Broadford Bridge

Wood Barn Farm, Adversane Lane, Billingshurst, West Sussex, RH14 9EB

25th May - UKOG DRILL RIG BDF 28

25th May - UKOG DRILL RIG BDF 28

Planning permission for Broadford Bridge was granted in 2013 to the previous operator of the site, Celtique Energie. It said it was interested in exploring for gas in the Sherwood sandstone. Celtique constructed the well in Autumn 2014 but following a financial dispute with US partner Magellan, work stopped and the rig wasn’t mobilised.  UKOG acquired 100% of PEDL 234 from Celtique Energy in August 2016. 

UKOG has not been entirely transparent to locals about its intentions at Broadford Bridge as Celtique only had a permit to drill conventionally. On acquiring the licence, Stephen Sanderson, UKOG’s Executive Chairman, said:   “The BB-1 [Broadford Bridge] well is designed not only to test a geological mirror-image of the Horse Hill* Kimmeridge oil discovery, but, more significantly, to also seek to establish whether Kimmeridge Limestone oil is truly an extensive resource play.  
“If so proven, given the sheer size of the PEDL234 Licence, our 100% interest, and the existence of further multiple identified drilling targets, the impact of BB-1 success would likely be transformational.
“Our wider strategy over the forthcoming 18-24 months aims to de-risk the overall Kimmeridge Limestone oil play, both commercially and geographically.  “Through the planned extended production testing, sidetrack and new well at Horse Hill, the goal is to establish that the Kimmeridge can be brought into commercial production.”  

But the Kimmeridge Limestones cannot be reached by conventional methods. Unconventional techniques could bring new problems, such as pumping acid or other fluids into the well. The use of fluid in drilling in faulted geology risks groundwater contamination, and according to the Environment Agency there are no suitable facilities in the region for treating waste fluids.

Local residents have deep concerns at the lack of public information on UKOG's acidising techniques. There is also the usual concerns over air and noise pollution, traffic increase and the industrialisation of the wider rural area are all of concern.  In the words of one resident "Oil development should not be taking place as it clearly affects climate change. We need to listen to the results of scientific studies and think of how such actions will affect future generations." See for independent journalism and updates on BB.

In February KOGL (UKOG) submitted to the Environment Agency a variation on their Waste Management Permit. These variations are so distant in character from the original planning permit we cannot understand why WSCC has not agreed that this requires new planning permission. Purely for the sheer scale of difference this variation should be rejected by the EA.

Please see Prof David Smythe's response which highlights the danger of their new variation and a local resident's response highlighting the chemicals used.

A public meeting took place in Pulborough on April 30th which was attended by 150 people. UKOG felt the need to send their security and the police to drop off their leaflets and take a look around. David Smythe, geologist presented Scientific and Economic Objections to Unconventional Drilling at Broadford Bridge and Kia Trainer, from CPRE Sussex presented their EA Objection.

In mid-May, UKOG confirmed that it had raised £6.5m through a share placing to carrying out drilling and extended well testing at Broadford Bridge and work at other sites in the Weald in southern England.

On 25th May, UK Oil and Gas confirmed that it has installed a drill rig at its oil exploration site at Broadford Bridge. UKOG said all regulatory permits were now in place and drilling started on 29th May

It is not at all clear that this is the case. UKOG are now seeking oil in the limestone-rich Kimmeridge shale. This is quite different from their original plan. Their planning permission allows them to seek gas, not oil, at a much greater depth in a totally different kind of rock. Extracting oil from the Kimmeridge limestone will require other infrastructure on site, drilled to a different depth along a different pathway. Surely for this they need new planning permission from West Sussex County Council? And how are they allowed to start drilling without the Environment Agency permit variation EPR/AB 3806-CG? This variation is for flow-testing that is to occur in Phase 3b, immediately after drilling. Why would they be allowed to start drilling without ALL the permits from Phase 2 (drilling) to Phase 3 (testing) in place? We know Phase 3b includes acidisation . Bear in mind that this is a heavily faulted area of the Weald. Are they trying to force the hand of the Environment Agency to approve their variation as their drills are already in the ground? A lot of questions need to be answered.

A new group was formed on 25th May called the Broadford Bridge Action Group. They aim to appeal to the 100,000 home owners in the wider Pulborough area supplied by the Hardham water treatment works as all of these homes are under threat of water pollution

There are weekday protests happening outside the site and weekly Saturday gatherings to raise awareness. Please see events

*Horse Hill, Surrey, RH6 0HN

Balcombe, West Sussex

Lower Stumble Wood, London Road, Balcombe, West Sussex

Lower Stumble, Balcombe

Balcombe is a small village located in West Sussex and surrounded by beautiful countryside.   Between July and September  2013, Cuadrilla Resources drilled a vertical and horizontal well at Lower Stumble (B2036 London Road).  The horizontal well extends for a third of a mile and the bore hole is just 350 meters from the closest homes.  In May 2014 West Sussex County Council (WSCC) gave planning permission for Cuadrilla to return to conduct flow tests; a decision that was unsuccessfully contested by Frack Free Balcombe Residents Association (FFBRA) via a High Court Judicial Review. 

The 2014 planning permission expired in May 2017 however Cuadrilla recently re-applied to flow test the existing well and were granted permission in January 2018. Terms of the planning include the installation of a 14 meter high flare. Cuadrilla have explicitly stated that if oil is found in recoverable quantities, they will immediately seek permission to go into production. 

On January 22nd, less than two weeks after permission was granted, Angus Energy have announced that they will be the new operators of the Balcombe Licence (PEDL244) and have acquired a 25% Interest subject to consent by the OGA (Oil and Gas Authority).   

