Rule change approved for Cuadrilla’s shale gas site despite fears of intensified fracking

PNR 171203 Ros Wills4

Cuadrilla’s Preston New Road shale gas site, 3-4 December 2017. Photo: Ros Wills

Cuadrilla has been allowed to change controls on fracking and flaring at its shale gas site near Blackpool.

The Environment Agency announced yesterday that it had approved variations to the environmental permit on the volume of fracking fluid and the duration of flaring.

Friends of the Earth has opposed the changes for the Preston New Road site, saying they could lead to more intensive fracking and more lorry loads of potentially radioactive waste on Lancashire roads.

Volume of fracking fluid

The original permit, grated in January 2015, allowed Cuadrilla to pump 765m3 of fracture fluid a day.

Under the change, the company could pump up to 765m3 per fracture stage. Cuadrilla has confirmed that it could carry out multiple fracture stages in a day.

Friends of the Earth said the change could intensify fracking at the site, with no limit on how many fracking stages would be allowed daily.

It had called on the Environment Agency to undertake a full assessment of treatment techniques available to process the waste flowback fluid on site to minimise the volume of potentially radioactive waste that would be transported on local roads.

The organisation also said there were discrepancies in Cuadrilla’s figures for flowback fluid and, as a result, the number of tankers needed to transport it. Tanker movements could top 2,000 if the company was unable to reuse some of the fluid, Friends of the Earth said.

But the Environment Agency wrote in its decision document:

“There is no increase in risk to groundwater associated with this change. The maximum quantity of waste flow back fluid that can be stored on site has not been changed and remains at 3,000 cubic metres.”

It added:

“In the event that the operator [Cuadrilla] could not somewhere to take their waste, the operator would have to take the necessary measures to ensure that no further waste of this type is generated until alternative treatment/disposal routes were in place.”

The EA also said:

“Any increase in vehicle movements that may result from this change would be managed by the operator in accordance with their planning permission and would be regulated by the local authority.”

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Cuadrilla’s Preston New Road shale gas site, 1 December 2017. Photo: Ros Wills

Flaring duration

The original permit allowed Cuadrilla to flare waste gas during the initial flow testing phase for 90 days for each of the four proposed wells.

The variation permits the company to flare for a total of 360 days for the whole site.

In its decision document, the EA said the change allowed Cuadrilla to be more flexible. The company could spend more time testing the earlier wells without increasing the overall duration.

The EA said the change would not result in harm to human health or the environment.

According to the decision document, an EA screening exercise had concluded that the “predicted environmental concentration of each pollutant modelled is not expected to exceed 70% of the applicable environmental quality standard and as such and EQS breach is considered highly unlikely.”

The EA said Cuadrilla would have to maintain a daily flaring register, recording each day on which flaring of any duration took place, up to a maximum of 360 days. Cuadrilla would have to include its proposed seven-day commissioning periods for the two proposed flares within the 360-day total.

The EA added that the actual environmental performance of the flare would now be monitored, instead of the previous scheme which relied on monitoring by calculation. There would also be “strict” annual emission limits for oxides of nitrogen, carbon monoxide and total volatile organic compounds, the EA said.

Fracturing plans

Under the revised permit, the EA said it required a separate hydraulic fracturing plan for each individual well, rather than one plan for all four wells. It said:

“This will allow the Environment Agency to scrutinise and review each stop of the process as operation proceed on site.”

It would also allow Cuadrilla to update and refine subsequent hydraulic fracturing plans, the EA said.

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Cuadrilla’s Preston New Road shale gas site, 1 December 2017. Photo: Ros Wills

Flaring plan and procedures

The EA said Cuadrilla must produce an updated site plan showing the location and designation of the two proposed flares before flaring could start.

The application for permit variations did not include detailed operational procedures and controls for the flaring activity, the EA said. Cuadrilla must also provide these procedures for approval before flaring.

Seismic monitoring

The permit changes allow Cuadrilla to monitor any seismic events using downhole seismic geophones. The original permit required an array of monitors on the surface.

The EA said the variation would result in more accurate information. While one well was being fracked, an adjacent well could be used to monitor fracture growth, it said. .

