Cuadrilla has announced plans to drill an exploration well at its Balcombe site later this year. The company intends to commence discussions with local residents to explain exactly what this work will involve.
The drilling work will commence in the summer. Specifically Cuadrilla plans to drill and take samples of the underground rock in a vertical well drilled to approximately 3,000 feet. A possible horizontal leg of 2,500 feet may also be drilled from the vertical well, dependent on the results of sampling in the vertical. Neither the vertical nor the horizontal well will be hydraulically fractured. If oil or gas is discovered, a short flow test will be carried out. It is envisaged that the work will take no more than four months, and the site will be cleared of equipment no later than the end of September this year.
West Sussex County Council granted Cuadrilla a planning permission to undertake this exploration work in 2010. West Sussex has a history of oil exploration and production. In 1986, energy company Conoco drilled an exploration well on the same site that Cuadrilla will use, which is situated half a mile from Balcombe village. According to DECC’s records, more than 50 oil and gas wells have already been drilled in the county.
If Cuadrilla finds oil or gas, a series of extensive technical, environmental and public consultations would take place before any further decisions are made.
The company has advised relevant parties, including Balcombe Parish Council, West Sussex County Council and the Department for Energy and Climate Change.
“Although this summer’s work will be unobtrusive, we’re fully aware that local people will have many questions about our plans and we’ll do our best to answer all of them,” said Francis Egan, Cuadrilla’s chief executive. “During the coming months, we will discuss our plans with residents and they will be able to visit the site to see for themselves what our work involves.”