Gasland Screening, 22nd Feb, Forest Row

22nd FebGasland, Forest Row, 22nd Feb, 7.30, Freshfield Hall

A chance to watch the Oscar-nominated Gasland – the film that lifted the lid on the evils of hydraulic fracturing. Come to learn more & discuss this alarming threat to our ecology & our community.

Controversial company Cuadrilla has planning permission to perform hydraulic fracturing at Balcombe. The borehole is ¾ mile from Ardingly Reservoir and ½ mile from the Sussex Ouse, both of which contribute to Forest Row’s drinking water.

There are worldwide concerns about contamination of groundwater caused by the toxic chemicals (many of them carcinogenic) that are used in the fracking process.

Cuadrilla has already carried out test fracking in Cowden and is seeking permission to start work in Lingfield. Another company, Magellan Petroleum, has license blocks right across the Weald, including Ashdown Forest.

You can download Posters here and Flyers here

Forest Row, 22nd Feb, 7.30, Freshfield Hall

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61 towns block fracking in New York State

The anti-fracking movement in the United States is gaining in strength and numbers. In New York State, 21 towns have declared bans; a further 40 have declared moratoria; 35 have movements for a ban or a moratorium (see here for an interactive map).

Dozens of municipalities have adopted zoning ordinances that remove natural gas exploration and extraction from the list of permissible land uses within their borders.

Numerous citizen-led organisations – such as Sustainable Otsego, Committee to Preserve the Finger Lakes, Chenango Community Action for Renewable Energy, Gas-Free Seneca, Catskill Citizens for Safe Energy, Catskill Mountainkeeper (and many more) – have led the fights against the hydraulic fracturing industry.

Sandra Steingraber, a biologist and scholar-in-residence at Ithaca College, termed the movement “the biggest since abolition and women’s rights in New York.”

And in local elections last November, scores of anti-fracking candidates, many of whom had never before run for office, displaced pro-gas incumbents in positions as town councilors, town supervisors and county legislators.

The movement centres on legal moves to give municipalities the power to prevent the gas industry operating within a town’s jurisdiction. In the small town of Ulysses, for example, councillors were opposed to fracking, but couldn’t see how to prevent it. Activists, however, recognised that if enough registered Ulysses voters signed a petition, the board would have the popular backing it needed for declaring a ban.

A six-month-long door-to-door campaign followed, and when 1,500 out of 3,000 registered voters signed the town council voted to ban fracking.

The movement centres on unpaid volunteers, sometimes putting in thousands of hours, to oppose the fracking industry. On the other side, billion-dollar corporations flood the airwaves with pro-gas ads.

The industry has not had things all its own way, however. When New York State Dept of Environmental Conservation issued new draft guidelines for the industry, they received 40,000 objections. Agency officials had told the New York Times they didn’t know of any other issue that had received 1,000 submissions. Anti-drilling submissions outnumber those of drilling supporters by at least ten to one. A meeting to implement the guidelines was cancelled when thousands of activists rallied outside the building.

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Balcombe MP appointed Cuadrilla director to government

Balcombe MP Francis Maude

Balcombe MP Francis Maude appointed Lord Browne, a director of Cuadrilla Resource Holdings Ltd, to the Cabinet Office in June 2010.

The Cuadrilla executive ‘works closely‘ with the cabinet office board, chaired by Maude, in his role as ‘lead non-executive’.

On appointing Browne, Maude said: “his experience will be a real benefit to make Whitehall work in a more businesslike manner”.

In January Maude visited Balcombe to talk to consitutents concerned about hydraulic fracturing in the village. Those who attended described the MP as ‘non-committal’.

At the meeting, Maude failed to disclose his association with a senior member of the Cuadrilla management team, nor their close working relationship.

Browne joined Cuadrilla four months before his appointment to government. In one of his many roles he acts as Managing Director of Riverstone LLC – in February 2010 Riverstone invested 27m in Cuadrilla and Browne and two other Riverstone executives joined the Cuadrilla board. He was instrumental in hiring the current head of UK operations, Mark Miller.

Cuadrilla director Lord Browne

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Europe against Fracking – a continent says: NO!

