Cuadrilla’s bid to change rules for Lancs shale gas site raises concerns about “intensified fracking”

pnr 170623 flood Katrina Lawrie10

Preston New Road, 23 June 2017. Photo: NED

The shale gas company, Cuadrilla, is being urged to explain why it is seeking changes to the environmental permit for its site near Blackpool.

The Environment Agency announced yesterday that Cuadrilla had applied to vary the permit for Preston New Road, where drilling is expected to start imminently.

The company wants to make changes to the maximum limit of fracture fluid that can be used and to the duration of flaring during initial well tests.

Friends of the Earth said today

“Cuadrilla needs to explain exactly why they are proposing this intensification and what the environmental impact of these proposals will be for Preston New Road and the surrounding area.”

A public consultation on the changes is now open and runs until 3 August 2017. There are 18 application documents, totalling 842 pages. Link to consultation page and documents

Hydraulic fracturing at Preston New Road had been scheduled for September but according to the company’s most recent accounts it is now expected towards the end of this year. Well testing, which also involves flaring, is scheduled for the first half of 2018.

PNR 20170612 from video by Lady Bones 4

Photo: Lady Bones

Volumes of fracking fluid

The current environmental permit, granted in 2015, allowed Cuadrilla to pump up to 765m3 of fracture fluid a day during the fracking process.

The company has now asked to change this to a maximum of 765m3 per fracture stage. The application documents state that there will be 30-40 fracking stages for each of the planned four wells.

The Non-technical summary suggests that multiple fracture stages could be carried out in a day:

“The Environmental Risk Assessment has been updated to account for multiple fracture stages per day. Conducting multiple fracture stages per day would not require any change to the current controlled measures.”

A spokesperson for Friends of the Earth said:

“It seems clear that the purpose of this variation is to allow Cuadrilla to conduct multiple fracture stages per day. Friends of the Earth believes that this represents a potentially significant intensification of Cuadrilla’s proposals for Preston New Road.”

A spokesperson for Cuadrilla said the limit of 765m3 per fracturing stage had been consistently proposed.

“As the operation progresses there may be more than one fracture stage per day but the limit per fracture stage does not change”.

pnr 20170612 Ros Wills1

Photo: Ros Wills

Flaring duration

Some opponents of Cuadrilla’s operations are also concerned about the company’s application to change the maximum duration of flaring for individual wells.

Permission is in place to flare gas 24-hours a day during initial flow tests, which measure the composition and flow rate of gas in the well.

The original permit allowed Cuadrilla to flare for a maximum of 90 days or 2,160 hours per well.

Cuadrilla now wants to change this limit to a total of 360 days for the whole site.

The maximum daily volume of gas that can be flared would stay the same at 130,000m3 as would the total duration of flaring. Cuadrilla has said the proposal would give it flexibility to increase the amount of flaring for individual wells, without increasing the overall duration.

The application said:

“The amount of data which can be gathered within the first 2,160 hours (90 days) of initial flow testing may be insufficient to verify that the natural gas arising will meet the requirements of the gas grid operator for acceptance of natural gas into the gas network.

“For this reason it may be necessary to continue flaring at a given well for in excess of 2,160 hours (90 days) in total, but subject to a maximum aggregate of 8,640 hours (360 days x 24 hours) flaring for all wells at the site.”

The Air Quality Assessment, one of the documents in the application, suggested flaring could be continuous. It said:

“The proposed development comprises two enclosed ground flares for treating the natural gas produced during initial flow testing, and could potentially operate continuously for 360 days of the year in a worst-case scenario change.”

A company spokesperson said an air quality emission assessment had identified no significant impact. Cuadrilla aimed to limit flaring to as short a period as possible.

But one opponent said the previous flaring plan had assumed that wells would be drilled over a period of perhaps three or four years, spreading out pollution, including flaring emissions. He said:

“Now what is proposed is a vastly accelerated drilling, fracking and testing schedule, which – perhaps incredibly – squeezes the expected three or four years into one.

“This totally alters the parameters that were assumed for the granting of the planning permission by the Secretary of State and as understood by the inspector”.

The opponent suggested this change may be the company’s response to direct action protests outside the site and would put increased pressure on regulators.

DrillOrDrop asked Cuadrilla whether it was proposing to accelerate the flow testing process and condense continuous flaring into 360 days. The company has not responded.

Other changes

The application also seeks to change the way seismic monitoring information is collected. The existing permit proposes a buried micro-seismic array. Cuadrilla wants to replace this with seismic equipment in an offset well.

Another variation adds an extra groundwater monitoring borehole to the list in the permit. It also proposes to remove the requirement to purge the boreholes before sampling for dissolved gases, in line with a British Standard.


Environment Agency consultation and link to documents

Updated 8/7/2017 to correct date of original permit to 2015. Link original permit information  and to correct two typographical errors

26 replies »

    • Nothing in all the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity. Martin Luther King, Jr.

