Sussex/Surrey Not Covered By Fracking “Pause”
If you live in the South East of England there is no fracking “pause”. Exploration of Shale Gas in the North of England maybe somewhat affected by it, but fracking for Shale Oil in Sussex/Surrey is not covered in any way. Despite all the hype in the media, the fracking “pause” that has just been announced by the UK government, does not cover an awful lot. Even if it is not almost immediately reversed, the only thing which is being paused is the issuing of hydraulic fracturing consents, so building sites, drilling wells and quite a lot of testing is not covered. All this means that while waiting for the “pause” to end, it will still be possible for the fracking industry to push forward in a lot of areas. Technically even some moderate sized hydraulic fracturing jobs for shale gas are still allowed by this “pause”, and the typical size of frac jobs for shallow shale oil means they completely exempt from any consent.
But in Sussex and Surrey, where the industry is targeting the shallower Kimmeridge Clay shale layer for shale/tight oil, there are no practical constraints on hydraulic fracturing at all. The shallow depth of the formation and the fact that the target is oil, both of which mean lower volumes of hydraulic fracturing fluid are needed, combine to mean that the volumes the industry require are below those that require any specific consent. The Kimmeridge Clay is often compared by the fracking industry to the Bakken Shale. Typical frac jobs in the Bakken (where over 15,000 wells have been drilling to date) use about 2 million gallons of fracking fluid per well, below the limit (2.64 million US gallons) that would require a hydraulic fracturing consent. The Kimmeridge Clay is also considerably shallower than the Bakken, so it likely that Kimmeridge Clay hydraulic fracturing would use less 2 million gallons.
In the UK the Infrastructure Act 2015 is the only law which places much restriction on fracking. However, the act sneakily creates its own definition of “associated hydraulic fracturing”, which only applies to shale, or adjacent rock, and only if the volume of the frac stages are greater than 1,000 cubic metres or the total size of the frac job is over 10,000 cubic metres (2.64 million US gallons) per well. The hydraulic fracturing which Cuadrilla Resources has trying Preston New Road in Lancashire (up to 41 stages of 764 cubic metres per well) falls well above this limit, and requires a consent. But it is note worthy that the volumes that Cuadrilla actually managed to pump, which caused numerous earthquakes, did not rise above the level for which a consent would actually be needed. In Sussex/Surrey it is unlikely that the industry would ever require fluid volumes above the 2.64 million gallon limit and so would not be constrained in any way by this “pause”. However, these lower volumes do not necessarily mean lower impacts, as the injection would be much closer to the surface than in Lancashire.
Fracking Threat To The Weald
The fracking of large swathes of Sussex and Surrey for shale/tight oil is a growing threat with four major test sites already drilled and a fifth planned. In West Sussex, Broadford Bridge near Billingshurst and Balcombe have already been drilled, while in Surrey
The combination of these developments poses a significant fracking threat in the Weald Basin, threatening not only the local communities near these sites but the whole of South East England. Fracking companies, principly UK Oil and Gas Investments (UKOG), Angus Energy and Europa Oil & Gas are drilling these test wells into the Kimmeridge Clay shale formation, and are now pushing forward with plans to flow test the wells for unconventional tight/shale oil. This is just the beginning of attempts to finance much larger plans to frack whole swaths of Sussex and Surrey. Exploitation of tight oil would mean drilling hundreds or thousands of wells across large areas of Sussex and Surrey.
These developments are part of a plan to frack the Weald, coating a large part of Sussex and Surrey, in thousands of wells at typical densities of 4-8 wells per square mile. The companies presently involved do not have the billions needed for this however, and are currently involved in gathering data to facilitate such investment. If this creeping drilling and testing is not vigorously resisted the consequences for communities across Sussex and Surrey will be dire. The Kimmeridge Clay shale layer is the main unconventional oil target in the Weald Basin, but the deeper Lias shale is also a potential target for unconventional exploitation.
See Fracking The Weald: The Growing Tight Oil Threat for more details. If you would like to take action or form a group in your area we can help with a pack of guides and publicity, just email: firstname.lastname@example.org. See below for a video outlining the tight oil threat in this region: