Protest as tests start at Balcombe oil site

Protesters gathered in Balcombe today after an oil company moved onto land in the village to start testing a controversial oil well.

Worried villagers and mums gathered in protest as oil firm Angus Energy started to prepare the site at Lower Stumble for exploration.

Protesters at the Balcombe oil site SUS-180918-142834001

Protesters at the Balcombe oil site SUS-180918-142834001

Hundreds of protesters set up a large roadside camp in the summer of 2013 when Angus’ associates Cuadrilla first drilled the site.

This time Angus has obtained a court injunction on a four-mile stretch of road from junction 10A of the M23 through the village as far as the site. The injunction threatens protesters with arrest if they block the road or impede entrance to the site.

Angus Energy has previously insisted there will ‘never’ be hydraulic fracturing - fracking - at the site. And, it says, there will be no drilling during current tests.

But villagers remain worried. Mum Helen Savage, who works as a teacher, said: “We are here on behalf of our children to remind both the industry and government that we said ‘no’ to an oil company in our village.

“The village has voted ‘no’ to this work on more than one occasion and there were thousands of objections to the work going ahead. It makes a mockery of democracy. The government may sign up to climate change deals but essentially it is prioritising oil and gas developments over renewables.”

Villagers say they expect the ‘flow test’ to begin next week which, they say, will involve the injection of acids into the rocks at pressure to dissolve the rock and release oil trapped inside.

According to Balcombe mother-of-three Kathryn Metcalfe: “Acidising will subject our village to similar risks and pollution to fracking: potential water pollution, inevitable air pollution from machines and flare, toxic waste.

Another concerned mum - Jules Harding - said: “I’m really worried about the effect on the primary school, I’ve got three kids there - will asthma/cancer rates go up? It’s very worrying. I have no confidence that there will be adequate monitoring.”

Sue Taylor from Frack Free Balcombe Residents’ Association said: “It broke my heart to see the beginning of the industrialisation of this beautiful part of the Sussex countryside.”

Angus Energy says its flow test will examine production capability and the quality of any oil. The test will be performed and completed over seven consecutive days.

It says that the acid technique used is “exactly the same method for cleaning water wells. We use the very same diluted acid to clean the well bore to eliminate impurities such as lime-scale and fine particles.

“Any acid used during the process for cleaning the well bore will be fully reacted or neutralised and removed from the well. Fluids produced from the well will be stored on site until it is removed for disposal at an appropriate facility.

“Campaigners have recently amplified its use, even though the same method for conventional oil production has been used for water wells for over 100 years.”