Cuadrilla had agreed to use the government’s traffic light system for seismic events from 4 weeks before injection operations to 2 weeks afterwards, the EA added.


The EA said odour was “not considered likely to be an issue” because the site was 250m away from what were described as “the nearest sensitive receptor”.


The EA said:

“Noise and vibration are not considered to be an issue due to the design of the flare, the rural location of the site, the distance to the nearest receptor … and the level of background noise”.

In response to concerns about noise, the EA said:

“In the unlikely event that the activities give rise to pollution due to noise and vibration outside the site, a noise and vibration management plan be requested.”


The EA said it was satisfied that appropriate measures were in place to prevent environmental accidents that may cause pollution. If there were an accident, the consequences would be minimised, the EA said.

Trust and competence

The EA said some people who took part in its consultation on the permit changes were concerned about Cuadrilla’s competence and its lack of transparency when dealing with the public.

Four permit breaches have been recorded against the company since operations began at Preston New Road in January 2017.

But in its decision document, the EA said:

“We have no reason to think that they [Cuadrilla] would not comply with permit requirements and conditions.”

People who took part in the consultation also said Cuadrilla had not explained the scope of the changes and that the information was different from that in the planning application. But the EA said it was satisfied there was sufficient detail to decide to vary the permit.

The EA said it received 189 responses to the first public consultation on the permit changes, ending in August 2017. There were 33 responses to its consultation on the draft decision which closed last month.


Environment Agency decision document on permit variation (11 December 2017)

Revised permit EPR/AB101MW (11 December 2017)

Environment Agency documents about Cuadrilla’s Preston New Road site

70 replies »

  1. This really is a non issue for the public. So a bit more fluid will be injected, maybe several stages a day. So what? All of the issues have been looked at and there are none. If it makes the job go better, then why not?
    Protesters are concerned that this will be the end of the world as we know it? Thats not new is it.

    • It seems it’s not just Lee Petts who has been Cuad suckered? It seems the entire EA are deep under the hypnotic sway of the dark hooded monetary black magicians?

      “You are getting sleepy…..” Perhaps while the EA somnambulate on a diet of positively puerile parliamentary replies and fossil fuel brown envelope opiates, whilst the real threat has been sitting inside the oily boardrooms plotting and scheming.

      It is the people of this country who are waking up to the lies of the company spies who crow darkly: “all is well, go back to sleep” and “fear not our glorious corporate leaders will save you from the scary slavery of self determination, freedom and democracy!” “just trust us and love us, that is all we ask?”

      Time to wake up and smell the roses folks, before the roses, white and red, wither and die with the rest of us.

    • More fluid injected suggests more waste, suggests more HGV movements, suggests changes needed to traffic management plan. Clearly a none-issue. Just like the none-issue of more intense flaring and more pollutants per hour wandering off downwind to wherever. Just like the none-issue to ensure the frack progression is being observed to ensure energy and fluid isn’t wandering off down faults by use of the micro seismic array.

      • It’s actually good news that they are now going to use downhole geophones. Why? Because surface arrays give rubbish data compared to downhole geophones.

          • Correct. Downhole geophones give much better data. Read Norm Warpinski “the physics of surface microseismic monitoring” to understand why surface geophones give poor results and downhole geophones are much, much, better Published by Halliburton, 2010

            • The micro seismic array is not the same thing. It is an array of 40 boreholes that have been partly drilled around the site in a 10km or so radius. Then they stopped drilling them, presumably when they realised how expense it would be. They were there to monitor and effectively map the progression of the fracks from the laterals. It is useful from both a safety aspect and commercially to ensure that the fracking and fluids is not wandering off down and maybe up faults. So these 40 wells were to have a single geophone at the bottom of each and after a frack Cuadrilla would have had to go to each well and upload the data. Too time consuming. But by not doing this, the safety of what they are doing is compromised.

            • Richard, if you read any published papers on the EAGE or SPE websites, you’ll realise that you need to get geophones as close to the fracs as possible. Despite being able to sum the data from shallow surface arrays, the results are not as good. (You can download data from surface arrays in real time, so that isn’t a problem)

        • Wandering down faults is of course colloquial, accurate mapping is imperative to make sure the seismic activity isn’t concentrated in faults with the potential consequences of what happened at Preeseall. Suggest you read all about it..

