A controversial oil drilling operation in West Sussex is winding down as the owners confirm the presence of hydrocarbons.
Caudrilla has begun moving equipment off site and is expected to clear it by the weekend after more than two months of operations, which involved the drilling of a vertical exploration well to a depth of 2720ft and collecting 294ft of rock samples, according to a spokesman for the firm.
The well confirmed the presence of hydrocarbons, and though the spokesman said further testing will be needed to determine flow rates, Andrew Quarles, Cuadrilla's exploration director, said the well had been a success and that findings so far had been "encouraging".
The drilling saw thousands of protestors opposed to the controversial method of shale gas extraction known as fracking, which Caudrilla has used at other sites but not this one, turn up and camp outside the gates of the site sparking a police operation which has lasted more than two months and cost more than £2m.
Cuadrilla chief executive Francis Egan said: "The well is now closed off for the coming months as Cuadrilla applies for planning permission to come back and test flow rates.”
Cuadrilla has also carried out a set of advanced petrophysical logs, which provide valuable data about the characteristics of the underground rock and the fluids contained in those rocks.
A horizontal well of 1,700ft was also drilled just south of due west under the Balcombe estate, using geosteering technology, through the middle Kimmeridge Micrite, a band of limestone rock within the Kimmeridge Clay Formation, the company’s spokesman said.
Egain said: "We appreciate that the Balcombe community has had to bear the strain of protest, as have our on-site and support team and contractors. We commend West Sussex County Council and police for both facilitating peaceful protest and preserving order."
Police have warned that there is likely to be on-going disruption this week while the West Sussex site is cleared.
A spokesman said up to 20 vehicle movements a day, which have to be escorted in and out by police to reduce the risk of them being delayed even further by protesters, could be necessary to clear the site.
Superintendent Lawrence Hobbs said: "This is once again causing significant disruption to the local community at a time when there are increased vehicle movements as the site is being prepared for closure."
More than 100 arrests have been made since July, including that of Brighton Pavilion Green MP Caroline Lucas during two days of "direct action".