The last six months has seen anti-fracking sweep Europe. In an extraordinary upsurge of citizen-led pressure, European governments, state legislatures, civil liberty groups, activists and residents have all taken up arms against the hydraulic fracturing industry.

Grassroots organisations have staged marches, legal challenges, hundreds of public meetings and many direct actions in response to this unprecedented threat. And this remarkable collective anger has scored a series of victories – including bans, moratoriums and revoked licenses.

The anti-fracking movement is spread continent-wide – from the Atlantic to the Black Sea sea. And with no wells in production and only a handful under exploration, big Oil and Gas is finding it increasingly difficult to root fracking into the European pscyhe.

France – Moratorium
In France, the government issued two exploration licenses to Schuepbach Energy and one exploration license to Total last year, valid for a period of five years. In May 2011, the government banned hydraulic fracturing on the basis of environmental concerns.

For a while, it appeared that shale exploration could proceed using conventional techniques, and Total stated in September 2011 that it would explore without the use of hydraulic fracturing, according to Reuters. Those hopes were dashed on 4 October 2011 when the government cancelled the three exploration permits issued in 2010, citing drilling plans recently submitted by Shuepbach and Total which still included hydraulic fracturing.

No exploratory drilling had been accomplished on the permits. On the same day, President Sarkozy has stated that France would not permit hydraulic fracturing until it is proven to be “environmentally clean.”

Read more here. Know of groups in France? Send details to our facebook page and we’ll update this piece accordingly.

Germany – Westphalia Moratorium
In Germany, ExxonMobil has been drilling vertical study wells since 2008, completed four exploratory shale wells by January 2011, and previously had planned for investment of $1bn over the five years to 2015. However, the state of North-Rhine Westphalia instituted a moratorium on further shale-gas drilling in March 2011. A history of politically active environmental groups in Germany may continue to hamper exploration progress.

Know of groups in Germany? Send details to our facebook page and we’ll update this piece accordingly.

Holland – Legal challenges
A court in the southern Dutch city of Boxtel recently ruled that a temporary planning for an exploratory borehole was invalid. THe judge ruled that exploratory wells are by definition not temporary – if gas is discovered the intention is to extract it.

This landmark ruling against UK fracker Cuadrilla sent shivers up the fracking industry’s spine – without the ability to secure temporary plannings it’s difficult to see how frackers can perform the exploratory testing required.

See more here. Know of more groups in Holland? Let us know via our facebook page and we’ll put them here.

Bulgaria – Exxon licence revoked
In January 2011 thousands of people took to the streets of Sophia and other major cities to demand the governement ban hydraulic fracturing. The opposition – largely organised on Facebook – forced Bulgarian MPs to vote overwhelmingly for a ban

Bulgaria became the second European country after France to ban exploratory drilling.

See more here (in Bulgarian, you’ll need Google Translate). Bulgaria! Send us details of your anti-frackers via our facebook page and we’ll put them here.

United Kingdom
Since a series of direct action at the country’s first test rigs, fracking is looming large in the national conciousness. Activists have increasingly joined forces with local residents, and the mood in the UKs ruling party is said to be swinging against the industry.

Poland & Ukraine – pushing ahead
Poland perhaps represents the most aggressive environment for shale-gas development as the government aims to reduce its reliance on Russian gas exports. Prime Minister Donald Tusk has indicated that commercial production could begin as early as 2014, and expects that Poland may be self-sufficient in natural gas by 2035.

According to Reuters, ExxonMobil has six licenses and is now planning a second test well near Siennica, while state-owned PGNiG holds 15 shale concessions and is planning to drill six test wells in 2012.

The industry is not unopposed, however. In the autumn activists occupied a Shale industry conference, and are increasingly vocal.

Poland – send details of your anti-fracking groups and, yes, we’ll put them here – our facebook page.

In Ukraine, the first shale-gas exploration contract was awarded to Royal Dutch Shell in September 2011. On 30 September, the state energy company, Naftogaz, signed a preliminary agreement with ExxonMobil on shale-gas exploration and development. Energy and Coal Minister Yuriy Boyko believes that exports of shale gas could be possible in the next seven to 10 years.

Ireland anti frackers – see here

Send details of anti frackers in Europe to our facebook page and we’ll update this piece accordingly.

