In addition to the drilling of sidetrack BR-X4Z, which the Surrey County Council said was not authorised, a number of other worrying events occurred during the works Dec 2016-Jan 2017:
- Deliveries of over 1km of drill pipes and a Titan Torque drill bit protector were witnessed. Even though bringing such equipment is not against the current planning permission, given the confusion over the drilling of a new side track, it was concerning..
- There were several incidents of vapour and smoke emissions – initially explained as a fire in an adjoining field, then (by a Director of Angus) as steam rising from a newly-started generator.
- Noxious smell at night was reported near the site by at least two local residents.
- Constant vapour/smoke emissions during overnight working (video link).
Existing Planning permission breaches
There were many violations of the existing planning permission conditions, several relatively minor, such as:
- Lorries moving in and out of the site out of hours.
- Lorries travelling through Brockham.
- Oily spills and mud/stones left on the road leading away from the site.
The most serious breaches involved out of hours working without permission:
- Working on a Bank Holiday and Sundays
- Overnight working. This started on 13th January and continued with one break until the 25th.
- Permission was granted by the Council at the advice of the Health & Safety Executive on 18th, after residents complained to the Council.
- Before the complaints from locals the Council were not informed by Angus Energy of the night working despite a site visit by council officials on Monday 16th. The officials were not informed of the drilling of a new well either.
Why were they granted permission?
It was classed as emergency working because of a hydrocarbons ‘bypassing the isolation plug’ deep into the oil well. Given the revelations from 3 March, it now appears that this was due to ongoing drilling on the site.
Below are the Council’s clarifications.
Based on email communication on 18 January:
The County Planning Authority sought clarification from Angus Energy about how longer the night working would continue for and also to inform them that planning permissions did not permit such working at night.
They shared the information that they received from AE with the Health & Safety Executive who advised that because the well was seen to be ‘live’ it seemed prudent to allow completion of maintenance works in the most efficient manner. On grounds of health & safety the CPA felt these were extenuating circumstances and that it was therefore reasonable to permit 24 hour working for the next six days to completely cement up and close the well.
The CPA felt that Angus Energy should have informed them that night-time working would have been part of their maintenance and logging (collecting data from the wells). They asked Angus Energy to send them daily reports on their work.
On 25 January Surrey County Council clarified the situation about hydrocarbons. During their maintenance, Angus Energy discovered that hydrocarbons were passing an isolation plug, making the well ‘live’. They therefore acted swiftly to ‘kill’ that part of the well and cement it, so they could safely abandon it.
See here video from evening of 17 Jan, crew were working 24hrs.
Brockham Protection Camp
All of the above were carefully documented with photographic and video evidence by members of the ‘Protection Camp’, set up opposite the well site during the works.