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. So Cuadrilla are expecting to progress to the unconventional hydraulic fracturing part of the fracking process without any of the 10 recommendations by scientists to keep us safe being in place and Greg Clark not even having given the go ahead as required by law?
    These lot are arrogant beyond belief and must be stopped.

    • I am sorry, but if you are relying on Mike Hill’s assessment of the implementation of the RAE recommendations, then you have been mislead. These recommendations were fully implemented by the Environment Agency, and failure to follow their recommendations would result in a failure to get a licence.

      See this from 2015.

      You need to keep up. The EA would only issue licences if Cuadrilla are fully compliant with the law. (Doh!!)

      • Actually complete isn’t the word I would use. There is NO site specific emergency evaluation plan in place for Preston New Road fracking site. Real time toxic emission monitoring is unmanageable due to variable wind conditions say the Environment Agency. Monitoring of abandoned wells is already halted after just one year. Seismic monitors and the ‘traffic light’ warning system are no longer in situ however once the ripples in the pond from a stone start spreading they cannot be stopped so they wouldn’t keep us safe anyway!
        So all in all Johnson I’m sadly not feeling reassured by your reassurance. Tell me again please, do you actually reside in a PEDL area?

        • Under which regulations might an off-site emergency plan be required? Blow-out-preventers are required and are deployed! Does your car have two air-bags in case the first one fails? This site has several layers of protection.

        • Peter K Roberts
          Peter, you say above that the seismic monitors and traffic light warning system is ( are ) no longer in situ.
          Would the monitors be the same ones that Netty talks about ( near PNR) in past DOD posts ( in relation to the subject of seismic monitoring in the weald ) being situated close to roads?
          Ie are you sure they are not there, and that the traffic light system has been abandoned by the regulators?
          It would be worth a report in DOD in its own right.
          I reside in a PEDL, and near live oil wells, coal fired station power stacks, gas fired power stations, gas pipelines and so on.

  2. The important thing is the flow rates and productivity that they can obtain. They can easily drill further but why? These are test wells, and are simply there to see what they could ultimately produce. Double the well length and you double the production. In Wytch Farm an 11.5km well was drilled horizontally in the 1980s(?) and the only restriction in this is the economics. This is a well established technology after all.

    Worrying about water restrictions is a real red herring. The usual anti frack scaremongering. The amounts of water are trivial and anyway waiting till the winter would mean water aplenty. They may well have already stockpiled water for all I know.

    I hope that the results prove to be positive and not just hype. The indications are that this could be a good, safe source of gas that will improve the UK’s GHG credentials, and help it show the way to countries like Germany that insist on burning dirty brown coal, while they import Russian gas. Jobs, property prices, and economic activity are also going to be winners. I dont like the moronic Trump, but in this, his criticism of Europe’s attitude to shale gas, he had a very valid point.

    • Hi Johnson.
      I hope that you reside within the Fylde Peninsula to comment on matters affecting my family and friends who do and wish to continue to do so in safety and happiness?
      Strangely we are somewhat concerned about the possible side effects of turning our locale into the largest gasfield in Europe!
      Having recently printed off and studied the 200 plus pages of The List of the Harmed may I suggest that you do the same before happily wishing Ecocide on my wife, children and grandchildren!
      In short Johnson please depart from your comfy Cuadrilla provided workplace and travel far and multiply!

    • The difference is that the water we use domestically gets recycled, it is my understanding that once used for fracking, the water cannot be recycled and uses for drinking water ever again.
      If fracking is scaled up, that’s an aweful lot of water that cannot be drunk. And that’s if one of these future wells does not fail.
      We might “get away with it” with the two test wells, but not if have hundreds of wells.
      Or have I got that wrong ?

      • The largest gasfield in Europe. You mean a wellpad like PNR at 5km spacings? How will the drilling affect you? (Hint. It will not). Do you really think that there will be health effects? Please talk to Public Health England, the experts in this, as they have no problems with drilling.

        The List of the Harmed is self reported supposed ‘effects’ of drilling. It has no credibility. Real studies show that shale gas improves health, as coal is displaced.

      • Paul Townsend
        The water is not recycled to make it potable, although no doubt if you spent enough money and energy on it, you could.
        An overall view would be that if injected its lost for ever to us, as is the water that remains in the shale.
        If treated and popped into a river or to sea, it then continues to be part of the cycle of evaporation and rain that provides us with our water in the UK…ie it’s not lost to the planets water cycle.
        Most water out of your tap in the UK is seawater, .clouds…rain…storage…treatment…transport …your tap, with some recycling in the latter part.

