested that we should write to Southern Water, given the risk to our water supplies. Southern Water was named the worst water compnay in the UK in 'The Argus' in 2013 and I'm not sure things have improved! They seem to make it particularly difficult to use modern communication techniques, so I suggest an email to the CEO. Their website currently has a broken link to any way of raising this issue other than by post or telephone.

Please quote the reference number for the current planning permission, which is WSCC/052/12/WC Broadford Bridge, Wood Barn Farm, Adversane Lane, Broadford Bridge, Billingshurst, RH14 9EB.

Broadford Bridge Action Group has a FaceBook page here.