The shale gas company, Cuadrilla, has published environmental monitoring data from its Preston New Road site near Blackpool.
A website, described as an e-portal, gives details of measurements of the quality of air and ground and surface water from monitoring stations around the site. There is also information about the times that heavy goods vehicles enter and leave the site.
Campaign groups opposed to operations at Preston New Road described the portal as a PR exercise and said they had no reason to trust Cuadrilla.
The portal is currently showing data January 2017 (when site work began at Preston New Road), as well as February and March 2017. Cuadrilla said the information would be updated monthly. See the final section of this post for some of the findings.
The company said data on noise would be added when drilling began, expected by June 2017, and seismic monitoring when fracking started.
“Local concerns shaped site”
Cuadrilla said the design took into account the views of local people consulted during the planning process for the site.
Francis Egan, CEO of Cuadrilla, said:
“After listening to local people’s views we are pleased to provide an easy to use online ePortal. This will allow the public access to the environmental monitoring data that we are gathering to assure the local community that our operations at Preston New Road are being conducted in an environmentally responsible manner. We are the first onshore oil and gas operator in the UK to launch an initiative such as this.”
The pro-fracking group, Backing Fracking, tweeted:
“What an excellent idea: @CuadrillaUK is making environmental monitoring data available online via an ePortal.”
“No reason to trust Cuadrilla”
Frack Free Lancashire responded to the website:
“We are delighted that Cuadrilla are acknowledging the requirement for measuring the impacts of their activities on the local community. However, we are concerned that we seem to be seeing yet another example of the regulatory bodies allowing Cuadrilla to mark their own homework.
“This appears to be yet another PR exercise to try to convince the public that they are trustworthy. It is now five months since Cuadrilla announced that they would be updating a “community tracker” every three months, yet the last update was on November 30th.
“Based on their performance so far, we have no reason to trust Cuadrilla’s half-hearted attempts to portray themselves as a concerned and responsible operator”
Roseacre Awareness Group said:
“Residents will take a lot of convincing as Cuadrilla have a poor track record to date, with multiple planning breaches at their other sites and a failure to deliver on their promises. Confidence and trust in them is very low.
“This is only a small exploratory site, with relatively low volumes and extended processes and timescales. What will happen in a full-scale production scenario with hundreds of super pads, with thousands of wells, all across the country being drilled by many different, and possibly less responsible, operators? This is a densely populated country and any environmental impacts could have a devastating impact.
“Accidents will happen. No amount of monitoring can prevent earthquakes, blow outs, spillages, etc.
“The bottom line is onshore unconventional fossil fuel extraction is not compatible with our Paris climate change agreement no matter how Cuadrilla ‘dress it up’. Scientists say fossil fuels should be left in ground and we should be investing in clean renewable energy.”
According to the data on the portal, the highest number of heavy goods vehicles visiting the site so far has been in February, followed by January and March.
The data suggests that as work has progressed at Preston New Road Road, HGVs have been arriving and leaving earlier. HGV movements also appear to have become more spread out throughout the day.
The traffic management plan requires Cuadrilla to register and record all HGV arrivals and departures in half-hour periods. The data, however, is provided in hour slots. It is, therefore, not possible to see from the e-portal if any vehicles arrived before 7.30am or after 6.30pm. These are the time limits set in condition 19 of the planning permission.
According to the portal, particulates at one of the monitoring stations exceeded the baseline figure in March for two types of particulates PM2.5 and PM10. The baseline is described as the peak reading for the same monitoring locations from May 2014-May 2015.
Based on Cuadrilla’s charts, the baseline for PM2.5 is about 13ug/m3 but measurements in March were more than 25ug/m3. The measurement for MP10 in March was about 42ug/m3, compared with a baseline reading of about 41. All the other measurements were below the baseline.
Surface and ground water
In January, the level of diesel at on of the surface water monitoring stations was above the baseline. And in March, methane in groundwater at one monitoring station in the geological strata, Middle Sands, was almost at the peak baseline readings. All the other measurements were below the baseline.