Updated: Council says Cuadrilla breached planning condition by delivering rig to Lancs shale site overnight

pnr 170727 Frack Free

Cuadrilla’s Preston New Road shale gas, 27 July 2017. Photo: still from drone picture by Frack Free

Cuadrilla breached conditions of its planning permission when it brought the drilling rig into its site near Blackpool early this morning, according to Lancashire County Council.

The authority said it was writing to Cuadrilla and considering what action to take after the company announced today the drilling rig had arrived at its Preston New Road site.

The planning permission, granted in October 2016 by the Communities’ Secretary, Sajid Javid, included a condition which limited lorry movements to the period 7.30am-6pm Monday to Friday, except public holidays. (Link to decision document)

DrillOrDrop understands that sections of the drilling rig were brought onto the site in containers in a convoy at about 4.15am today. A small number of campaigners outside the site at the time reported they were surrounded by police and unable to prevent the delivery.

In a statement, Lancashire County Council said:

“We’re currently investigating the vehicle movements which we understand took place overnight and are in breach of planning permission.

“We are writing to the operator requiring them to put measures in place to prevent a recurrence, as well as considering what further action to take.”

Cuadrilla’s chief executive, Francis Egan, said:

“With the recently increased, aggressive protest activity outside our site in Lancashire, directed by London based Reclaim the Power, we decided, following consultation with the Lancashire Police, to take delivery of the rig in the early daylight hours of the morning.

“This was done to avoid yet another major road blockage by protestors with the attendant prolonged inconvenience to local road users and potential impacts on commuter and protestor safety.”

The company said it fully co-operated with the Council’s investigation.

Supt Richard Robertshaw, of Lancashire Police, said in a statement:

“As a result of Cuadrilla’s decision to carry out deliveries in the early hours of this morning, a policing operation was put in place to ensure safety and to minimise disruption to the local community, particularly given recent increased protestor activity at the Preston New Road site which is still on-going.

“A contraflow has been in place on the road for the past two days due to protestors climbing on top of seven trucks, four of which were moved on successfully during this morning’s operation. Police are still currently dealing with the other three.

“Our aim as always is to ensure is a consistent and coordinated policing response and ensure a balance between the rights of people to peacefully protest, together with the rights of the wider public, including local businesses, to go about their lawful activities.

“We aim to prevent, where possible, crime and disorder, but if it does occur we will provide an effective, lawful and proportionate response.”

An opponent of Cuadrilla’s activities said:

“We do feel that this will strengthen our fight because they have gone out of the permitted hours.”

See also reaction at the end of this post.

First UK horizontal shale gas wells

In a statement this morning, the company said the rig would be used on the first two horizontal shale gas wells to be drilled in the UK.

Mr Egan, said:

“We are very pleased to have taken delivery of the drilling rig to our shale gas exploration site.

“The drilling of the first horizontal exploration wells into UK shale rock will be an important milestone in unlocking a vital new source of natural gas for the country.

“With the decline of North Sea gas and our ever increasing reliance on gas imports, including shale gas imported from the US, developing an indigenous source of natural gas is critical for UK energy security, our economy, jobs and the environment.

“We are proud as a Lancashire company to be at the forefront of that effort.”

The company said it would begin drilling in August. The first borehole would be a pilot well to about 3,500 metres deep. Samples would be takenat various levels within the shale rock to decide where best to drill the horizontal wells.

The first two of four horizontal wells permitted at the site would then be drilled at depths of between 2,000m and 3,500m, the company said.

A spokesperson said:

“There is no precedent in the UK on how long the horizontal wells through the shale will take to drill however Cuadrilla currently estimates these will be completed before the end of 2017.”

Opponents of Cuadrilla’s activities said police escorted a large convoy into the Preston New Road site at about 4.15am today.

DrillOrDrop understands the rig was transported in sections in containers and will be constructed on site.

Cuadrilla’s original plan was for a 52m rig. But a condition of the planning permission, approved by Communities’ Secretary, Sajid Javid, in October 2016, was for a maximum height of 36m (more details).


Frack Free Lancashire

““We understand that early this morning, Lancashire Police facilitated Cuadrilla bringing in a mass convoy of equipment onto the site at Preston New Road, under the cover of darkness and in direct contravention of the planning conditions.”

“We note that Mr Egan has claimed this week that his project is “progressing to plan”. However, even if Cuadrilla have managed to get their drilling rig onto the site it is hard to see how they will be able to start drilling in the second quarter of 2017 (as their web site still claims under latest news), unless they have managed to get a time machine onto the site at the same time.

“It is abundantly clear that community protest has had a major impact on Cuadrilla’s attempts at making progress at this site and it will continue to do so.

“As Cuadrilla’s work on this site intensifies and its predicted impacts start to be felt, our protest will continue, as is our legal right.”

Lancashire For Shale

“Lancashire For Shale congratulates Cuadrilla on achieving this significant milestone in the journey to deliver a new source of natural gas supply for the UK and to ensure that Lancashire in particular benefits from the resultant opportunities, jobs and investment.