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Cuadrilla documents: Balcombe water vulnerable to fracking

A Cuadrilla report into the Lancashire earthquakes of summer 2011 show fracking fluid disrupted a previously unknown fault. This fault then caused the earthquakes. A similar inability to find faults under Balcombe would lead to a pollution of Sussex’s groundwater.

The report summarises that the cause of the earthquakes was frack fluid injection into this unidentified fault plane: “it can be concluded that direct injection into the fault induced the seismicity”. (p50).

An objective of the report was “Evaluation of potential for upward fluid migration” (p52). Here the report concludes “in the worst case, the fluid could migrate upwards along a potential fault plane by 2,000 ft”.

In its own report, therefore, the company admits both that it is unable to identify fault planes, and that these faults may extend 2000 ft upwards.

In terms of Balcombe, Cuadrilla’s estimates that the water table sit at a max depth of 1000 ft (see 6.3.11 of the company’s submission to parliament). The company intends to frack at 2667 ft.  An upward migration of 2000 ft, therefore, runs through the aquifer and within 667 feet of the surface.

A similarly unidentified fault in Balcombe, therefore, would clearly pollute Balcombe’s water supply.

The company rightly claims that the geology is different in Sussex. The point remains, however, that the earthquake-causing fault was unidentified. As Tony Ingraffea  (Professor of Rock Fracture Mechanics at Cornell University) notes, ‘Fracking has always been unpredicatable, always will be’.

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Company documents contradict Miller’s ‘We have no intention to frack in Balcombe’

At Wednesday’s meeting at the Victory Hall in Balcombe, Cuadrilla CEO Mark Miller repeatedly stressed Cuadrilla had no intention to frack at the company’s site in Balcombe.

Despite intense audience scepticism and the Alice in Wonderland thinking of a company renting a site then claiming to have no intention of doing anything with it, evidence remained anecdotal – the existence of the planning application. No indication of intention.

Recently unearthed documents, however, show Cuadrilla’s clear ambition to frack.

In 2010 parent company AJ Lucas issued a ‘drilling activity update‘ for the Australian Stock Exchange. The document states: “following the completion of the drilling at Grange Hill 1 hole (in Lancashire), it is CHRL’s (Cuadrilla Resource Holdings Limited) intention to drill and frac a well in the Bolney prospect located in south-east England’

‘Bolney’, south of Balcombe, refers in this context to the company’s PEDL 244 license block, and includes both villages.

So while the document is dated 13 Oct 2010, it reveals that at some point in the past Cuadrilla had a specific intention to frac the south east. Since then the company has spent nearly $1/2 million on preparing the site, according to documents filed at Companies House. Exactly why Miller is insistent that there are no plans to frack Balcombe remains unclear. But the evidence against him is mounting up.

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Press and media coverage of Balcombe fracking meeting

Telegraph –
Guardian –
Mid Sussex Times –

TV & Radio links (links may not work for too long)
Meridian News –
BBC Radio Southeast –


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Earthquake firm plans to frack 500 feet below Sussex water supplies

(sources: Appendix C, Caudrilla’s Balcombe planning permission & Cuadrilla’s submission to the Select Committee on Energy and Climate Change)

Earthquake firm Cuadrilla plans to extract gas from Balcombe just 500 feet below the local aquifer.

Drilling documents (see p12 of the pdf) reveal the company plans to test frack at just 1831 feet – 831 feet from the company’s deepest estimate of water supplies. The company says fractures extend up to 300 feet (see 5.6.11 of the document), bringing the gas-bearing cracks to within 531 feet of water sources.

Drilling documents supplied with Caudrilla’s Balcombe planning application show the company intends to test the Portland Beds, 1627 to 1831 feet below the village. Also contained within these documents are the provision to ‘stimulate’ – a euphemism for fracking.

In its submission to the Energy and Climate Change Select Committee in June 2011, the company claimed that fractures caused by fracking extend 200-300 feet from the borehole (others claim they can extend much further).

In the same submission the company estimated that aquifers reside at a maximum depth of 1000 feet.

So 1831-300-1000 = 531 feet below the aquifer.