          Eisner et al. (2010) compared a large surface array of single-component receivers with a downhole array. They performed model studies and also presented a case history. Theirmodel surface array comprised 121 seismometers on an 11 x 11 grid with a 600 mspacing. Thus the overall aperture is 6 km. The modelled event is at 3 km.
          Their modelling results show that, overall, the surface array event positioning is more robust than the downhole results, because it is less sensitive to the velocity structure.
          Furthermore a velocity model can be derived from the surface data by calibration checkshots. The surface array data could be improved if three-component seismometers were used, to enable independent identification of P- and S-waves.
          The case study showed that locations derived from surface monitoring have less scatter in both vertical and horizontal directions ….
          The main limitation of a surface array is the lower signal to noise ratio caused by the greater distance from the surface to the source, and the greater ambient (environmental)noise. But the latter problem has been solved by the plan to place the seismometers at the bottom of 100 m deep holes. Furthermore, this is also well below the unconsolidated (‘drift’) layer which is typically up to 30 m or so thick in the Fylde, and which degrades the signal coming up from depth. The buried array provides better accuracy in the horizontal (x and y) directions, while less accurate in vertical depth (z direction) estimation. Overall, the
          use of a downhole array in several wells will yield mutually inconsistent datasets, and the better accuracy in depth (z direction) estimation with a downhole array is also outweighed

          So it was all designed and approved, accepted & agreed. Nothings changed since the application, technology wise.
          About the only thing you can argue is that ‘anticipated’ faults are trending N/S, but without 2D surrounding the initial frack at the end of the horizontal well any progression down an inclining fault is unlikely to be picked up.

          Luckily, Smythe is there to tell them what to do, even though they short change the safety – at least they’re not drilling through a known fault now and doing a bit more seismic traffic light monitoring. Not that precursory activity will be necessarily detected if a fault is lubricated, the main thing is to make sure is not to lubricate them and waste energy. Best then to give up. So essential to get the microseismic accurate.

          An expensive waste of time and money to do it safely and probably a waste of time and money to do it dangerously.

          • It’s worth noting that Eisner works for Microseismic Inc., a company that monitors frac jobs using surface arrays. Despite what the paper says, you are up against basic physics trying to use surface arrays. If you’ve got a suitable deep well available, you really need to use it. If you don’t have a suitable monitor well, then you need to use a surface array.

    • Protesters will protest, it is what they do. If Cuadrilla filed with the EA to plant a flower garden on the well pad, FoE would claim that the flowers were deadly to a variety of bird species last seen in the UK in the late nineteenth century, and that the action must be stopped. What they don’t realize is that all of their silliness, makes them look silly. Well, at least it’s entertaining!

    • A company who either does not know it’s own operational requirements or proposes initial unrealistic figures to try and avoid objection and refusal.

      Either way these increases will give them even more bad publicity and concerns for speculators.

      • Pumping several stages in a day saves money, so is good news for speculators. Of course, whether they can do that is another question. (Frac, ball drop, frac, ball drop….)

        • Actually it’s perforate, frac, ball drop, perforate… Unless they’ve got sliding sleeves on already perforated tubing. Common practice in the USA, but not here.

          • So the frack hasn’t got your tongue after all AI/Sophia?Drivers all reinstalled?
            I was beginning to worry that maybe Gregg Hands had corrupted your shale drive??

            Have a great day!

            • How the moderator allows these, I don’t know. “Comments which seek to attack a contributor personally rather than tackling the issues they raise can create an intimidating atmosphere which may inhibit others from posting.”

              [Moderator: I read Phil C’s comment with its talk of rebooting and corrupted shale drive as humorous rather than aggressive. However, I am sure Phil C will moderate his own comments now he knows that you dislike this approach to debate. Please draw our attention to any further posts that you feel need dealing with].

    • Oh what a tangled web of a “roll over and play dead” rubber stamp job the EA present to this poisonous industry?

      Honestly it’s like the EA just hand over they keys to the tax payers safe to Cuadrilla and say, dont bother us with details we would rather not have to deal with, just shut the door and turn the lights out on your way out?

      Does anyone seriously have one iota of faith in either this government or the EA to do anything other than rip us off all ways to Sunday and environmental collapse and then try to hold their head up in public?