“It is time now for the national protesters to accept that shale gas exploration is a reality and necessary for our country’s energy security.  They need to move on from their unnecessary protests and lock-ons, which are achieving nothing, except causing dismay and disruption to the local population.”

Friends of the Earth

 “We have repeatedly heard about this supposed shale gas revolution, but so far the fracking industry has only stalled while opposition has increased.

“Despite the best efforts of the industry to convince us otherwise, two thirds of people in Lancashire are still against fracking. We know that it’s too late for it to even be viable as a bridging technology, and it is deeply unpopular because it will be a bad deal for Lancashire.

“Friends of the Earth is standing with the people of Lancashire to oppose fracking and call instead for investment in the industries of future – technologies that will bring jobs – and meet the challenge of climate change.

“Democracy hasn’t counted for much in Lancashire and we won’t just lie down and be a test case for an industry that has been stopped around the UK and the world due to the risks. A piece of machinery may be on site but the only thing that’s changed is opposition will get stronger as the community vows to keep fighting.”

Greenpeace UK

Elisabeth Whitebread, energy campaigner, said:

“The arrival of a fracking drill in rural Lancashire marks a new stage in the industrialisation of our countryside for the shale gas we don’t need. In defiance of its promises on climate at the G20, and despite huge losses run up by the fracking industry to date, the UK is still doing all it can to push forward this unnecessary new fossil fuel industry.

“Lancashire said no to fracking, but the government overruled the democratic process and gave Cuadrilla the go ahead to frack for gas. The first drill may be going in, but the fracking firms know that their industry is on its last legs in the UK. The government should take a fresh look at this industry’s poor financial track record, listen to the public, stick to its international climate commitments and call an end to this dirty industry for good.”


84 replies »

  1. Paul, if LCC knew why are they now investigating said breach? According to Police on ground it was facilitated by Police in collusion with Cuadrilla.
    Perhaps you need to come along to the site, or is it too far?

    • Just up the road. Why would I come down, I am not in the habit of protesting / preventing a company going about it’s lawful business. LCC are investigating “said breach” to keep you and your chums happy. But I still think someone would know inside LCC. Excellent drone footage of the site showing the big rig from John Houston which keeps me up to date (posted on the Angus page).

      • Yes great idea to have Planning for truck movements during the day to hold up people going about their business.It’s pointless bringing equipment to site at 4.15 am when it doesn’t cause any traffic jams!

  2. SL-because that is what they are obliged to do. Maybe they were not informed, if the police were concerned about the security of the information. Maybe they were, if that was not the case.
    Either way, it is of no consequence as the protestors actions over the last few days will show that this needed to be the police to decide. If there had not been so many arrests then it might be different. I think it is known as “crime prevention” and has worked out absolutely as that.
    You knew this day would come. The concern seems to be that it has come so easily. Well, maybe some will now realise why the police and Cuadrilla were not too unhappy to see the actions and arrests escalating. Play the long game and let the other side rack up the fouls.

  3. Cuadrilla consulted with the police, and as the law enforcement agency for Lancashire County Council, the Lancashire Constabulary endorsed the overnight traffic movements. The planning permission restrictions on vehicle movements are designed to cause least disruption to residents – under normal circumstances. However due to the persistant adolescent antics of the protestors, and the massive disruption they have caused to the majority of people who lawfully wish use a public highway for which it is designed and is their right to use safely, effectively, freely – yet denied to them by the protestors, a pragmatic decision was made. The spirit of the law is more important than the letter- that is an eternal truth. I do hope that LCC will take account of the context of Cuadrilla’s technical breach and encourage the police to arrest protestors prevent the public from being able to go about their lawful business. I also hope that such people are fined heavily so that some of the huge costs to local government can be recovered. I would also like the NGO’s who fail to condemn the sabotage, bullying and intimidation that is clearly evident see the error of their ways. If not I hope the Charity Commission investigates their behaviour and, if appropriate, pursue whether additional legal proceedings should be considered against them.

    • You may have forgotten, the people of Lancashire said no to fracking, we are not NIMBYs or professional protestors as you make out.
      We are concerned citizens, concerned for our environment, air quality, water quality and food supply. We don’t want a toxic industry that has developed a very toxic relationship with the environment and communities in North America.
      Fracking has led to earthquakes, sink holes, poisoning of watercourses.

      Fracking is unlikely to deliver any of the benefits Cuadrilla claim, with so much public oppostion and collapsing share prices, with heavy losses combined with falling costs of renewable energy it’s curtains for the Fracking industry.

      Fracking will never happen in Lancashire, Egan can blast all he wants, but the reality is it’s game over.


        As you can see in the video the cops told me if I had any questions I was to ask Cuadrilla and LCC in the morning why I had been illegally detained. Muppets.