  3. Are we right to understand that Cuadrilla and the local emergency services still have not published an emergency evacuation plan in the event of a major incident at PNR? If this is correct how can it be safe to consider fracking? Val and Jon Mager

    • Val & Jon – What type of major incident warranting an emergency evacuation plan are you thinking about? The highest risk to the local population is a RTA – probably involving a protester…. Other risks involve fuel spills / fires, impacts, working at heights, lifting appliances etc, the same risk as you may have parking your car in your local garage. Or walking next to a building site. These risks are limited to the location and impact staff working on the location – there are procedures in place for this. It is not a COMAH site.

        • Gas detectors will detect a gas leak, well is shut in with wellhead / tree valves. Any gas upstream of the wellhead in the testing system goes to the flare stack. Shut down is automated. All this is approved by the HSE prior to operations.

        • What do you do if you have a gas leak at home (assuming there is grid gas in the Fylde)? Turn the gas and electricity off, open the windows, make sure there is no ignition source and leave the house. Pretty much the same except there are no ignition sources near the wellhead.

          • Paul

            To add to the advice for a gas leak on the pad….
            The advice for an external gas leak around your house is to shut all windows, ensure no ignition sources are present and to stay inside. This is what the COMAH Information normally says, should you be in a PIZ.

            This would apply to any external threat to your house from an external airborne event, such as smoke, ammonia and so on ( or even for smells from the local chicken farm… re closing windows ).

            Not that it tells me this on the HP gas main 12M from the house. It says … ring a number.

            But I am happy that Lincolnshire have suitable ER plans for evacuation in the case of an event requiring it, as they no doubt have in Lancashire.

  4. You have to laugh how some forget whinging about excess surface water at PNR not too many months ago.

    One thing that is certain to follow a hose-pipe ban-the heavens will open.

    • Maybe the ground will open under their collective excessive overweight overbearing egos and save us all a lot of trouble?

  5. Another energy supplier just increased gas and electricity prices. Households are more worried about paying more out of their incomes for something, than having to temporarily reduce consumption of something else.

    So, I presume now the second well is complete the locals are due another payment?

    • Maybe they will just steal….sorry….extract water from the local aquifer? Who would know? No on site monitoring? Just a roll over and play dead rubber stamp EA? Only secretive self regulation? Who would have any ability to check and investigate? Let alone care enough to object with anything other than a 6 month belated “stiff” letter and an official bored yawn?
      “Yeah, yeah, whatever!”

  6. Some people may not be aware, 1 cubic metre of water is 1,000 litres or 220 gallons (UK). So that is 34,425,000 litres (7,573,500 gallons UK) for one well, multiply that by the percentage of toxins added to the water, you have a lot of toxins!

        • Patrick – feedback from the EA when I asked them about this in 2015:

          How do we regulate which chemicals may be used in fracking fluids?
          We have the powers to require full disclosure of chemicals used in hydraulic fracturing. We assess the hazards presented by fracking fluid additives on a case-by-case basis. We will not permit the use of ‘hazardous substances’ for any activity, including hydraulic fracturing, where they would or might enter groundwater and cause pollution.

          The environment agencies of UK and Ireland (JAGDAG, Joint Agency Groundwater Directive Advisory Group) work together to peer review chemicals assessments before we submit proposals to public consultation. You can find out more on which substances have been assessed on the JAGDAG website

          Flowback fluids, which include fracking fluids, are deemed to be a mining waste and require an environmental permit for management on site. Disposal of flowback fluids must be at a regulated waste treatment works, which will also be regulated by us.

          What is the assessment process for defining whether a chemicals is hazardous to groundwater or not?
          The way we assess whether a chemical is hazardous or not to groundwater has been developed under European Union environmental legislation. You can find more information on this methodology here.

          As part of the methodology for the assessment of chemicals, we consulted on a number of chemicals in 2013. You can find the results here, which includes our assessment of polyacrylamide (the chemical used by Cuadrilla in Preese Hall in 2011).

          Do companies have to publically disclose which chemicals they will use?
          In its document Onshore Oil and Gas Exploration in England: Regulation and Best Practice, the Government states that operators should disclose the chemical additives of fracturing fluids on a well-by-well basis. This also is promoted in the guidelines set out by industry that operators must publically disclose all chemical additives to fracturing fluids on a well-by-well basis, including regulatory authorisations, safety data and maximum concentrations and volumes.

