Cuadrilla completes second shale gas well and prepares to frack as hosepipe ban is announced

Rig at Preston New Road Cuadrilla July 2018

Cuadrilla’s shale gas site at Preston New Road, near Blackpool, 5 June 2018. Picture: Lorne Campbell / Guzelian

Cuadrilla said this morning it had finished drilling the UK’s second horizontal shale gas well and would soon prepare for hydraulic fracturing at the site in Lancashire. The announcement coincided with news that a hose pipe ban for residents in the county would begin on 5 August.

The well, at the Preston New Road site, near Blackpool, was drilled to a depth of 2,100m, with a horizontal extension of 750m into the Upper Bowland shale formation, the company said.

In April 2018, Cuadrilla announced it had completed the first well (DrillOrDrop report). This was at a depth of 2,300m and extended for 782m though the Lower Bowland shale.

The company said it would now dismantle the drilling rig, which has been at Preston New Road for almost a year. This is expected to take several weeks. The site team would then prepare for hydraulic fracturing of the two wells, the company added.

Cuadrilla’s barrister at a High Court hearing last week said hydraulic fracturing would start in September but a company spokesperson said only that the operation was scheduled for quarter three (July-September 2018). An application for fracking consent was submitted in May to the Business Secretary, Greg Clark. The decision has not yet been announced.

Francis Egan, chief executive of Cuadrilla, said:

“We are very pleased to have successfully completed drilling the UK’s first two horizontal shale gas wells, as we continue to lead the way on UK shale exploration. Subject to hydraulic fracturing consent being granted by the Government we plan to fracture the shale rock around these wells over the coming months and test the flow rates of natural gas from the shale.”

Frack Free Lancashire

A local opposition group, Frack Free Lancashire, said today:

“We note that Cuadrilla plan to be fracking just as United Utilities announce a hosepipe ban in the North West. What better illustration of the unsustainability of this industry could they provide us with?”

Cuadrilla said in its approved hydraulic fracture plan that it would use up to 31,000 cubic metres of water to frack the first well – the equivalent of about half a day’s local supply and less than 8% of the volume lost in leaks every day by the local water company, United Utilities.

But John Hobson, of Defend Lytham, writing today in DeSmog UK, said

“The first well is somewhat unique. If Cuadrilla’s fracking plans go ahead — with longer well lengths across hundreds of wells — the annual water requirement rises into the tens of millions of cubic metres for 20 years.

“So, while the issue of Cuadrilla’s test frack at Preston New Road in the middle of water rationing might be seen as largely symbolic, the reality is that this industry’s water usage could dwarf domestic consumption for the next two decades.”

A briefing paper issued two years ago by Water UK, the organisation representing the water companies, said:

“Where water is in short supply there may not be enough available from public water supplies or the environment to meet the requirements for hydraulic fracturing. Oil and gas operators are therefore encouraged to engage with water companies as early as possible to ensure their needs can be met without reducing the security of supply to existing customers.”

A spokesperson for Cuadrilla said:

“It is highly unlikely that our operations would be affected by a water shortage however estimates of predicted water demands have been supplied to United Utilities to allow them to assess their existing systems and any impacts on their wider network. In the event of any constraint, water supply to our site would be limited by UU rather than limiting supplies to other customers.”

Preston New Road July 2018 Cuadrilla

Drilling rig at Cuadrilla’s Preston New Road site. Photo: Cuadrilla

Cuadrilla’s original hydraulic fracture plan for the horizontal wells put the expected lengths at 1,000m.

Frack Free Lancashire said it was “surprised” that the company had managed wells of less than this, at 782m and 750m. The group said:

“Obviously, we’re not privy to information about the problems that have delayed this unwelcome development for so long, but such a massive reduction in ambition does raise some serious questions, not least with regard to the local geology and potential seismic activity.”

A spokesperson for Cuadrilla responded:

“The original estimates on the horizontal well lengths were just that  – estimates. The data gathered from the vertical pilot well we drilled last year to a depth of over 2,700m through the Upper and Lower Bowland shales informed the decisions in locating these first two horizontal wells including the depth and length of the laterals. The two completed horizontal wells at 750m and 800m in length respectively are in the rich shale gas zones and will provide for a full test of the gas flow potential of the Upper and Lower Bowland Shale.”

Following hydraulic fracturing, the company said it would carry out an initial flow test, expected to last six months. An extended flow test is expected to take 18 months. Cuadrilla has planning permission to drill, frack and test a further two wells at Preston New Road.

Francis Egan said:

“Our objective is to demonstrate that natural gas will flow from the shale in commercially viable quantities. In the process we look forward to demonstrating that the UK’s huge shale gas resources can be safely produced and make a major contribution to improving the UK’s energy security, whilst reducing our gas import needs and providing economic and environmental benefit.”

64 replies »

  1. The Guardian today:

    “In the oil and gas industry, rising prices have helped investment in production rise 4% last year and is expected to grow 5% this year. The US’s shale boom will drive much of the growth, and frackers are on track to achieve positive free cashflow this year, for the first time.

    The US is not expected to pump enough extra crude to bring down oil prices, though. Birol said: “US shale growth is very welcome growth for badly needed additions but this growth alone will not be enough to balance out the markets.”

    Outside the US, investment in conventional oil and gas projects remains subdued and Birol said the world faced “major difficulties” if investment was not stepped up.

    Motorists spent $43bn on fully electric cars and plug-in hybrids last year, accounting for half of global growth in car sales. However, the battery-powered cars are not seriously denting oil demand yet, the IEA said.”

    • Bear in mind that the above is reported as bad news for the planet and that more needs to be done by governments to encourage and stabilize renewable investment and incentives.

