UK’s first horizontal shale gas well completed – fracking due late summer

pnr 180327 Ros Wills

Drilling rig at Cuadrilla’s Preston New Road site near Blackpool, 27 March 2018. Photo: Ros Wills

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into and out of the well takes significantly longer with a lower height rig as the pipe length that can be inserted or withdrawn at any one time is limited by the rig height.”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.

FrancisEgan“Major milestone”

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.”

Frack Free Lancashire

“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.”

FOE“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”

171002 pnr Jonathan Bartley FF Lancashire 2

Jonathan Bartley speaking outside Cuadrilla’s Preston New Road site on 2 October 2017. Photo: Frack Free Lancashire

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.


39 replies »

  1. “And if another Green bottle should accidentally fall, there will be more of the two thirds getting off the wall”- and there would be two wells ready to frack, and more revenue for those lucky local householders!

    Meanwhile, 3300 Calor gas customers without hot water and/or heating over Easter as supplies have not recovered yet from Emma. Hopefully, anti’s camps are at the end of the to be supplied list!

  2. It will be interesting to see if Greg Clark gives Cuadrilla permission, given their perilous financial situation, which is not much better than Third Energy’s.

    • Very true and if you follow the paper trail then 45% shareholder AJ Lucas in Australia are equally insolvent. This company has also written expansively in their latest report and accounts about the reliance on a successful UK Shale Gas development to return them to a profit. With all the reports now showing that Fracking is a loss making industry and gas prices weakening, surely Mr Greg Clarke can only reach a single conclusion – that their are insufficient funds to complete a safe development and reimburse clean up costs when the well casings eventually fail over time.

    • Cuadrilla owned by Riverstone £38Bn of investment and AJ lucas a major Australian mining Company. 8% owned by Cuadrilla workers.
      The Bowland shale has been many millions of years in the making, people jumping up and down about a couple of months added to the schedule is a mute point…

  3. “This is three months later than the company had previously estimated.” yeah but that estimate was 3 months later than the one before LOL.

    The programme of works from March 2017 show completion of the first lateral in mid Q3 2017. We are now beginning Q2 2018. SO that puts them 7 or 8 months behind after just 16 months. I know commercial projects rarely come in on time, but this is spectacularly bad. As they keep insisting that their delays are not caused by protester activity what can be the reason? Could it be bad planning? Incompetence? Unfortunate weather? Any other suggestions?

  4. Ahh, I see Ellie, the funding of the police has just been to keep them fit!
    Just wait for the rush from Tesla shares to AJL as investors get fed up waiting for the new age and losing $2.5 billion yesterday due to Mr. Musk’s April fools joke. (That was in addition to the $10 billion gone since the start of March.)

  5. Patience refracktion! Remember the tortoise and the hare.

    What’s the rush? Causing problems with keeping the excitement bubbling away? Maybe Cuadrilla were wanting to allow INEOS to become more active, deflect attention from them, and exert more positive pressure upon Mr. Clark.

    So much effort, and so little to show for it. But that’s enough about the antis.

    • Hi Cindy. Thanks for your comment. I’m working on a piece now on this week’s Surrey earthquake (if that’s what you’re interested in). Hoping to post later today. Best wishes, Ruth

  6. Ruth-why don’t you post on the Welsh earthquake, or the Scottish earthquake? You know the two recent “major” ones where there has been no fracking allowed.

    • The “Welsh” and the “Scottish Earthquake”?

      Is that like the “Scottish Play”?
      Not to be mentioned amongst the fracking money “luvvies”?

      Ohh dear martin, sailing too close to the whacky wind aren’t we?

      Is that Bankwoes ghost haunting the battlements of Dunce-Insane?

      Is this a fracker I see before me?

      Out damn clot! Out!

      Maybe it will all become revealed in the final act when Birmingham Wood quake finally comes to the Dunce Insane?

      “One may smile and smile and smile, and still be a villain.”

      Here is an interesting fact for you.

      Destabilising sub strata can have far reaching effects on pressures applied and released on fracture points, many kilometers distant. And such additional effects can be further transmitted to other destabilised locations further afield, and so on and so on.

      Like the earthquakes in Haiti, further quakes extended right throughout the related sub strata structures and produced a series of subsequent quakes that released and stressed even further impact points right along the existing strata.

      The result was and still is that when pressure is applied and released by one earthquake event along a series of subsequent and even unrelated pressure points that may or may not travel to the surface far away from the point of origin.

