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Cuadrilla has completed exploratory oil drilling at Balcombe
An energy firm which carried out controversial exploratory oil drilling in a village has completed its work and is expected to clear the site by the weekend.
Cuadrilla has started removing its equipment from the site in London Road, Balcombe, after more than two months of operations which involved the drilling of a vertical exploration well to a depth of 2720ft, collecting 294ft of rock samples on the way, a spokesman for the firm said.
The drilling has seen thousands of anti-fracking protesters 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 £2 million.
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 spokesman said.
The well confirmed the presence of hydrocarbons, which can be used for fuel, and further testing will be needed to determine flow rates, he said.
Andrew Quarles, Cuadrilla's Exploration Director, said the well had been a success and that findings so far had been "encouraging".
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.
"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."
Sussex Police has been overseeing the encampment of dozens of activists outside the exploratory oil drilling site and ensuring deliveries make it into the area for the past two months.
Anti-fracking protesters blocked the road with a van and a woman locked herself to the top at 11am today as vehicles started leaving the site.
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".
Policing costs have also soared to more than £2.4 million, leading Sussex's police and crime commissioner Katy Bourne to ask the Home Office for financial help.
West Sussex County Council went to London's High Court last week asking for a possession order for the verges where the camp is set up.
But Mrs Justice Lang adjourned the application after describing it as "flawed", with the result that if the council does not apply to restore it in a new form by October 8, it will be either withdrawn or dismissed.
The council accepted the court's decision but said the camp was unsafe beside a busy rural road with a 60mph speed limit and which is unlit at night.
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