Surrey County Council Planning Committee has given the go ahead to plans for further oil extraction at Brockham – despite a call by leading geologists for a temporary halt to hydrocarbon exploration in the area in Surrey following a swarm of 12 earthquakes.
The scientists are concerned that activities at either nearby Horse Hill or Brockham may have contributed to the recent earthquake swarm and that the earthquakes might have compromised the safety of existing wells.
We’re shocked and disappointed that the members of the planning committee so blatantly ignored the advice they’ve received from experts.
It appeared that the committee was swayed by a-last minute intervention from the Oil and Gas Authority, who officers said was the regulatory body responsible for monitoring and responding to seismic activity. An unofficial statement from them was read out at the meeting saying that it was unlikely there is a causal link between reinjection at the Brockham site and the earthquakes.
They seem to have ignored the significant increase in volume of reinjected water at Brockham reported for April, which coincided with the onset of earthquakes. We think this is concerning and any relationship between the two needs to be investigated further given that wastewater reinjection has been proven to be the main cause of earthquakes in the Central U.S.
We would also like to point out that the data available on the OGA’s portal is several months old and only an aggregate monthly number of water injected is provided. It is insufficient for any kind of credible analysis. We are calling for detailed and up to date records of injection data at Brockham to be immediately released to allow for independent analysis.
The Oil & Gas Authority can hardly be regarded as independent or impartial. Its objective is to support the industry in maximising the economic recovery of oil and gas, and it is largely funded by an industry levy. We are disappointed that the planning officers relied on such advice in favour of the recent advice from a group of leading independent geologists.
The planning permission was granted for the full three-year period, even though appraisal phase normally takes weeks not years. Angus Energy explained that this was necessary to test a new geology.
This is a cause concern, as Angus are targeting an entirely new geology that has never been produced from anywhere in the country, whilst operating under an old style environmental permit. There is a complete lack of monitoring under the existing permit of many of the proposed and ongoing activities. This puts the local environment and people at risk.
The Brockham site is currently going through a re-permitting process by the Environment Agency, a process that started over a year ago. It is unclear when the new permit will be put in place. The EA didn’t submit an objection to the proposals, but they did submit a comment to inform planning officers that a number of issues are still being evaluated and additional data is being sought from the operator, including on the flaring of gas, well stimulation treatments using acid, wastewater re-injection.
We are convinced that Angus will start commercial production under this appraisal permission, which is what they had consistently told their investors. This is reminiscent of the events in January 2017, when Angus drilled an unauthorised sidetrack whilst openly communicating this to investors. It clearly demonstrates a cavalier attitude from Angus to both the local authority and the local community. The assurances from the planning authority that they will expect the maximum standards of professionalism and transparency gives us no confidence whatsoever.
This permission was given against the objections by the Parish Council, the Mole Valley Council and the local people. When this operation begins, it will make the area less desirable to live in and only Angus board members and investors are set to prosper.