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.”
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.”
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.”