Public consultation on oil and gas well near Fernhurst

FRACKING could be coming to Fernhurst as plans were unveiled this week to explore for oil and gas in the heart of the West Sussex countryside.

Celtique Energie Weald Ltd announced it would be holding a public consultation next week on plans for a temporary exploration well just west of Fernhurst.

While the company has made it clear it would not be using the hydraulic fracturing process, also known as fracking, for this initial well, it has indicated if it found data that indicated a possibility for ‘commercial hydrocarbon recovery’ then the company might wish to explore the areas further through the use of fracking.

This would be subject to a new planning application and further public consultation.

Celtique Energie’s chief executive officer Geoff Davies said: “Our proposals to undertake initial exploratory drilling at a remote and well screened area of land west of Fernhurst would enable us to confirm whether commercially viable levels of oil and gas are present in this area.

“This would involve tried and tested methods of exploration that have been used in the UK for decades, in many surrounding fields.” The company has sought to reassure Fernhurst residents it would take precautions to ensure the work would have a ‘minimal impact’ on the environment and the community.

There will be a public exhibition on the plans at Fernhurst Village Hall, in Glebe Road from 3pm to 7pm on Wednesday, June 5, and from 11am to 3pm on Saturday, June 8.

Regarding the potential of the area for oil and gas drilling, Mr Davies said: “The Weald has a long history of onshore oil and gas exploration and production and we are confident that significant reserves still remained untapped in the region today that could make a contribution to the UK’s energy supply.”

Chairman of Fernhurst Parish Council James Cottam said it would be difficult to make a comment on the proposal at this stage.

“It’s clearly something that’s going to be of interest,” he said, adding there were a ‘number of aspects’ to consider.

“The hydraulic fracturing process for extracting oil and gas is something that attracts a lot of interest around the country and here as well,” he said.

The parish council was first notified of the plan by Celtique Energie on Wednesday, May 22.

After Celtique Energie’s consultation the company said it would apply to the South Downs National Park Authority for the well to get the go ahead.

It also confirmed if no oil or gas was found by its exploratory drill, the well would be plugged and the site restored without any further application being made.

For information about the consultation call 0800 023 2148 from 9am to 5.30pm Monday to Friday.