  4. looking at the picture at the top of this article it’s becoming increasingly obvious what a horrible mess is being made in the fylde countryside and this is before any drilling has happened and reservoirs of contaminated water have appeared 😦

    • It’s just the beginning hrb. If all goes (flows) well you can look forward to one of these (probably enlarged) at all intersecting points on a grid of parallel lines spaced about every 2 miles in one direction and 4 miles in the other – or as near to that as practically possible – ultimately with all pads (like this one) interconnected with gas pipes. They’ll work towards 20 wells per pad in clusters, drilled 4 or 5 at a time, with more coming later. Of course it will start with more distantly spaced pads that are relatively close to mains injection points so the public won’t notice much at first. But by the time the plans become obvious (objectionable as they are) I expect the economics will have undermined the whole scheme, whether advancement by stealth was going to work or not.

    • Unfortunately no real evidence has emerged that fracking has caused anything like the incidents you describe without attribution. You might also like to consider that the BGS, a world renowned body has stated categorically that the shale deposits in the UK are vastly different to those in the US and that our procedures are also far far more stringent that this in the US.

      • Please qualify how shale layers can be ‘vastly different’ here (or their physics and mechanical properties), and state how you think the approach would be anything other than long laterals (probably in the order of 2 miles) and HVHF techniques that are those proven to get the yields the industry needs to turn a profit Richard.

  5. And back round the old circle! “Everyone (yeh, right) knows this is a Ponzi scheme, everyone losing money, absolutely uneconomic-here and in USA- but the whole of Lancashire is going to be industrialised and covered in wells and pads, earthquakes and contaminated water will abound!”

    Whoever thinks that convinces anyone who is researching this topic “can’t be right in the head.” This is seen by the undecided for the nonsense it is. It is a comfort blanket for the antis and no more, and is simply repeating the message to keep those converted energised. I know you won’t believe me, and that is irrelevant but I can assure you I have spoken to some who have looked at this site as part of their attempt to become more educated on the subject and that is the consensus.

    When you have quotations from like thinkers stating what the economics will be, who a few weeks ago were stating that fracking in the USA was failing economically, when all the statistics were showing it was booming, it really is expecting the unconvinced are a gullible bunch. If it wasn’t for the Trump era the UK population might not be familiar with fake news, but they are now, so, good luck.

    • Lets see how your calculations on well counts and pads sites stack up Martin, based on available and current knowledge. My estimates are even on the light side based on the potential yield of deep (and thick) shale layer(s). You’ve shown that you understand the oil industry but where’s your homework on shale gas? – please demonstrate it. Mine is independent and thorough but I must say that Tina Rothery and Mike Hill come closer to the truth than you or Paul Tresto who just keep side tracking. How on earth do you think the government has been persuaded that their are to be massive returns to be made, and potential energy security, if it’s not based on full-scale exploitation of the target shales. Why else would they authorize such confrontational tactics with local democracy? Have you never seen how those pipe plans saturate the shales? which brings me back to my challenge to you to show your calculations or prove mine faulty.

      [One correction at poster’s request]

  6. the picture at the top of this article is not fake news it shows what a mess cuadrilla have caused in the fylde already with with much much more intended

  7. This is a TEST site hrb. What will be (future tense) will depend on the results of the TEST. The rest is speculation and as such, is fake news. Speculation is neither fact, or news.

    There is no more mess to this site than any site where construction is underway eg. building of houses, supermarkets etc.

    Have you visited an existing UK on shore oil well, or gas extraction site? There are plenty around for those who want to DTOR. There are also a few around that have been abandoned and landscaped. But they are the inconvenient facts for the antis who will ignore and possibly post some film from overseas, but that is a cop out- try examining how ships are dismantled in certain parts of the world (plenty of film), would you then suggest this is how it would be done in UK?

    Comfort blankets for the antis, no more than that.

  8. Even made BBC Breakfast which showed the ‘business’ as the bully in typical left wing fashion. BBC is dying and Sky is booming, go figure.
    All we need are the photos of the protestors and they lose all credibility. I’ve yet to see one non stereotype.

  9. Try talking to the people in Aberdeen John. You know the ones, like the oil workers being re-trained as men’s hairdressers. Or the ones trying to sell houses, with huge negative equity.

    Try listening to people like Jim Ratcliffe. He has been investing quite heavily in N. Sea but he makes it quite clear that his calculation is that it is declining. Doesn’t mean he will not invest if assets become available, but it also means he will invest in ships to transport gas from elsewhere and in UK shale development.

    Keep on selecting the data. It seems the only way to make the economics work for the antis.

    UK tortoise shale-plodding along but will win the race. Anti-frackers-hare today, gone tomorrow.

  10. So today’s announcement by Cuadrilla is basically a statement that by deliberately breaching planning conditions Cuadrilla have succeeded in preparing to commence the destruction of the farming and tourism industries of the Fylde Peninsula!

    Well done to the them, well done to Lancashire Constabulary and well done to Lancashire County Council! Numerous requests for removal of planning conditions and the facilitation of the early morning drill convoy mean the health, wealth and happiness of the residents of the Fylde Peninsula is now in serious danger!

    You are a disgrace to humanity! We will not forget!

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