Balcombe protests: Cuadrilla vows not to frack site

Anti-fracking protesters block lorry at Balcombe on 12 September 2013 More than 1,000 activists set up camp at the height of the protests during the summer

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Energy company Cuadrilla has told residents in Balcombe it will not frack for oil "now or in the future" at its site near the West Sussex village.

Hundreds of anti-fracking protesters from around the country gathered at the village during the summer amid fears Cuadrilla would carry out fracking.

The company said it had found oil at the site, but the nature of the rock meant fracking would not take place.

It still plans to test the site's oil supply suitability using flow testing.

Flow testing is work to check the quantity and rate at which oil flows to the surface.

Residents said they did not believe Cuadrilla and also added they opposed any form of exploration for gas or oil in the village, whether fracked or not.

New planning application

The energy firm's chief executive officer Francis Egan said Cuadrilla had last year expected to and did find oil in the micrite rock, which is a type of limestone.

"However, without testing we cannot be sure at what rate the oil may flow to the surface," he said.

But explaining that fracking would not take place, he added: "Based on our analysis of the samples we obtained from the exploration well, we can confirm that the target rock underneath Lower Stumble is naturally fractured.

"The presence of these natural fractures and the nature of the rock means that we do not intend to hydraulically fracture the exploration well at Lower Stumble now or in the future."

Police officers guard the entrance to the drilling site in Balcombe

Mr Egan said West Sussex County Council would hold public consultation on a new application to carry out flow testing and residents would be kept updated throughout the process.

More than 1,000 people set up camp at the height of the protests in August.

Nearly £4m was spent on policing demonstrations at the site.

A statement issued by No FiBs (no Fracking in Balcombe Society), said every new oil and gas planning application now avoided the "f" word.

Protest 'alive and kicking'

It said flow testing by Cuadrilla would be a precursor to fracking and the fracking would be done by another production company.

Resident Juliette Harris said: "The protest is alive and kicking."

Frack Free Sussex said Cuadrilla was trying to lull people into a false sense of security.

Brenda Pollack, from Friends of the Earth, said: "While residents will undoubtedly be relieved that Cuadrilla has ruled out fracking at its Balcombe site, the community still faces the prospect of significant industrial activity on its doorstep.

"Local people will want more information about Cuadrilla's plans and the potential impacts on their community and environment."

Alison Stevenson, chairman of Balcombe Parish Council, said everyone would be given a say on Cuadrilla's latest plans for the well

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