          Which chemicals were used by Cuadrilla in Preese Hall?
          Preese Hall site is the only shale gas site to have been hydraulic fractured to date in the UK. Details of the chemicals which we assessed as non hazardous and permitted for use are listed on Cuadrilla’s website. They are:
          • 99.75% of the shale gas fracking fluid is made up of water and sand, beyond that a very limited number of chemicals are used:
          • Polyacrylamide friction reducers (0.075%), commonly used in cosmetics and facial creams, suspended in a hydrocarbon carrier;
          • Hydrochloric acid (0.125%), frequently found in swimming pools and used in developing drinking water wells,
          • Biocide (0.005%), used on rare occasions when the water provided from the local supplier needs to be further purified.

          Cuadrilla only utilised the polyacrylamide friction reducer in their operations.

          Does the Environment Agency put information about chemicals into the public domain? What about commercial confidentiality?
          If the chemicals are mentioned in the application for an environmental permit, we would place this information on the public register, subject to consideration of commercial confidentiality. If commercial confidentiality applied, this information would be excluded from the public register.

          Any request we received for environmental information would be covered under the Environmental Information Regulations. There is a statutory presumption in favour of the disclosure. There is an exception for commercial confidentiality but where this relates to information on emissions, this cannot be used. The injection of fracking fluid would be considered to be an emission and therefore we would release information on chemicals used for hydraulic fracturing.

  7. I live in Kirkham near the Cuadrilla site and have already looked into the water supply issues mentioned in this report. I am happy to report that Cuadrilla have a contract with United Utilities saying they will not use one drop of water if there are any water restrictions in the area.

    If you don’t believe me please feel free to ring United Utilities, they will confirm this.

    It really is that easy to dispell scaremongering…

    As for the person who thinks water can be used from a borehole on site? We in the local area know it has too high a salt content being close to the Coast and that is not the water we use for drinking anyway. Further to this there are four boreholes, one at each corner of the site that are independently monitored.

    • Hi Kisheny Thanks for your comment and the information on the Cuadrilla contract with United Utilities. I’ve asked Cuadrilla and United Utilities to verify and will update the post with their responses. Best wishes, Ruth

      • Thanks Ruth I am disappointed you did not contact the Companies in question before running the sensationalist headline…

  8. ……… THE MUGS ………..

    Whilst United Utilities SELL water to Fracking companies that will use up to 9.6 MILLION GALLONS of WATER PER WELL.

    YES ……. I did say 9.6 million gallons of water PER WELL.

    People receiving the traditional fixed price water bills , will continue to be charged the full amount for their water whilst on a hosepipe ban.

    As a point of interest …….. Last year the Boss of United Utilities was paid £2.3 million and the company itself made a profit of £354 AFTER TAX ….

    Can you imagine what these fat cats will be creaming of in the future , whilst restricting YOUR WATER supply , but at the same time selling more and MORE water to an ever increasing fracking industry .

    They must think the general public are a right bunch of mugs .

    • Jack I’ve rung United Utilities up and the contract they have with Cuadrilla means they will not use one drop of water if there are restrictions, ie hosepipe ban etc.
      I have no idea how much Cuadrilla is paying for water.
      Do the same as me and ring United Utilities tomorrow, you’ll get the same answer as I got.

      • Thanks for bringing that point up KISHENY

        So for the record

        NO FRACKING will take place whilst the North West is on a hosepipe ban …. I assume that you have asked them to confirm this in writing ????

        Have you ?????

        BECAUSE we WILL hold them accountable if Fracking takes place during a hosepipe ban .

        OR do you think that in a typical SLIPPY fashion, this water will be drawn from the heavily depleted water supply network BEFORE the hosepipe ban is put in place and then stored somewhere before use ????????

        • To be honest KISHENY ,

          YOU have been very lucky getting straight answers from United Utilities

          They are very cagey when it comes to giving out certain information.

          LET’S NOT FORGET……. the 5.2 million gallons of radioactive wastewater from Cudrillas last attempt to frack at PNR which was then secretly taken to the wastewater treatment plant in Davyhulme, Manchester and then dumped directly in to the Manchester Ship Canal , UNTREATED .

          Whilst you are talking to United Utilities, try getting answers as to what toxic gases they are releasing into the atmosphere at around midnight on various nights of the week at their Davyhulme treatment plant ……

          If you can get any concrete answers as to what gases they are releasing, the local people will be very grateful for the information.

