New ‘fracking’ concerns for campaigners at Broadford Bridge

Keep Billingshurst Frack Free at the site at Broadford Bridge (photo submitted). SUS-150316-155927001
Keep Billingshurst Frack Free at the site at Broadford Bridge (photo submitted). SUS-150316-155927001

Anti fracking campaigners are keeping a close eye on the Broadford Bridge drilling site at Billingshurst following the government’s landmark ruling for the oil and gas industry that horizontal fracking can go ahead on a Cuadrilla site in Lancashire.

A spokesman for Keep Billingshurst Frack Free said: “This site is ready to go, so it’s whenever the rigs turn up really, and we are keeping a very close eye on it. The government’s ruling makes us all the more concerned.

“We are very worried because UKOG say it’s not fracking but they are talking to their investors about shale oil and gas.

“We understand they will be drilling down to the shale bearing formations during this exploration phase at Broadford Bridge. This is not the development stage, which comes later in the planning process. This is the ‘creeping’ method we are seeing used by the industry up and down the country – they ‘just want to see what’s down there’ then announce they’ve found shale oil or gas-bearing formations.”

Celtique Energie gained planning permission for conventional drilling at the site. Although it was prepared, the well was not drilled as Celtique and its partners Magellan Petroleum UK became locked in a bitter legal dispute about funding the well.

The Broadford Bridge site was part of PEDL 234, for which Celtique was granted a licence for exploration from the Oil and Gas Authority in 2008. It was due to expire on June 30 this year.

But four months ago UK Oil & Gas Investments PLC (UKOG) announced it was paying £3.5m to buy the whole of PEDL 234. The deal, including the Broadford Bridge site, was conditional on the OGA extending the initial term of the licence for at least one year to allow the well to be drilled. The OGA has now extended the licence for another two years.

Campaigners from Keep Kirdford and Wisborough Green (KKWG) which successfully opposed exploratory drilling plans from Celtique in 2014 and Keep Billinghursst Frack Free have mounted a legal challenge to the extension saying it would be inappropriate for UKOG to be ‘singled out for preferential treatment’.

The group is seeking a judicial review and calling for the extension to be quashed.

Communities secretary Sajid Javid approved plans, on Thursday (October 6), for fracking at a Cuadrilla site in Lancashire. It means, for the first time, UK shale rock will be fracked horizontally, which is expected to yield more gas.

Anit fracking campaigners believe the decision could have implications around the country.

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