Cuadrilla granted fracking consent for UK’s first horizontal shale gas well

pnr 180721 Ros Wills

Cuadrilla’s Preston New Road site near Blackpool, 21 July 2018. Photo: Ros Wills

The government has granted final consent for fracking at the UK’s first horizontal shale gas well at Cuadrilla’s Preston New Road site in Lancashire.

The announcement, from the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, came on the final day of parliament.

Cuadrilla welcomed the news and said it would now apply for consent to frack the second well, where drilling was completed earlier this month.

Friends of the Earth and local residents said they would continue fighting fracking.


The Treasury decided that Cuadrilla had adequate financial resilience to undertake the work, but set a condition on one of the project’s backers, Spirit Energy.

The company must submit accounts for the last financial year, or transfer £557,000 into an escrow account set up to hold funds until a condition has been met.

Spirit Energy was formed in 2017 when Centrica’s Exploration and Production business was merged with the Norwegian firm Bayerngas Norge.

“Meet expectations of local communities”

The energy minister, Claire Perry, said in a statement:

“Shale gas has the potential to be a new domestic energy source, further enhancing our energy security and helping us with our continued transition to a lower-carbon economy. It also has the capacity to deliver substantial economic benefits, both nationally and locally, as well as through the creation of well paid, high-quality jobs.

“We already have an excellent, long-standing reputation for safe oil and gas exploration. Our world class regulations will ensure that shale exploration will maintain robust environmental standards and meet the expectations of local communities.

“I have carefully considered Cuadrilla’s application and I am content that Hydraulic Fracturing Consent should be granted in this instance.”

“World class shale gas exploration site”

Francis Egan, chief executive of Cuadrilla, said:

“We are very pleased to be the first operator in the UK to have been awarded final consent to hydraulically fracture the UK’s first onshore horizontal shale exploration well.

“This is a testament to, and underpinned by, our strong track record of running a world class shale gas exploration site at Preston New Road, in compliance with robust health, safety, environmental and planning regulations.

“It is also a win for Lancashire, which has already benefited directly from over £10m of investment as a result of our exploration works at Preston New Road to date.

“We now look forward to submitting a fracture consent application to BEIS for our second exploration well and moving on to fracture the shale rock and flow the natural gas which we believe will make a major contribution to reducing the UK’s gas imports and improving our environment and economy.”

“Localism is a sham”

Frack Free Lancashire said it was saddened that permission had been granted, regardless of opposition from local councils, MPs and residents.

“They have now proved beyond a shadow of a doubt that localism is a sham.

“The irony of allowing this water intensive industry to go ahead at exactly the moment when the country is in the grip of the worst drought for 40 years, will be lost on nobody.

“The fact that they are also proposing to kill off small scale renewable investment by removing the feed-in tariffs at the same time as enabling fracking is further evidence that this government’s energy policy is hopelessly out of step with the real world and the issues that we all face as a result of imminent climate change.”

“Reckless behaviour”

Liz Hutchins, director of campaigns at Friends of the Earth, said this was “a dark day for the climate”:

“The government backed the wrong horse. Renewables have cleared the finishing line and have taken the cup while fracking is limping along on the first stretch.

“They have also had to really push the boundaries of planning law by trying to change regulations to go all out for fracking, and they’ve put everything into resuscitating this nearly dead-on-its-feet industry.

“Sneaking these unpopular decisions out at the eleventh hour shows a brazen disregard for people everywhere suffering from climate chaos.

“Today of all days, as Europe burns, and the UK is a tinder box, this is reckless behaviour towards our environment and the planet’s future.”

Court challenge

The go-ahead came as a legal challenge by Friends of the Earth against regulation at Preston New Road is still being considered by the High Court.

Cuadrilla’s first well was completed in April 2018 and targets the Lower Bowland shale at a depth of 2,300m. The second well is at 2,100m and targets the Upper Bowland shale.

Following hydraulic fracturing of these first two horizontal wells, Cuadrilla said it would run an initial flow test of the gas produced from both wells for approximately six months.

“Kick in the teeth for localism”

The Green Party MP, Caroline Lucas, speaking in the House of Commons Summer adjournment debate this afternoon, said:

“This is an absolute kick in the teeth for the local community, who almost unanimously oppose fracking in their back yard, and who have been fighting an incredibly strong campaign against it.