A key ambition in their submission to parliament was to convince MPs that fracking did not threaten water supplies. Referring to the company’s sites in Lancashire, the company stated: “the shale geological formations where fracing takes place tend to be located at depths of at least 5,000 feet below the surface ” and “there are thousands of feet of impenetrable rock between shallow water aquifers and fractures created by the fracing process.” (see 5.6.11 again)

Not so in Balcombe. With the US EPA recently finding aquifer contamination from a well of similar depth in Pavilion, Wyoming, Cuadrilla’s plans in Balcombe look more and more reckless.

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About the Balcombe Lower Stumble drill site

The drilling licence at Balcombe is called ‘Petroleum Exploration and Development Licence (PEDL) 244’ and is owned by Cuadrilla Resources Ltd and their parent company, AJ Lucas.

Cuadrilla also owns a subsidiary company, Bolney Resources. Bolney’s 2010 Director’s Report states: ‘exploratory and appraisal works have commenced’ within PEDL 244; indeed, between 2008 and 2010 the company spent 320,000 USD on site preparation. Lower Stumble is the only site Cuadrilla and Bolney are developing within PEDL 244.

According to reports filed at Companies House, in 2010 Bolney Resources paid 16,000 USD to ‘lease land and and buildings under operating leases’.

While the Lower Stumble site has been drilled before (by Conoco in 1986), Cuadrilla propose a new technique that is different in 3 important ways:

1. Horizontal Drilling – the borehole will extend horizontally as well as vertically. Horizontal drilling can extend several miles.

2. Injection of water at extremely high pressure – in the US the largest fracking site requires a pumping capacity of 40,000 horsepower – equivalent to 400 Ferraris at full throttle.

3. Use of lubricants to smooth the water – even at this high pressure friction in the pipe requires chemicals to lubricate the water and smooth its passage.

Today’s planning permission is a legacy of a previous management at Bolney and Cuadrilla. In February 2010 a major new investor bought 40% of the company and a new board was installed. This new team inherited the planning application, then still being decided by WSCC. The County authorities granted the application two months later.

The current CEO of Bolney and Cuadrilla, Mark Miller, on took over the helm seven months after planning permission was granted.

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Fracking new development in long Sussex drilling campaign

Wildcatters have regularly drilled the Sussex chalk to search for fossil fuels. Most operations were looking for oil, although a few have drilled for gas. It was only recently, however, that technological advances made hydraulic fracturing – and the shale gas it releases – possible.

In 1936 a company named d’Arcy drilled four exploratory boreholes in Pevensey and two more in Lewes. D’Arcy returned in the 1950s, this time concentrating in Ashdown.

The region was drill free until 1984 when US operator Conoco arrived. The Lower Stumble site at Balcombe was drilled between 19 September 1986 and 20 March 1987, part of a Sussex campaign that started three years previously. The company drilled 11 test wells including at Rotherfield, Ringmer, Wineham & Ashington. None of the wells revealed significant oil reserves.

Since then almost every year has seen a driller’s rig erected somewhere in the East or West Sussex. Singleton has been drilled 16 times (today a small facility there produces between 600 & 800 barrels a day) while Storrington eight. Companies have ranged from one-man bands to multinational explorers. Cairn energy – made famous by this year’s Greenpeace campaign to stop the company drilling in the arctic – dropped their bits in Singleton in 1995. Esso drilled one hole in Bolney (south of Balcombe) in 1963, never to be seen again.

Today the biggest license holder in East and West Sussex is Magellan Petroleum. In November 2010 the company discovered oil at Markwells Wood in West Sussex and a production rig arrived at the site on September 6 2011. While the company is not yet drilling for shale gas, Magellan has identified considerable shale resources around Soutwater, Alford, Rogate and Bordon – see p 14 of Magellan’s recent presentation to investors.

Cuadrilla Resources, meanwhile, holds two licences in the area (via subsiduary companies Bolney Resources and Tanglewood Resources). Cuadrilla is the only company to have gained planning permission in the area. Granted in April 2010, appendix C of the planning application gives the company a provision to use hydraulic fracturing at Lower Stumble, 1 mile south of Balcombe.

Click for a map of all UK onshore licences –

Smiley face

Or here for a database of all UK onshore wells drilled since 1902

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