Breaking: Drilling begins at Cuadrilla’s Lancashire shale gas site

pnr Cuadrilla rig Cuadrilla

The shale gas firm, Cuadrilla has confirmed that drilling began today at its site at near Blackpool.

The Preston New Road site at Little Plumpton will see the first horizontal shale gas exploration wells in the UK.

A spokesperson for the company said drilling began early this afternoon but was unable to give a precise time.

Drilling will continue 24-hours a day and the company has estimated it will be completed before the end of the year. Fracking is not expected to take place until December or early next year.

Cuadrilla’s spokesperson said the company would drill the pilot well vertically to about 3,500m. Samples would then be taken from the shale rocks. Based on analysis of the samples, Cuadrilla wold then decide where to drill the first two horizontal wells, which would be at depths of 2,000-3,500m.

pnr 170817 Frack Free Creators - Knitting Nannas Lancashire1

The Preston New Road site at about the time that drilling began. Photo: Frack Free Creators – Knitting Nannas Lancashire

A neighbour of the site said this afternoon she could hear the drilling from her home. “It sounds like an elevator going up and down intermittently”, she said.

An opponent of Cuadrilla’s operations described the news as “a sad day for Lancashire and democracy”. Lancashire County Council refused planning permission for the site but its decision was overturned after a public inquiry by the Communities Secretary, Sajid Javid. A case at the Court of Appeal will be heard at the end of this month.

A spokesperson from Preston New Road Action Group said:

“Preston New Road Action Group are bitterly disappointed that Cuadrilla have reportedly commenced drilling at the Preston New Road site, despite a legal challenge still being in progress.

“They seem to have a total disregard for the local community, despite on many occasions saying they wish to be good neighbours.

“Once drilling commences the local community is subjected to 24×7 drilling with the impacts that it is likely to have on their lives. As the rig was delivered during the night they have already breached planning conditions which does not bode well for the future.”

Friends of the Earth called on the Business Secretary, Greg Clark, not to give final consent for fracking at the site. The organisation began a petition this afternoon, which had reached almost 2,500 signatures by 5.10pm.

“It’s not too late for the government to admit it has got it wrong on fracking.”

Helen Rimmer, Friends of the Earth North West campaigner, said:

“The start of drilling means that local people will be subject to 24 hour noise, 7 days a week, from a fracking project that they don’t even want.

“Fracking is bad news for the local community, bad news for our environment and is the wrong solution to our energy needs.

“But it’s not too late for the government to admit that it has got it wrong on fracking and put an end to this risky industry before it starts. Now is the time for Greg Clark to show he’s serious about climate change and say no to fracking before it begins.”

Elisabeth Whitebread, energy campaigner at Greenpeace UK, said:

“As Cuadrilla’s drill works round the clock to bore a test well two miles deep, growing numbers of protestors will continue to oppose fracking. Residents are already reporting noise from the drill and are rightly concerned about the impact of new fracked gas on our climate.

“We already have more gas than we can afford to burn so this disruptive search for shale gas which would add to global warming is illogical. Is Theresa May really going to stand by and allow the launch of a new fossil fuel industry in the UK in 2018? That’s not the action of a climate leader.”

Gareth Redmond-King, head of climate and energy at WWF, said@

 “The Secretary of State should refuse permission for licences to frack until the companies involved can convince experts that this is part of a cleaner, greener energy future for the UK – one that respects people, nature and wildlife.”

In a statement released this afternoon, Cuadrilla 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.”

The site has planning permission to drill and hydraulically fracture a total of four wells.

pnr Cuadrilla control room Cuadrilla

Members of the Wensley family, which owns the Preston New Road site, pose in the control room on 15 August 2017. Photo: Cuadrilla

Today’s news coincided with an announcement by the company that it was releasing the first community benefit payment of £100,000.

Cuadrilla’s chief executive, Francis Egan, said in a statement:

“Today is an important milestone for the energy industry in the UK as well as the community in Lancashire.

“In addition to the jobs created, and the nearly £3million of investment that Lancashire has received to date as a result of our shale gas exploration, the local community will now also directly benefit.

“Following on from this Community Benefit Fund payment a consultation will now start with the community to decide how best to distribute the payment to good causes in the area.  We are very proud to be the first British onshore shale gas operator to make this happen.”

Cuadrilla said local residents would be surveyed by MES (Membership Engagement Services), an independent research, engagement and communications company, hon what the money should be spent on. The Community Benefit Fund will be managed by the Community Foundation for Lancashire.