“However, it is not just a kick in the teeth for localism; it is an extraordinarily perverse decision, given the reality of accelerating climate change. The Government are locking us into a whole new fossil fuel industry at exactly the time when the experts are telling us that we must leave the majority of known fossil fuels in the ground.”

Referring to the heatwave, she said:

“The idea that now is a good time to give the green light to fracking, while making it more difficult, for example, to pursue renewable energy … seems to be taking stupidity to new heights.”

“Forget fantasy dash for gas”

Green Party of England and Wales co-leader Jonathan Bartley said:

“The Government is entirely wrong to give permission to frack. At the same time as it is suppressing peaceful resistance, it is railroading through its own path to environmental destruction. “We stand in solidarity with all those putting themselves in the way of the drills and will continue to resist this destruction.

“We stand in solidarity with all those putting themselves in the way of the drills and will continue to resist this destruction.

“It has taken 7 years to get this far, we urge the government to forget the fantasy of a dash for gas and invest in a renewable future.”

“Momentous achievement”

Ken Cronin, chief executive of UK Onshore Oil and Gas, said:

“This is a momentous achievement and UK Onshore Oil and Gas wish to congratulate Cuadrilla, its suppliers and staff for their success.

“At a time when the UK, and indeed the whole of Europe, is becoming ever more dependent on imported fuels it is very encouraging that we are taking steps to reverse the trend. By doing this we will bring back home the job opportunities, investment and tax revenues lost by outsourcing our energy needs while securing our energy future and signalling that the UK is beholden to no one now or into the future.

“I am also pleased to see that the two wells at Preston New Road have helped drive over £10 million into the Lancashire economy and create over 60 jobs, whilst communities are directly benefitting through Lancashire based funds and payments. This is just a flavour of what a fully-fledged UK onshore gas industry can provide.

“With 84% of us heating our homes with gas, industry using it as a vital feedstock and gas meeting nearly half of our electricity demand, the question is not whether we use gas, it’s where we source it from, and the answer should be at home. With this in mind, Lancashire can today be proud that it is at the forefront of Britain’s indigenous energy revival.”

“Disappointing decision”

A spokesperson for Frack Free United said:

“Yet again this government never ceases to amaze! This is a disappointing decision that could open the flood gates to a shale fail. The government are sorely out of touch in making this decision.  Third energy’s hopes  of coming back to Ryedale hang on a decision by this very same minister. Claire Perry, our message is simple: LISTEN to the people, LISTEN to the evidence mounting against fracking, this is an atrocious decision. We are groundswell rising, we will fight all the way to prevent an industrial onslaught and the fracking up of our communities.”

“Astonishing scope to grow”

Lee Petts, chairman of Lancashire for Shale, said:

“This is fabulous news for Lancashire, putting it squarely at the forefront of the UK’s nascent shale gas industry. The opportunity for local suppliers to gain a significant first-mover advantage cannot be overstated. Already, operations at Preston New Road have seen millions of pounds spent with Lancashire businesses, and the scope for that to grow in the future is astonishing – there really is nothing with the quite same potential to change the game for Lancashire’s economy.

“We are delighted that the Secretary of State has recognised this potential, and given Cuadrilla the final approval it needs to get on with demonstrating that Lancashire shale gas can be recovered in commercial quantities so that we can better assess the role it will one day play in meeting our energy needs as a nation.”

Link to decision notice

25/7/18  Report updated to include condition on Spirit Energy

49 replies »

  1. If the government were proud of their policy, why wait until the last day of term for this announcement? Because they do not want to face the wrath of MPs and the public for this deeply undemocratic disastrous decision. Lock on yesterday, the resistance grows….

  2. I think they were being conscious of CL becoming even more like a runaway wind turbine and doing some damage to one of her neighbours on the floor. Take Health and Safety seriously in Westminster.

  3. As I mentioned on other threads, the revoking of conventional drilling operations would lead to this. All MP’s see, is Britain’s energy needs. Going green is a distant dream at the moment, not enough forethought was put in to that over a decade ago.

    With Iran waving it’s stick at Trump and threatening to cut off its oil supplies to the West. Plus other Arab nations being cajoled in to joining in too. I can now see as predicted, the whole shale gas industry being given a green light.

  4. Much of “going green” requires rather large amounts of funding to get it started and functioning. Hence Mr. Musk telling his suppliers to provide back payments as he has found other finance sources are losing patience.