      This is Ian R Cranes report on another “pillar” of society and the possible reason for the holing and shutting down of the offshore oil pipeline and what it means for that famous phrase “energy security” in UK when a timely stranglehold suddenly manifests itself just when martins “icy blast” is such a money spinner?

      As always, Enjoy! But also perhaps think a little just what is being done to us by oiligarchs and their cronies in secret locked backroom deals?

      • I’m not even giving this [edited by moderator] the satisfaction of an extra ‘view’ on YT but I’m guessing from your post he is presenting a conspiracy that the pipeline story was fabricated to expedite onshore? If that’s the case I must have a crystal ball cause that’s the first thing that I thought you lot would come up with.

        • Is that a confession GBH? Your blame games usual reveal the things you most wish to conceal – that’s becoming more and more transparent. Crane is on fine feisty form. He does get one thing wrong though. JR hasn’t taken over Dong Energy, just the old oil and gas part of it that Dong, now called Orsted, was getting rid of. Dong saw the light and has divested from O&G.

        • Oh dear, here we go again? It’s not about personalities or your derogatory terminology.

          This is about the people of this country. Its about British peoples right to self determination and our lives our health, our water, air and land and the future of our children in a clean healthy environment.

          And speaking of children it’s not about childish personality worship and denegation, this subject is far too important to let silly little personal hates to cloud the issue.

          If you continue with this muffled and blinkered “frack goooood!” “democracy baaaad!” Illusion that all is lovely in the burned out shell of the black frack wack garden, and anything, or anyone, who dares to raise doubts about this religious fervour of the Church Of Saint Frack The Polluter, who must be obeyed or the holy In Junk Sham Ineos the inquisitor will come and overturn your entire country and enslave you just for a ha’penny worth of tar and an offshore tax haven bank account?

          If you think Jim Ratcliffe is a Saint, and anyone who opposes him is whatever hateful term you can dredge up from the black frack wacky dictionary of troll trash epithets and insults, then you are welcome to try, but don’t expect it to be treated with anything other than derision and laughter.

          Oh yes, have a great day!

      • Well it seems the precautionary principle was left on the plane with Gregg Hands in the Brazil tax payer paid front to represent private corporations BP and Esso?

        Interesting to see wether Ibama and the Brazillian government, and it seems the worryingly complicit UK government will have anything to say about these released documents?

        Never mind GottaBBP in your terms, such conspiracy theories are only perpetrated by BP ESso and Gregg Hands and the UK Government, you will say no doubt that they are probably all “bozos”?

    • As time goes by and more ‘activity’ is being added on to the development you can see why Martin Anfinnsen, Senior Vice President, Marketing & Trading, Statoil, had this to say

      “We had a look at the UK sometime back as part of a global survey with Chesapeake, of the US, but we decided against going into the UK.

      “We believed we were operating in a more prolific basin in US than what the UK could offer. But I think it was primarily it was what we call the above ground risk, not so much government policy but it’s a fairly densely populated country this and there have been obstacles, if you will, to our activities in the Marcellus field in the US as well and we thought they may be even tougher to overcome here.”

  2. The delay in getting a sign off from government at TE site is a pain in the **** but actually I’m pleased as a few bits n pcs have now been tidied up.
    Everyone is mindful not to **** this up with all the do gooders watching on.
    The word is a sign off early 2018 which is fine with me.

  3. And your point John is? Every company looks at different options and make it’s own choice. Having made that choice, it is usually a requirement of those who made that choice to support that choice. That is how performance bonuses are justified. (Maybe that choice had something to do with being in the same country as the one who was the largest consumer of the product produced???)

    Meanwhile, the real world continues onwards-climate change study (Columbia University) shows UK wind will decline in the future so output from wind turbines will suffer. Brent prices rising due to the crack, Apache shuts down the Forties Field. All seems pretty secure! LOL.

  4. I’m surprised that this wasn’t done ‘just before Christmas’ but still with a few weeks to go. I seem to remember similar infrastructure act ‘piece meal changes’ were sneaked through just before Christmas. Maybe needed now, so that with the traffic management plan update scheduled for the end of this week it’s all primed to having the horizontal drill delivered over Christmas.

