A Greenpeace volunteer writes on the plaque of West Sussex County Council County Hall in Chichester [Credit: Greenpeace]

Shale firm to appeal council's exploration refusal

A shale company is lodging an appeal against a county council decision to refuse it permission to explore for oil and gas.

West Sussex County Council's planning committee refused the application by Celtique Energie for oil and gas exploration near Wisborough Green, a conservation area just outside the South Downs National Park, in July.

The refusal was welcomed by local campaigners and environmentalists who feared that the exploration would lead to the controversial process of fracking for oil or gas.

The county council said it turned down the application because Celtique did not demonstrate the site represented the best option compared with other sites, it had unsafe highways access and would have had an adverse impact on the area.

The company has now said it is lodging an appeal with the Planning Inspectorate, claiming the council's reasons for rejecting the application were "fundamentally unsound".

Geoff Davies, chief executive at Celtique Energie, said: "We are firmly of the view that West Sussex County Council has not followed the spirit or the letter of Government policy or good practice in dealing with this planning application, which is totally compliant, comprehensive and of high quality.

"Therefore we have no option but to lodge an appeal with the Planning Inspectorate, for it to take a fair and objective view. From our detailed studies we believe that this is an optimal location to undertake exploratory drilling to quantify the amount of untapped oil or gas resources present in this part of the Weald Basin, which we think has the potential to be nationally significant.

"Therefore, securing planning permission to explore at this site is essential if we are to prove how significant this resource could be for the country."

Celtique also had an application turned down to drill a temporary well to test for oil and gas in the South Downs National Park, near the village of Fernhurst, West Sussex. The company has not yet made a decision on whether it will appeal against that decision by the South Downs National Park Authority.

A Greenpeace UK spokesman said: "The verdict from the Sussex authorities was crystal clear – they simply don't want the pollution and disruption from 24/7 fracking operations in their beautiful county.

"By appealing their decision Celtique are simply banging their heads against a brick wall. Fracking is a threat to the environment, a setback for efforts to tackle climate change, and a dangerous gamble with our energy security.”

The decision comes a day after a new study conducted by five research teams from the US, Germany, Austria, Italy and Australia showed that the global boom in shale gas exploitation could increase greenhouse gas emissions by as much as 10 per cent by the middle of the century.

Using computer simulations to predict what the world might be like in 2050 with and without a natural gas boom the researchers forecast that market forces were likely to trump the beneficial effects of burning less coal.

Abundant supplies of natural gas were predicted to lead to lower prices, ramping up overall energy consumption and hence emissions.

Increased gas production could end up squeezing out renewable energy sources such as wind and solar power, it was claimed, and reliance on fracking would also be accompanied by higher emissions of the powerful greenhouse gas methane from drilling leakages and pipelines.

Co-author Dr Nico Bauer, from the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research in Germany, said: "The substitution of coal is rather limited and it might also substitute low-emission renewables and nuclear, according to our calculations.

"The high hopes that natural gas will help reduce global warming because of technical superiority to coal turn out to be misguided because market effects are dominating. The main factor here is that an abundance of natural gas leads to a price drop and expansion of total primary energy supply."

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