      So one earthquake can cause many other pressure points to be alternately pressurised and released and can reach a natural weak point that can extend right around the planet. Welcome to plate tectonics.

      The Mexico City quake resulted from a subsoil basin under the city becoming vastly and catastrophically amplified by an earthquake that had it’s origin some twenty kilometers away and deep below the surface.

      So certain fracture points, pressure points and weak structural ranges can be severely affected by an earthquake deep below the surface and many kilometers away from the origin point.

      The UK geology is notoriously complex and varied and has millions of years of pressures being applied and released. There are natural weak points, pressure points and fractures and Wales and Scotland are right in the tectonic firing line and are essentially fragile and subject to additional stresses.

      Those effects are not always instantaneous either, since additional resulting pressures applied and released can simply apply and release further subsurface pressure or apply pressure to a weak point for long periods of time before such zones are suddenly triggered by an unrelated event or simply failure of a weak substrata to accept the additional imposed pressure and stress.

      Hey presto an earthquake appears far away and frackers deny all responsibility.

      If we were clever enough and could understand the complex knock on effects of one event such as a frack having far reaching effects on far off points, the industry would perhaps not be so flippant as to deny all or any responsibility for their actions.

      Not so simple is it?

      Alas poor York, I knew it well.

  7. Actually refracktion, it will be holding back on the fracking until our Brexit divorce bill is finally settled. Don’t want those chappies wanting to find a supplement to charge so they can open up some more coal mines.

    • Yes Martin. That’ll be it love.


      I think this Brexit thing must already be having an impact on the service provided by the NHS.

      Nurse! More medication for Mr Collyer.

      Quickly now!

  8. Slowly but surely we move fwd, yes I know we’ve been held up but who cares about that when fracking finally commences. We will ultimately prevail in the end and all the little Corbyn fans will be all sad and throwing wee tantrums as per usual, awwww didums.
    And yes Cuadrilla will get the go ahead from our dithering man at the helm G.C. so don’t get your hopes up that he will somehow save you this time.
    Just got home and glad to be able to put the combi on to heat myself up in this cold weather.

        • Pleased you are having US gas pumped direct into your home Kisheny; no need for you to draw on our huge reserves from the North Sea trade agreed imports and renewable energy sources. When you next fire up your boiler, have a thought for the poor buggers whose lives you have trashed over the pond.

          • In the North Sea now.

            Our gas production on the UKCS is declining.

            Installed offshore turbines last year, they will not be built without subsidies and can never make money, just an expensive credit scheme to hit the Paris agreement which we the consumer pay for in green taxes and keep tens of thousands in fuel poverty. Subsidies stopped this year. Intermittent renewables will not keep 85% of the population warm or 60% of the population cooking.
            To reduce CO2 emissions in the U.K whilst producing enough energy required please tick the box for U.K Shale. Kicking coal and LNG imports into the long grass.
            What is your field of expertise to have such a strong opinion? Have you also been part of a World ground breaking renewables project such as Hywind like myself?
            Do you live off grid?
            I take it you have a gas boiler, drive a diesel car, plastic windows and toothbrush but you wash out your jam jars and place them in the blue bin and watch Greenpeace updates on your ipad…

            • “We but mirror the world. All the tendencies present in the outer world are to be found in the world of our body. If we could change ourselves, the tendencies in the world would also change. As a man changes his own nature, so does the attitude of the world change towards him. This is the divine mystery supreme. A wonderful thing it is and the source of our happiness. We need not wait to see what others do.” – Mahatma Gandhi

  9. Outrageous. The planet is falling apart yet idiots continue to produce co2 producing fuel. The whole government and companys like this should be taken to court and prosecuted for gross negligence and for wrecking every childs future on the planet. How much more evidence do you complete morons need?

      • Intermittent renewables only account for 20% of electricity generation per year.
        1 in 5 of us would be happy with this that’s if it’s windy.
        If you had a battery wall in your house, great. After a day of no wind at night in winter that battery bank would just be a dark monolith in a candle lit house

    • The U.S. has reduced it’s CO2 emissions by developing its shale industry.
      Try googling how well Germany are doing with their Energiewende project. See what their CO2 emissions are…
      I believe the Government are trying to develop CCS. Would you be happy if the U.K developed the shale industry and employed CCS to bring CO2 emissions right down?

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