    Anyone one interested in a 1930s semi-detached in Wrea Green? On the buoyant market that seems to be escaping Wrea Green – a 13% fall in house price values last year.

  5. Are all these ‘pro fracking’ guys paid by the industry to keep us busy typing rather than protesting/campaigning/protecting?

    But perhaps they’ve all got so much social conscience that they disapprove of logical trade between us and Qatar. Fighter planes to them, gas to us. Then we can ensure we can continue to produce uncontaminated food and drink fresh water for centuries rather than ‘trade’ it for a bit of gas for a few decades. Am I missing something? And burning off as much gas in the Niger Delta as we can possibly ever extract from here?

    Whether you believe in conspiracy theories or not, Ian R Crane etal. look increasingly like being correct in the wells being really drilled for nuclear waste disposal. Anyone every looked at the picture of (the unneeded) world shale gas resources:-

    Perhaps you ‘pro fracking’ guys need to get out to these places and earn the foreign money necessary to also contibute to the balance of payments to pay for the imported gas. Then we can concentrate on getting out of Europe so that we can pay decent money into protected agricultural production. Sorry too much ‘conspiracy theory’ there.

    I suppose it is easier to sit here and type. I don’t have any offspring to worry about coming into this wonderful country of zero hour contracts, corporate control … unfortunately those with families have to be busy working 50 hours+ rather than protesting/campaigning/protecting or is it scaremongering/fabricating/time-wasting/corporate police harassing/motorist-hindering.

    No interest in that house anyone? Maybe a house exchange with someone in the Aosta valley, Italy?

    • At the risk of also sounding like a conspiracy theorist too, the one about disposal of nuclear waste is very relevant, given the wording of the Infrastructure Act 2015 along the lines of ‘the right ot use deep-level land… and putting ANY SUBSTANCE into deep level land…. include the right to leave the deep level land in a different condition…’ Now if that doesn’t prop a door wide open (or a well), I don’t know what does.

  6. Good points Richard. But that map seems pretty old and estimates of potential usually don’t tally with recoverability. China has been trying for nearly 10 years to ramp up shale gas production but – I quote “The numbers suggest China’s efforts to replicate the North American shale gas revolution and reduce a hefty reliance on energy imports are running out of steam” source:

    Hardly anywhere in the world matches the neatly layered geology of the US for shale gas recovery – as the drillers in the UK will be finding out before long no doubt.

    • Thanks Philip. Clearly you follow the motto of Ian R Crane and ‘do your own research’. I always welcome a critical inspection of my comments.

  7. Worried about your investments in wind turbines Richard? Because, as you are so keen to point out, that support for either side of this debate is financially motivated. What’s that? Only one side? Hmmm.
    Talking about “financials”, you forgot to mention whether that house has an in-built revenue stream from Cuadrilla, now or projected? Might make a difference.

    So, the pipe might take up to 3 weeks to repair and the product will not be exported, and therefore will produce a tax revenue decline for the Treasury. We can import more, with no tax revenue. Donations to the Treasury for the NHS welcomed. Energy insecurity hits the poorest and most needy, again.

    • Perhaps I’m a climate change skeptic. No need to make too many assumptions Martin. I’ve no investment in turbines and am happy to invest in coal and gas. Power generation from imported cheap coal is fine by me, gas from the States or Qatar. I just find it totally illogical to pursue a small gas reserve for the potential health, water & food supply damage. I don’t see anyone complaining much about being less and less self sufficient in food.

  8. Nice to see how easy you change your stance, PhilipP. (Or, maybe there are more than one.)

    Not long ago I thought you were posting that fracking in the USA had been unsuccessful? Or was it that Giggle had not been up-dated from 2014? Now, it seems you have left that one behind, and trying the “USA is unique”. Well, that may be proven-in the future-to be true, but it does not mean that the techniques will not be able to cope with that. Any research into fracking techniques will show how they have evolved, and I suspect they will continue to do so. Alternative energy sources have shown the same. I can’t quite understand why any technology should be anticipated to be fixed in some strange time warp where nothing changes, especially when this particular area shows rapid development, and change, in the last few years. Research should also include the present, and future. I suspect the initial wheel had certain limits that are now long forgotten.

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