        • Jack I live in the area and I would go nuts if fracking occurred during a hosepipe ban and my living wall died which needs watering a few times a day that’s why I rang United Utilities. Tomorrow ring both UU and Cuadrilla. Please post what they say

          • KISHENY,

            If I were able to obtain something in writing, from someone in a senior position within United Utilities regarding the water supplies to fracking companies during hosepipe bans , then I would gladly share that information .

            PAST EXPERIENCE has shown when dealing with large organisations ……….A verble assurance from a front desk rep ( buffer ) means absolutely NOTHING, and would most probably result in me/you both experiencing the fall out effects of a FULL BLOWN run around, buck passing exercise, blane game, fobbing off when trying to hold any such company to account on something that has ONLY been said over the phone .

    • Jack

      The problems you have in the waterless west seem to be nothing to do with fracking.

      Is it because there are few if any suitable aquifers and you rely on short rivers and dammed water in the Pennines?

      Or maybe it’s because the area is used to having lots of rain and has got complacent?

      Here in the partched East, no hosepipe ban on the way yet, I guess.

      Cuadrilla should pop over here for some water, as there seems to be plenty around so far, watering turf fields and golf courses while our lawns go yellow ( they will grow back).

      I am sure that, should the dry weather continue, someone will resurrect the idea of a contour canal bringing water from the watery north to the populated South ( I think Boris mentioned it last time ). Then it rains and all is forgotten.

      • In the North West of England, we do not just receive water from the Pennines, but also North Wales. I have asked, those who claim to provide expert advice for sustainable developments. Why have they not incorporated rainwater harvesting and grey-water recycling, into their developments, as is done in Northern Europe and was suggested in the early 1990s, for the Hulme and Moss Side re-development. I was told, that in the North West, with all our rain, there is no requirement! We have had several hose-pipes bans in the North West and this is despite heavy industry, a heavy user of water, has declined to near extinction. Rainwater harvesting and grey-water recycling, is not just about saving water, but energy and chemical use, as well as reducing the strain of sewage plants and flood prevention.

        • Patrick
          Good oh. My harvesting system is now planned after moving to a house without one. One big hole in the garden first. I appreciate it’s difficult to do if you do not have solace. My brother lived in NZ for a while where your water was in the main what you harvested or paid through the nose for via tanker. He now rails at waste In Haslemere. He says it’s too cheap and people do not appreciate what they have!
          One positive point is that welsh reservoirs are not at risk from fracking in the Fylde, in any way shape or form.

    • Hi Kisheny Just in case you hadn’t spotted the quote in the piece from Cuadrilla here it is:
      “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.”
      I’m still waiting for a reply from United Utilities.

      • Thank you Ruth for your honesty on this matter. It is a shame you didn’t consult the relevant Companies involved in your article which could incite public anger. I live locally to the site so made a few phone calls to put my mind at rest with regard to watering my garden.

        This article was not up to your usual high standard

        • Hi Kisheny
          We have now had a statement from United Utilities regarding hosepipe bans and fracking:

          A spokesperson for United Utilities said:

          “Water companies have an obligation to provide a water supply to any legally operating business that requests it. When facing a situation of prolonged dry weather our drought plan sets out the steps we take to safeguard supplies, including restricting non-essential use such as using hosepipes. This does not extend to restricting use by any sector for its industrial processes. When it comes to the impact the shale gas sector may have on water supplies, a report from the House of Lords Economic Affairs Committee published in 2014, called ‘The Economic Impact on UK Energy Policy of Shale Gas and Oil’, assessed the impact of the sector on water supplies. It said that in a “high activity scenario” the demand for water would be “substantially less than one per cent of total UK annual non domestic mains water usage”. Such information is included in our assessment of industrial use as part of our water resource planning.”

          Note that the statement distinguishes between non-essential use such as hosepipes, and industrial processes and says the drought plan does not extend to restricting use for industrial processes. So, Cuadrilla will be able to draw water for fracking without any restrictions while the hosepipe ban is in force.

          Should the situation get more serious, with standpipes being brought into operation, this situation may change.

          When people talk about restrictions or constraint, they are talking about an effect on the supply of water. Hosepipe bans do not restrict supply, only how people use water.

          In the light of this, it seems to me that Ruth’s headline was fair and accurate.

  9. ‘and less than 8% of the volume lost in leaks every day by the local water company, United Utilities’ – so because UU are not able to contain the water, it’s okay for Cuadrilla to lose some more? Classic!

    Clearly neither company realises how precious clean fresh water is on this planet……

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