AN energy company at the centre of a controversial ‘fracking’ war has responded to villagers after they accused it of trying to ‘industrialise’ their community.
The chief executive of Celtique Energie, Geoff Davies, spoke out after Billingshurst residents launched a campaign to stop the process of hydraulic fracturing, or ‘fracking’, in their area.
While Celtique has permission to carry out only conventional drilling in Billingshurst, many feared it could lead to fracking.
However, Mr Davies said the company had no such plans.
He told the Observer: “I want to reassure your readers about the scope of Celtique’s operations and what activity we have been granted permission to undertake by the relevant regulatory authorities.
“As we have consistently stated on a number of occasions, our exploration well in Broadford Bridge is targeting an oil or gas reservoir located in the Triassic sandstone at a depth of around 10,000 feet.
“This is a conventional (non-shale) reservoir, which means that the rock is sufficiently permeable that oil or gas should flow naturally into the well from the reservoir when produced. There are many similar oil and gas fields in the surrounding area, including Singleton and Storrington in West Sussex and Wytch Farm in Dorset, which have been producing safely and with minimal local impact for a number of decades.
“Celtique does not have planning permission to undertake hydraulic fracturing on this well and has committed in writing to West Sussex County Council (WSCC) that it will not be using hydraulic fracturing in this well in the future.
“Copy of this correspondence can be found on the WSCC website.
“Furthermore, the site land lease agreement has a clause stating that under the terms of the lease no shale oil or shale gas development is permitted using this site.
I want to reassure your readers about the scope of Celtique’s operations and what activity we have been granted permission to undertake by the relevant regulatory authorities
“We are committed to regular communication with local residents near the site and will notify them well in advance of any further activity taking place.”
Celtique Energie began construction of the site last September, on land to the west of the B2133 Adversane Lane, near Broadford Bridge.
Planning permission for the temporary drilling rig was granted by West Sussex County Council in February 2013.
Celtique said the next stage would be to construct the drilling rig and begin the drilling process, which would take place over the next few weeks.
But Celtique’s announcement has failed to appease local campaigners.
A spokesman for the ‘Keep Billingshurst Frack Free’ group, said they would continue their campaign despite Celtique’s assurances. “We will still be campaigning to keep Billingshurst frack-free. 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.”