    • I presume you don’t live around the Fylde Frack pad fibonacci09?
      These demands to relax planning regulations are par for the course in the fracking industry. Just another kick in the wotsits for local residents waved through by weak planning authorities and the toothless Environment Agency both of whom are supposed to keep residents safe from harm!
      Nearest primary 1 mile downwind from the frackers pad by the way

  1. Lol. Look like Cuadrilla is changing its mind again. Maybe under pressure and give in to the protesters. They are also under pressure from suppliers side too. Not looking good for rhe operation managers.

  2. Cuadrilla’s demise cannot come soon enough – money grabbing assholes.. For years our area has been saying Frack Off – with luck one day it will actually happen and I won’t have to go through further earthquakes or worry daily about the pollution infesting our water so badly it can be set on fire. Anyone who believes this process is safe is burying their head well and truly in the sand and ought to get properly informed. I’m disgusted and ashamed of our Government.

  3. Whatever happened to Ken Wilkinson and Paul Tresto’s (non-flaring) green completions? Gold standards falling at the first hurdle.

    Let’s see, at 220 gallons a cubic meter that’s just under 7 million gallons for a 40 stage frack. I expect it will be nearer 10 million but with returning fluids recycled for following fracks, so the overall average is lower.

    Two miles or 9000ft horizontals (at least) plus drop of shafts per well I’d say … anyone care to guess?

    You need quite a cocktail of (viscosity-lowering and other) chemicals to drive the sand/slurry/fluids that far and keep the pressure up. Will they be revealed?

    No scare-mongering , just inquiring btw. But it would be a good idea to move the cattle away from the pad and those marling ponds.

    • PS – just saw that there’s quite a lot of info provided via the link – without having to go through the consultation loop. Looks like they’re medium length horizontals for the test phase, but still around 9000ft overall (including the drop).

    • [Edited by moderator]

      Just keep in mind that the longer the lateral and the more wells per pad, the smaller the above-ground footprint and the less intensive the operation (in energy equivalent basis). Pretty tough to make an “industrialization of the landscape” argument with two mile laterals, huh Philip?

      • [Edited by moderator]

        Thanks for confirming my 2 mile lateral hypothesis (which I think they’ll get around to if these tests if they meet expectations). It makes perfect sense, as I’ve already said, to reduce surface sprawl. We’re on the same page then.

      • First two horizontal test wells now less than 800 metres. Don’t want too much pressure early days now do we Cuadrilla?
        By the way it’s nearly August 2018 and they’re still not fracking! All that propaganda just for the Investors and Government facilitators!

    • No scare mongering my ass .

      You know full well that the chemicals used are covered by REACH and other regulations and that Cuadrilla disclose on a well by well basis .

      Implying that there is a UK equivalent of the “Haliburton Loophole” is just mischief making .

  4. All part of the Frackers guidebook! Start small and gentle, get permission, increase the duration and intensity, minimise objections by pre-bribing influencial groups and linking with them.
    Then gradually increase the scale of operation and damage done before selling out or going bankrupt!

    • The UK has some of the toughest ABC laws in the world. If you have evidence that companies are “pre-bribing influential groups” then you should inform the police or the board of the company concerned.

      • Oh and threatening local businessmen and County Councillors with big financial losses too by all accounts!

  5. Strange how a guidebook is written before anything takes place! Not sure that would be a best seller, probably one that would be on the shelf next to splitting the atom in your back-garden guidebook.

    • Do you honestly think that the government is taking such risks over-riding local democracies on the basis of a complete set of unknowns Martin, or that the millions put up for the explorations are about inventing a new wheel from scratch (with no formula and therefore no expectations)?

      • Philip the government know full well the damage proven to be done in mature fracking zones! They don’t care because they and their corrupt friends think they can turn a profit! They are wrong after legal claims for health, commercial and property damage have been deducted!

    • [Edited by moderator]

      Fracking, conventional and unconventional, has been carried out for decades! That is why the horrendous toxic results are proven beyond any doubt whatever!
      Frackers tactics are also predictable starting with gentle discussions, moving to donations and bribes, then to empty promises of massive payouts to cooperating suppliers, landowners and politicians!

      • See my earlier comment; if you have evidence of bribery you should report it to the police or to the board of the company.

  6. Apart from one previous, curtailed attempt, at horizontal fracking in UK, none have happened in UK. Many have happened in other countries, with different conditions and regulations, and all that I am aware of have happened without problems. However, that is all irrelevant to the UK, (so, no need to Giggle) so hardly a fertile ground for a guidebook yet-even a very small one. (Yes, PhilipP-a new wheel- the clue is in the name, not from scratch but still a new wheel.)

  7. That’s a bizarre response Martin – effectively saying, as an Oil and Gas man, ‘I don’t know’. I think people should know, and should be told what i going to happen if these fracks are successful and I see no reason for Cuadrilla to have gone as far as this if that isn’t exactly what they are hoping for. Plans will have been drawn up and discussed in detail well in advance of what is happening now. Pity they didn’t invite you in on the plans but I can give you a pretty good idea of what they’ll look like – based on solid research.

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