Local residents will also be consulted on whether they wish payments for the other three wells to be paid into the fund or distributed to individual local households through a separate scheme. If these wells are also drilled, the fund would pay out another £300,000, the company said.

The industry body, UK Onshore Oil and Gas, established the community benefit fund scheme and welcomed Cuadrilla’s first payment. Ken Cronin, the organisation’s chief executive, said:

“I am delighted the first payment under our scheme has been made and look forward to hearing and seeing the interesting ways this money will be spent in the local communities over the coming months.”

Under the UKOOG scheme, communities will receive £100,000 for sites that host exploration wells where hydraulic fracturing takes place and 1% of revenue for those sites that produce commercial quantities of gas.

A spokesperson for Backing Fracking, which describes itself as a residents’ collective that supports shale gas extraction, said this evening:

“Lancashire has already experienced an influx of cash in the form of money spent with local suppliers, but it’s important that host communities feel the benefits more deeply for themselves. The £100,000 community benefit payment is a step in the right direction and will hopefully be put to good use.”

Lancashire for Shale issued this statement on 18 August:

“Lancashire For Shale welcomes this significant drilling milestone on the journey to delivering the economic benefits from shale gas to the people of Lancashire

“It is particularly noteworthy that the start of drilling has triggered the promised donation of £100,000 to an independent community benefit fund, for community projects to be agreed with local people. Cuadrilla is once again meeting its commitments.”

This post will be updated with more reaction as it comes in

Photo diary of how Cuadrilla’s Preston New Road site has changed 

64 replies »

  1. The local community should refuse the bribe of £100k. They can only continue to object to fracking if they refuse the bribe.

    • I disagree. The community should use the money to benefit the community. Fracking is so much less invasive than mining was, as it leaves the strata in situ.

      • Andrew………. [edited by moderator] try looking at the devastation in the USA caused by fracking..then say the same thing

  2. Well, Cuadrilla kept to their timetable given a while ago. Perhaps the drones have kept the nesting birds away?

    Seriously, I do hope the companies involved in these tests overcome competitive desires and do communicate closely with each other now the real work has begun. Having observed fracking testing elsewhere there is a need to fine tune according to actual experiences and sharing of that information, as it develops, would not only create efficiencies for the companies but also help with local dialogue.

    How will the media deal with this? There is obviously a media Remoaner sector at work which is trying to pour icy water on anything that could become a positive. This should give ample opportunity to see them at play (I suspect it will be fairly directly linked to political party lines.)
    Maybe part of the £400k should be distributed as a local supplementary, means tested, winter fuel payment?

    • If the support/opposition to fracking split down party lines you wouldn’t see the opinion poll results we’ve had.
      Our Conservative MP is (in theory) opposed to it.

  3. Hallelujah. Looking fwd to the results, fingers crossed they are nice and positive. Well done everyone for battling the anti brigade and coming through victorious 😀

    • I feel happy that my jousting partner GBK, has for ONCE experienced some happiness defending his beloved Fracking industry (( enjoy it wisely GBK, it could be very short lived. ))

      BUT PLEASE my good friend, let’s both spare a thought for the people that have to live though this nightmare . People like , Ms Dianna Westgarth who has seen £535,000 wiped of the value of her home.
      I’m sure if she was asked, she would of gladly pulled the £100,000 out of her own pocket and given it to the community.

      Please also spare a thought for all the other homeowners who have seen large chunks wiped of the value of their prestigious homes.

      Also lets not forget the homeowners who will now possibly struggle obtaining buildings insurance, as a direct result of fracking in their communities.

      Let’s also have a moment of reflection for Mr Mark Mills, who has had to deal with quote, ” extremely unpleasant ” Caudrilla workers.

      All this and more can be read here.

      I know you have a good heart GBK and I’m sorry to dampen your euphoria, but you should spare a moment to reflect on the problems faced by these poor souls.

      • Jack, if anyone has lost money personally due to the direct actions of the industry then it is only correct they are duly compensated. I do think when some of the scare stories of earthquakes and poisoned water are proved to be simply stories then the local house prices won’t suffer anywhere near the reported declines in value. I am not feeling euphoric quite yet, best wait and see what the results from samples yield.

        • GottaBkidding…………………………………………… you think poisoned water and earth quakes are not real from this dirty practice??? really?…. you need to do more research

      • Jack
        Do you know if Ms Westgarth sold her house and for how much?

        I am not sure where it is exactly, but a house in Little Plumpton sold for £665,000 in Aug 2014. Prices are holding up round the site ( see Zopla and Right Move) but some people would be put off, as they are by wind farms, biodigestors, solar farms, pig farms, industrial units and so on.

        The Mail report sympathised with those house owners blighted by wind farms!

        As you do not know how much your house is really worth until you sell it, maybe the reduction in house price reported in the Mail was not realised.

        • Well balanced and objective points you raise hewes62.
          I take note of what you say regarding where people would rather not live next to and I agree fully with all the places you mentioned.

          There is just one sting in the tail with the fracking industry, that is, insurance companies do not like the risk. Therefore people directly affected, possibly will find that they are uninsurable for certain buildings risks, or at least possibly find their insurance premiums will increase. (( This is something that certainly needs to be addressed.))

          No I’m sorry, I do not know the lady in question . I must admit I did raise my eyebrows when I read the article on how her home had been devalued by £535,000.
          Unless it was a very prestigious, substantially sized property with a value in the millions , the numbers quoted would , working of the value of other properties in the area, be a very high percentage of devaluation.

          (( For other readers , the links and newspapers from where this information was sourced is at the bottom of the page of the link I supplied in my above post.))

          With 928 registered followers on this forum, maybe someone else could throw some more light on this matter.

          • Jack I am awarding you the official title of ‘The most open minded anti’ well done. I wish there were more of you and we could have a reasoned debate with positive outcomes for everyone instead of us having to steamroll over opposition.

          • Jack
            Insurance is interesting. You certainly have to read the small print. Seems we are covered for floods, but not for contamination from farming pollution coming in as part of the flood.
            We think we would just claim for flooding and not mention the smell of manure. The good news is the council upraded the drains.
            I am not sure premiums would increase. There was no increase for people living near a COMAH site as I remember, nor next to chemical plants Humber South bank / N bank.
            If you live somewhere where there is a Major accident incident plan in place, expecting you to take specific action in the case of an event ( major explosion, flammable gas / toxic gas ), such as closing windows, staying indoors and awaiting further instruction on the radio, you would think you would pay a bit more insurance, but it seems not to be the case. Maybe the insurers expect the hazard owners to cough up if it goes wrong.

  4. If the objectors to fracking had existed in the18th century, when coal began to b used as a power source, the industrial revolution would not have happened. Would we have had electricity?

    • Sadly Robert, any objectors in the 18th century to being sent dow’ t’pit or did not want to breath in the fumes and smog would have been chucked out of their homes by the ‘landlords’ with no social help; starved to death……

      Lucky for us we are in the 21st century; unlucky for us the present government still living in the 20th century and reverting to practices employed by the ‘ruling mobsters’.

      The Industrial Revolution was not all that was portrayed in your school history books – it was only good for the few ‘elite’. It destroyed families and their traditional way of life; out of this emerged the crazed consumer and energy junkie.

      And yes we would still have had electricity:
      ‘Electricity is a form of energy and it occurs in nature, so it was not “invented.” As to who discovered it, many misconceptions abound. Some give credit to Benjamin Franklin for discovering electricity, but his experiments only helped establish the connection between lightning and electricity, nothing more.’

      Still we special four fifths of the populous will keep on going regardless 🙂

  5. I would suggest the best use of funds would be to spend the £100k opposing fracking, such as funding appeals and legal challenges, as well as covering fines and court fees incurred on the protesters.

  6. Based on success to date of your suggestion James, the winner would be Mr.Wolfe, the loser would be the community and nothing else would change. I trust the real community have better suggestions.

  7. Interesting to see Prof. Underhill’s comments reported by BBC just before Cuadrilla start drilling! Co-incidence? Just watching BBC 6pm news to see if drilling starting is reported, certainly not showing on text. Eventually, they will have to but don’t expect it to be quick.

    Someone at the Beeb is playing a silly game and seems to be willing to ignore the complaints already lodged. Maybe they are too busy comparing salaries to bother with being a bit circumspect. The Wolfe of Wall Street (he should own most of it now) may find another client. Goodness, the employment fracking creates is endless.

    • The BBC has taken a strong anti stance on fracking which is of zero surprise. Their report from one geologist could not be more biased if they tried. It is sad the way it has declined in quality.

  8. Weĺl. It’s now up ro Cuadrilla to show if they are up to the challenge and crack the code of uk shale geology.

  9. Great news! In the end the only way to understand the geology in the context of shale gas, or any other deep subsurface resource is to drill, sample, measure and test.

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