Home Counties fracking claim denied

Cuadrilla Resources has admitted it has licenses for the controversial process across the Home Counties, but denies it is planning work in the immediate future - with local councils refuting claims fracking permission has been granted.

Speaking exclusively to edieEnergy Cuadrilla said permission had been granted for licenses at sites in Surrey, Sussex and Kent, although the firm added “in terms of time scales we don’t have any definite plans”.

However, one of the local authorities Surrey County Council (SCC) also criticised claims published in the national press it had granted Cuadrilla a fracking license.

A SCC spokesperson said: “We are a bit annoyed as it isn’t true we gave Cuadrilla a license for fracking instead saying it had only been granted a conventional oil and gas license.

“In July 2001 we granted planning permission to Cuadrilla for exploration compounds and associated infrastructure for testing of two new directional appraisal wells at Sugham Farm in Lingfield, which they have so far not acted upon.

“This is a conventional oil and gas site and does not involve shale gas. Not only have we not given Cuadrilla permission to carry out hydraulic fracturing, or ‘fracking’, but they have not even approached us about it.”

Cuadrilla confirmed it holds a license for the Lingfield site in Kent, but denied it has plans in place for further exploration work at present.

It said: “The existing Lingfield well was drilled by Independent / Archean Oil & Gas in August and September 1999. This is consistent with the long history of exploratory oil and gas exploration across the Weald Basin in the South-East of England over many decades.

“Current planning permission for further exploration expired in November 2011 and a further minerals planning consent would need to be obtained from Surrey County Council in order to undertake any activity.

“Cuadrilla is currently fully engaged with on-shore natural gas drilling activity in the north-west of England and no firm plans have been made for future exploration in Lingfield.”

Last month Kent County Council’s planning committee approved an application allowing Welsh firm Coastal Oil and Gas Ltd carry out an exploratory test for gas, which campaigners argue could pave the way for fracking exploration.

Kent Green Party chair Stuart Jeffery, argued that there are “are far better ways of powering the future than by drilling for more fossil fuels”.

He warned: “It is very likely that the exploration will lead to shale gas extraction through fracking which will inflict serious and irrevocable damage on the environment, particularly ground water supplies, while ensuring that the country’s duty to reduce its carbon emissions is missed.”

Concern has also been raised over Cuadrilla’s Balcombe, West Sussex site, which Cuadrilla operates within its Sussex license. Campaigners argue if the technique was reinstated – fracking exploration was first carried out in 1986 – it could have a detrimental effect on the environment and result in drinking water contamination.

In a statement Cuardrilla said it has planning permission from West Sussex County Council for “further exploratory drilling to assess the core and reservoir potential through a new wellbore to be located at the same site”, adding that it would need to apply for the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) to lift the current suspension.

The statement added: “Exploratory drilling activity may take place at a future date, consistent with the terms of the licence issued by DECC. The initial drilling for the core sampling and evaluation would last for a few weeks. There are no plans, or regulatory approval, for hydraulic fracturing to take place at this stage.

“Cuadrilla is currently fully engaged with drilling activity in the north-west of England and no firm plans have been made for Balcombe.”

To address these concerns campaigners are holding a meeting tomorrow (January 11) on the future of fracking in the area, with the chief executive of Cuadrilla invited.

Objections made by campaign groups Frack Off and Facebook campaign ‘No Fracking in Sussex’ also echoes concerns made by New York’s Department for Environmental Conservation (DEC) environmental engineering technician Paul Hetzler, who recently warned that fracking “will” cause water pollution in new York.

Furthermore, in response to previous work carried out by Cuadrilla, Frack Off staged two protests at Cuadrilla’s site in the north of England last month after research by the company led it to admit its operations had “probably” caused two minor earthquake tremors.

Carys Matthews

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