Cuadrilla says full production at Balcombe 'unlikely'

Balcombe protest Protesters have gathered outside the gates of the site for the past 17 days

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Energy firm Cuadrilla has said its exploration site at Balcombe in West Sussex is "unlikely" to become a full production location in the future.

A protest has been ongoing at the site for 17 days in opposition to test drilling for oil.

The company told the BBC that while Balcombe is "ideal" for exploration, other sites' better transport links are more suited to producing oil.

A six-day action camp by No Dash For Gas is due to start at the weekend.

The current test drilling has been met by demonstrations over fears it could lead to hydraulic fracturing, also known as fracking.

Analysis

Cuadrilla said the site is ideal for exploration as it has previously been drilled in 1986 and is in the centre of its licence area in the region.

But should it proceed to production of oil in its licence area in the future - a decision which is possibly some years away - it believes there are likely to be other sites which are better suited because of transport and infrastructure requirements.

The company will only say the site is "unlikely" to become a production site. It is not giving any guarantee.

It is also not ruling out using hydraulic fracturing or fracking in the exploratory well at Balcombe in the future - something which both campaigners and the local parish council oppose.

On Monday, Prime Minister David Cameron urged the country to get behind fracking saying it would reduce energy bills and create jobs.

BBC industry correspondent John Moylan said the company stated it was "unlikely" that Balcombe would become a full production site, however, it would not give any guarantee.

He added that Cuadrilla has not ruled out using fracking in the exploratory well at Balcombe in the future.

However, this would require further planning permission.

'Not wanted'

Protest group No Dash For Gas plans to hold a six-day action camp in Balcombe starting on 16 August.

The group, which previously forced the closure of a Nottinghamshire power station, expects up to 1,000 people to attend.

In response, Balcombe Parish Council has published an open letter on its website saying the group is "not wanted".

In it, the chairwoman of the council, Alison Stevenson, wrote: "Balcombe strongly opposes any actions which may be taken which involve civil trespass and/or illegal acts.

Aerial view of site Cuadrilla said a decision over whether it would proceed with production was years away

"If the No Dash for Gas group is coming here in the full knowledge that it intends to break the law then it should stay away."

A spokeswoman for the action group said: "There are no plans to break the law... but civil disobedience does result in people getting arrested sometimes.

"We can understand the parish council's anxieties... but we have no plans for violence."

In October and November 2012 members of the group occupied two 300ft (90m) chimneys at the EDF Energy gas-fired facility at West Burton in Nottinghamshire.

Twenty one people were charged with aggravated trespass after the sit-in, with 16 receiving community orders and five being conditionally discharged at Nottingham Magistrates' Court.

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