Faulting and fracking: the Weald

Introduction

A number of small oil and gas fields were found around the fringes of the Weald basin in the 1980s. Following a fallow period of some 25 years in which there was little interest, the Weald has again become the target of licence applications and exploration, since about 2009. This renewed interest is undoubtedly due to the possibility of exploitation of unconventional hydrocarbon resources in the central, geologically low part of the basin.

There are two small companies currently active in this part of the Weald, Cuadrilla Resources and Celtique Energie.


 

The Weald

Cuadrilla Resources Limited

In August 2013 I prepared a pdf slideshow, since revised in the light of the completion of Cuadrilla's drilling at Balcombe in September 2013, discussing the technical problems. The company appears to have considerably altered its plans as to what rock type it is targeting, and whether or not fracking will be employed.


 

Celtique Energie

In 2013 Celtique Energie applied to drill two wells in the Weald, one in each of its licences PEDL231 and PEDL234. Although the wells are claimed to be in pursuit of conventional resources that it has recognised, the letter from Celtique to DECC, dated 15 December 2011 and obtained under Freedom of Information, proves otherwise.

I submitted a revised technical objection in June 2014 to Celtique's application to drill at Wisborough Green in PEDL234. It replaces a version submitted in October 2013. Related to this, I prepared a very short slideshow for the West Sussex County Council (WSCC) planning committee meeting on 22 July 2014. I was given the opportunity to summarise my views in five minutes. The planning committee unanimously rejected Celtique's proposals, on the grounds of traffic and site selection.

In January 2014 I submitted an objection to Celtique's proposal to drill at Fernhurst, (PEDL231) within the South Downs National Park, and followed it up with additional comments in June 2014.

My objections to Celtique's proposals in the Weald are founded on three grounds. The proposals are:

  • Incomplete (not enough data or information available, despite specific requests by WSCC for more detail),
  • Incompetent (serious and/or elementary geological and technical errors), and
  • Disingenous (by making misleading claims, both in the applications and in the information boards presented to the public, that the exploration is in pursuit of conventional oil, not unconventional).

Unconventional oil means that exploitation will require the extensive drilling of horizontal wells which will require high-volume slickwater fracking.

The Fernhurst application was also rejected in September 2014.

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