      • PhilipP – yes, that is correct. The point is though that Governments / Industry are not doing more, and agreements like Paris are pretty meaningless. Back to the point of emerging middle classes that I have made several times.

        • And our gov is helping to make Paris accords more meaningless by not toeing the line. It is as susceptible to misinformation as several O&G promoters on this site. In this case multiple wrongs don’t make a right. Not only will the UK be facing its own legal penalties for failing to meet climate targets it will be facing, along with the rest, increasingly harsh lessons from future climate changes.

          • So, perhaps it’s just that the current governance wants to promote fossil fuel as they can then collect more taxes via the climate levy and don’t actually give a stuff about the future…..

            • Unlikely but you may be right. However we (UK) could go to zero hydrocarbons / zero emissions / no cars etc. tomorrow and it will not make any difference. The IEA article is about the Global issue and we are a very minor part of that. And please not the “lead by example message”. Human nature doesn’t work like that, nor do Governments and aspiring middle classes.


              July 18 (Reuters) – U.S. crude oil production last week hit 11 million barrels per day (bpd) for the first time in the nation’s history, the Energy Department said on Wednesday, as the ongoing boom in shale production continues to drive output.

              “”Eleven million would have made us the biggest producer in the world; but actually Russian production in June was above 11 million. So, this is kind of like the space race,” said Sandy Fielden, director of research in commodities and energy at Morningstar.”

              “The United States has added nearly 1 million bpd in production since November, thanks to rapid increases in shale drilling.”

              Global demand is increasing and will continue to increase for many years.

              Whilst many on this BB don’t agree with this, it is actually happening……

              I wonder if the Guardian will report this?


              “SSE has said its first-quarter profits will be £80m lower than expected after the recent hot weather affected its wind turbines.

              The energy firm said the lack of wind during its first quarter meant that output from its offshore and inland farms was 15% lower than planned.

              SSE also said that warm temperatures reduced household demand for energy.

              It added that during the three months to 30 June the high wholesale cost of gas had affected the business.

              In addition, SSE said the amount of electricity generated from its hydro power stations was 20% lower than expected, but was ahead of the first-quarter last year.

              The company said all these factors meant its adjusted operating profit for the first three months of its financial year would be £80m lower and “this will potentially impact on its full-year results”.”

              And the Government will collect less taxes as it has not been windy enough and no rain? Or are renewables not subject to corporation tax? Good job we have gas albeit more of it would help keep the price down.

            • It would be interesting to show the upside of the lovely sunny weather and solar power generation together with less need for power [the heating side you mentioned]; the delight in being able to cycle to work without getting wet, thus saving more fuel, and the general getting outside instead of being moronically indoctrinated by the goggle box [less power again].

              The downside of course are the brown lettuce, the dying fruit trees and other non-coping vegetables – not necessarily those you can eat 🙂 – some say a ‘taste’ of things to come as climate change escalates due to the fanatical burning of fossil fuel to fill the virtual coffers and satisfy those who have ordered one of the 600 new super yachts this year?

              There are always two sides to a story……

              Good job we have gas; what a shame we are wasting it?

              And if we didn’t waste it…we would not have to tear up the countryside; destroy peoples lives and drag up toxic waste from the depths of the shale; sobering thought?

  2. I am confused by the figures apparently quoted by Cuadrilla for water use in this fracking operation. In the Guardian today “Cuadrilla said that fracking the two wells at Preston New Road, which is now expected to take place in late August or early September, would use up to 32,500 litres of water.”
    This appears to be less than 10% of the figure that is quoted in this article. They can’t both be the correct figure. Can anybody clarify?

    • You will find that the Guardian wrote the incorrect figure in the original article – they are not to hot on science and numbers and probably don’t know the difference between a litre and a cubic meter. Their science / energy articles are often full of errors – check the comments.

  3. This article now appears to quote a different figure for the first well – Today 19th July it says “Cuadrilla said in its approved hydraulic fracture plan that it would use about 31,000 cubic metres of water to frack the first well – the equivalent of about half a day’s local supply and less than 8% of the volume lost in leaks every day by the local water company, United Utilities.”

    On 18th July it said “”Cuadrilla said in its hydraulic fracture plan that it would use up to 34,425 cubic metres of water to frack the first well – the equivalent of about half a day’s local supply and less than 8% of the volume lost in leaks every day by the local water company, United Utilities.”

    Although this figure has not changed significantly it still differs massively from the figure quoted in the Guardian article of 17th July.

    My intention is not to pick holes in Ruth’s excellent work reporting on the Fracking industry in the UK I merely seek clarification about where these figures are obtained and how many wells/ fracking stages they apply to.

    • Hi Vintagevix56 Thanks for drawing attention to the volume of water proposed for fracking at Preston New Road. The figure from the latest hydraulic fracture plan is up to 31,000 cubic metres of water to frack the first well. This is based on up to 765 cubic metres per stage. The number of stages in the approved fracture plan is 41. You can see these figures on P7 of the approved hydraulic fracturing plan here:
      The larger number, around 34,000 cubic metres, was based on the earlier fracture plan, which proposed the same volume of water per stage but proposed 45 stages. I used this plan by mistake and changed the figures when this was pointed out by another reader.
      You’ll see from the hydraulic fracturing plan that it is definitely talking about cubic metres and not litres.
      I hope this makes sense. Please get in touch if you spotted anything that is unclear. Thanks again, Ruth

      • Thank you Ruth. I appreciate the effort you put into this. I would never have questioned your figure if I had not compared it to the one quoted in the Guardian. I have written to them to get a correction. I think it is important to always quote how many wells, stages etc as there are many memes doing the rounds about how much water fracking uses that are near to useless in terms of accuracy.

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