Drilling of the UK’s first horizontal shale gas well has been completed, Cuadrilla announced this morning.
The news about the well, at Preston New Road, near Blackpool, coincided with the start of a three-month campaign against fracking in the region. Details
Opponents of Cuadrilla’s operation vowed to continue to fight against shale gas throughout the UK. Supporters said the announcement proved 2018 would be a breakthrough year for the industry.
Cuadrilla said it would begin drilling a second horizontal shale gas well at the site “shortly” and expected to frack both wells from July-September 2018.
This is three months later than the company had previously estimated. In a statement it said:
“Cuadrilla plans to apply, in the very near future, to the Secretary of State for the Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy for the consent to fracture this first horizontal well.”
The well was drilled at a depth of approximately 2,300m below ground and extended for about 800m, the company said. Data from the Oil and Gas Authority shows that drilling began on 11 January 2018.
Cuadrilla said drilling finished about a week ago. The horizontal section was drilled west towards Blackpool.
Asked about the reason for the delay in fracking, a spokesperson for Cuadrilla responded:
“The operations schedule is not fixed and is subject to change during each phase of operations as we gather more information and data – which is the purpose of exploration.
“The rate of drilling has been somewhat slower than originally forecast as the shale layers exhibit a higher degree of “interbedding” and consequently somewhat tougher drilling conditions initially resulted in lower drill penetration rates.
“Equally, the drilling rig that we secured, in order to ensure Cuadrilla met the noise and height planning conditions for the site, by nature of only being 36m has reduced time efficiencies to the drilling schedule compared to a higher rig. This is because running drill pipe or casing into and out of the well takes significantly longer with a lower height rig as the pipe length that can be inserted or withdrawn at any one time is limited by the rig height.”
The company said the location of the horizontal well was based on data from the vertical pilot borehole at Preston New Road and from three previously-drilled sites in Lancashire. Cuadrilla said analysis confirmed that the Upper and Lower Bowland shale rock formations had low overall clay content and were “very well suited to hydraulic fracturing”.
The second horizontal well will be a similar length and will be drilled nearer the surface in the Upper Bowland shale, Cuadrilla said.
Asked how the company marked the completion of drilling, the spokesperson said: “We are all very proud of this achievement however it is business as usual for us as we plan to start moving ahead with completing the second well.
Cuadrilla’s Chief Executive, Francis Egan (pictured right), said:
“Our completion of the UK’s first ever horizontal shale gas well is a major milestone towards getting Lancashire gas flowing into Lancashire homes as we lead the way on UK exploration.
“From the data we have amassed so far we are optimistic that, after fracturing the shale rock, natural gas will flow into this horizontal well in commercially viable quantities demonstrating that the UK’s huge shale gas resources can be safely produced and contribute to improving the UK’s energy security.”
“Resolute in ending shale gas industry”
Opponents of Cuadrilla’s operation dismissed the announcement. A spokesperson for the local anti-fracking group said:
“Frack Free Lancashire are surprised and concerned that Cuadrilla have only just managed to complete the horizontal well. According to their information, this must put them almost a year behind their schedule, which considering their enthusiasm for erosion of democracy and land, makes their announcement a bit of damp squib.
“We have today begun a three month campaign against this industry. We are resolute in our commitment to ending this industry in Lancashire and the UK.
“As we’ve stated before: we’ll be here until Cuadrilla are not.”
“Encouraging news for businesses and residents”
Lee Petts, chairman of Lancashire For Shale, said the announcement proved that 2018 would be a breakthrough year for shale gas.
“Today’s announcement proves that Lancashire’s geology is suitable for horizontal drilling and that it can be done safely and without incident.
“Horizontal wells, which are then hydraulically fractured, have helped to unlock an enormous new source of energy in the US, lowering overall impact on the environment, and have the potential to do the same for us here.
“This is another vital sign that Lancashire has what it takes to grow a successful shale gas industry, and will come as encouraging news for businesses and residents hoping to benefit from the opportunities and jobs that will follow.”
“Failing industry in its death throes”
Helen Rimmer, north west campaigner for Friends of the Earth, said:
“Cuadrilla’s original schedule has long since slipped and like other would-be frackers, they seem to be finding it much more difficult than they thought. While the fracking industry has stuttered and stalled, over the last six years renewable energy has leapt from providing a tenth of our electricity to supplying a third of it. The industry continues to claim that it’s full steam ahead but as we approach seven years without fracking, it’s clear that this is a failing industry in its death throes.”
“Government should not sign-off Cuadrilla’s fracking plans”
Jonathan Bartley, co-leader of the Green Party, said:
“This project is already a year behind schedule. It is clear to everyone but the Tories that the whole thing should be scrapped. The government have rightly refused the building of a new coal mine, they should do the same here with other dirty and destructive fossil fuels.
Let’s invest Britain’s resources in clean, renewable energy solutions. The case for fracking is dead. It should now be buried.”
- An inquiry opens on Tuesday 10 April into Cuadrilla’s plans for another shale gas site in the Fylde area of Lancashire, at Roseacre Wood, about four-and-a-half miles from Preston New Road. The inquiry, at Blackpool Football Club, will focus on transport issues and will run for about 10 days.