WSCC planners received over 2,700 objections to the application and this recent announcement is further insult to residents and others against the drilling; nothing was disclosed about the immanent deal in the recent public planning meeting which begs questions about transparency and adequate consultation regarding their plans. 

Angus Energy do not have a good local track record for adhering to planning rules.  They have been involved in a planning dispute with Surrey County Council (SCC) over a sidetrack well drilled at the Brockham site near Dorking in January 2017 which SCC consistently dispute  they had permission for. The company has also admitted to mixing up wellheads at Brockham.  In 2017 at their site in Lidsey, West Sussex, Angus have been warned twice by WSCC about planning breaches relating to traffic management and authorised safe routes. 

Regarding the Balcombe application, it is worth noting that in May 2014 Cuadrilla stated that if oil was found in recoverable quantities it would need hydraulic fracturing to extract.  However the same application in 2017 states that they will not need to frack because the rock is naturally fractured.  They have been able to change the terms used for the operation due to the change in the definition of fracking passed in the Infrastructure Act of 2015.  This change allows companies to avoid the contentious ‘F’ word.  The Acts’ definition states that fracturing occurs when more than 1,000 cubic metres of fluid is injected at each stage and more than 10,000 cubic metres of fluid in total.  This definition does not refer to the actual injection pressure which is paramount nor does it discuss the chemical content of the fluid.  The definition leaves the gates open for operators to conduct acidisation under the guise of ‘conventional’ drilling.  Current plans at Balcombe are for acidisation but campaigners have no doubt that plans for the future will include the extraction of deposits that will require full hydraulic fracturing. 

Acidisation is a process that uses chemicals, including hydrochloric acid to dissolve passageways through the limestone.  It brings the same risks as fracking such as risks to health and environment, wildlife, clean air and potentially water.  It will also bring certainties such as noise, flares, heavy traffic and the use of contentious, toxic chemicals on an industrial scale.

The exploratory drilling at Balcombe in 2013 brought national and international attention.  Locals were supported by people from far and wide to protest the operations and a camp was established on the roadside verges.  At its peak approximately 2000 attended to protest the drilling.  There were over 120 arrests between July and September, including Caroline Lucas (Green M.P. for Brighton Pavillion) and her 15 year old son.  Only 43 of these arrests resulted in conviction and the policing has been severely criticised. 

For further information and regular updates go to 


Markwells Wood

South Holt Farm, Dean Lane End, Forestside, Rowlands Castle, West Sussex


Thank you to each and everyone for your objections and support of the campaign to protect Markwells Wood from oil development. Our collective efforts have paid off--UKOG has withdrawn their application 10 days before the decision was to be made..
Since UKOG first filed their controversial application in September 2016, over 2,000 individuals and organisations have objected to their plans to drill for oil in the South Downs National Park. The most notable objections came from statutory consultees— the Environment Agency, Portsmouth Water and West Sussex Highways.  Hampshire County Council Highways had also opposed the application along with a slew of environmental organisations.  All our neighbouring parishes as well as Chichester and Portsmouth City Councils also joined in the opposition.
It was very likely that the SDNP officers were going to recommend refusal of the application, and UKOG knew this. It is no surprise that UKOG walked away in the final moments before facing the embarrassment of a refusal.
UKOG have made various statements. They say they have “temporarily withdrawn” the application. They have not. The application is withdrawn. If they do reapply it will be with an entirely new application.

The company tried to blame the Environment Agency by suggesting they had put in an eleventh hour request for information and the Park Authority for not giving them extra time for more research.

The reality is UKOG was given 6 months to respond to requests for detailed information.  We know they had meetings with the EA and PW directly, via telephone and email which would give them plenty of opportunity to clarify any issues.  They were told to address key risks yet the new reports submitted were inadequate, erroneous and had serious omissions.

We understand that the Environment Agency rarely opposes applications outright, so UKOG must have known that their initial application was seriously flawed. Despite this, their second attempt was still weak and thereforeagain opposed by both the Environment Agency and Portsmouth Water.
UKOG have also made statements that they are going to do additional surveys because they appreciate that "Given the potential sensitivity of the Markwells Wood site to the adjacent chalk groundwater system, it is in the public interest that this subject be investigated as thoroughly as possible prior to any further site activity.“ Their concerns about “the public interest” come rather late in the day, and only after the public put in a lot of work and research and commissioned their own hydrogeology report.
We are not sure whether UKOG intends to reapply for planning permission or whether this is a statement meant to sooth shareholders. We think that out own hydrogeological survey shows the potential risk to our water supply is real, and any further studies by UKOG are not going to change the local geology or groundwater.
The extreme method of well stimulation proposed by UKOG is acidisation which is not proven to be safe to the environment or to human health. Acidising brings most of the negatives of hydraulic fracturing: traffic, road tankers, air pollution, flares, possibility of potential water pollution via spills, leaking wells and faults, processing plants, large volumes of toxic liquid waste and stress on communities. The concern is that this could have huge risks for drinking water in surrounding areas.
It is clear that water is a more valuable asset than oil in our region. It is also abundantly obvious that there is no social licence for drilling here.
We would like the Environment Agency to reconsider the Source Protection Zoning.  We would also like the well pad in Markwells Wood restored to woodland, as UKOG should have done by September 2016.
If UKOG does apply again they may well try that old trick of doing it in the summer holiday period, in the hope that no one will notice. Be quite sure, we will notice! Hold onto your objections as we may need them again in a few months time...

Markwells Wood Watch will be campaigning until there is a positive resolution. We thank everyone who has supported the campaign thus far and will be in touch with further news and actions as time progresses.

Here you will find Emily Mott from Markwells Wood's full objection.

Further info: