Yesterday Cuadrilla held another virtual tour of its Preston New Road shale gas site for online viewers (DrillOrDrop report). Lee Petts, environmental consultant and managing director of Remsol, recently had a real visit to the operation. In this guest post, he gives his impressions of the site near Blackpool.
My company, Remsol, worked with Cuadrilla some years ago when we researched, identified, tested and proved a safe and effective method of treating flowback wastewater that arises in the fracking process. We also compiled environmental permit applications for its Becconsall, Anna’s Road and Grange Hill sites. Although we no longer provide environmental services to Cuadrilla, I remain supportive and am a member of the Steering Group at Lancashire For Shale.
The tour was fascinating, and although I was only there as a courtesy, I was still able to cast a practiced eye over the operations, based on 21 years experience as an environmental consultant.
It’s a lot different than you’d imagine and nothing at all like the stories that circulate on social media.
The most noticeable aspect was how eerily quiet it was compared to my expectations.
They were drilling when I visited, and it was a lot quieter than I remember it being at Becconsall and Anna’s Road. No matter where I was on site at PNR, I didn’t have to raise my voice or strain to hear what my host was saying.
It was especially quiet behind the sound wall that has been erected (see picture at the start of this post) – a few metres beyond it and all you can hear is the traffic on Preston New Road and the M55. It’s incredibly effective. The sound of the engines that drive the drill, and the pumps that circulate drilling mud used to cool and lubricate the drill bit were quickly inaudible thanks to the noise barrier.
Cuadrilla appears to have really taken local noise concerns seriously. For instance, the speed of the drill is reduced at night so that noise from the ‘top drive’ is lowered. Internal metal gates even have foam pads on to stop them clanging when they’re closed.
It’s also paid a lot of attention to preventing pollution. Tanks that store fluids like diesel, for instance, are double-skinned to make them more resilient and sit inside what’s known as a ‘bund’ – although it’s hard to see this from aerial images. This means that in the unlikely event that these tanks were to spring a leak, any spills would be captured there before they could get onto the pad itself. Small containers, such as 45 gallon drums, are stored on portable bunds. These are all examples of recognised good practice.
I’ve seen people express concern about the pad ‘flooding’ during heavy rain, but this just shows that the impermeable liner installed underneath is doing its job – if it weren’t, then you wouldn’t see standing water.
The pad is also lower than the surrounding fields and surrounded by an earthen bund made from soil extracted when constructing the site and piled-up around the perimeter, which means that when people say they can see evidence of fluids leaking off the site and onto farmland in the direction of the Wensleys, for example, this just can’t be true; if anything, liquids would be more likely to run-off the fields and onto the pad (although the design of the pad prevents this too). Again, it’s a bit hard to see this from drone footage.
Overall, I found it very well run by people that have clearly been listening and responding to genuine local fears.
I know that there will be some people reading this that still don’t want shale gas exploration to go ahead in Lancashire, and I get that, but hopefully they and others will take some comfort from hearing that’s it’s being done right.
Do you live or work near Cuadrilla’s Preston New Road site? DrillOrDrop would like to hear what impact the operations have had on your life.
Categories: guest post