    Will governments fund new alternative energy schemes if their tax payers are already paying through the nose for their domestic and industrial energy supplies, or they are not secure? Not likely. Maybe take a look at Norway and see how alternatives are being developed, and where the money to do so comes from.

  5. Well, Jack, see your homework has not paid off yet!

    Stop bailing out banks??? OK. So, everyone who had some money in those banks is suddenly down the Food Banks! 40+% gas imported by pipeline. OK. What is the value of Sterling going to be against other currencies going forward, to pay for that gas, taking into account Trump/Brexit/Corbyn etc?

    I have yet to see one anti post anything sensible about economics on DOD in over two years. I’m sure some have a grasp of the subject. The trouble is that much of the “alternative” rhetoric just doesn’t fit into the economic realities so much better to produce a fog.

    Mind you, in good company. Remember the Labour Party admitting they were game playing a run on Sterling and Capital Flight? Nobody noticed they never mentioned what their solution was! (Yes, it was noticed-there isn’t one. So, better pretend because it has been game played it’s all okay. Similar approach with historic student debt.)

    • MARTIN ,

      Good evening

      DIdn’t we hand Sir Fred Goodwin a
      £ 750,000 golden parachute for crashing the Royal Bank of Scotland .

      As with any other woefully under performing, reckless business , they should be allowed to collapse…. In the real world that is what happens..

      Why should the public prop up Zombie banks,????

      Why should greed and complete and utter incompetence be rewarded with bailouts and lavish payoffs ?????? …… That doesn’t happen in the real world and it certainly doesn’t happen with any other UK businesses.

      It would of been far cheaper to sell of Failed banks assets and directly compensate loses to individuals for any shortfalls out of public funds ….

      • MARTIN

        You know it , I know it , everyman and his dog knows it …..

        The BREXIT FARCE is now going beyond a joke ….. These politicians couldn’t organise a Pxss Up in a brewery…… The uncertainty and damage its causing to businesses and investment confidence within the UK is shameful and totally unacceptable….

        To be honest MARTIN , I would rather see the regular contributors on this forum both pro and anti running the country. I’m sure the UK in general, would be in a much better place than it is now ( fracking debate excluded )

        • MARTIN ,

          TO ADD to the above

          It’s the uncertainty of Brexit and with other countries smelling blood, as they look down on the UK as a weak and indesisive country . THAT IS WHAT IS and will continue to damage Sterling both now and in the future .

          MAYBE we need a Donald Trump of our own to negotiate our Brexit, or continued membership.

          • MARTIN ,

            I’M SORRY to read in your above post that our idea of UK economics does not fit your ” Gold Standard ” views .

            BUT SERIOUSLY. anyone who thinks that the energy intensive, scrapping the bottom of the barrel Fracking, will in anyway be the answer to the UK’s financial problems or energy needs is really living in the land of Bill and Ben the flowerpot men .

            • Jack couldn’t but help reply to your comment, I work in the oil, gas and intermittent renewables industry.

              In a nutshell the U.K is importing more and more gas year on year, this cannot go on at such an incredible expense. I was even working in Egypt recently were some of this gas will end up being LNG to the U.K. Peru LNG coming soon to the U.K, rain forests cut to allow drilling. Almost ended up involved in the Nord Stream 2 job last week. Russian gas straight to Germany, Ukraine to be strangled etc etc.Enough is enough.

              Wind turbines, yes I’ve helped install them Offshore talking to clients and seeing the figures, subsidies that we pay to Countries like Norway for the pleasure, scrap after a couple of decades, unable to financially stand on their own as most take 50 years to pay for themselves otherwise and all renewables needing gas or nuclear infrastructure when the wind doesn’t blow or the sun doesn’t shine at great cost. Too many people thinking the wind and sunshine is free let’s use it attitude which plays right into the hands of green gangsters. People just pick and choose google search results to form their opinions.

              Shale gas will provide the lions share of our energy needs with a much less financial burden to the public greatly reducing the total CO2 emissions that our energy requirements need, so help the environment, take responsibility for what you use and stop passing the buck to cowboy regulated foreign Countries who couldn’t care less what GHGs are emitted in the production process they use…

            • Was that written on a wall Kish? Or on a screen? How things have moved on since those old graffiti days?

              Not so much google, more like goodle perhaps?

              Few of us can benefit from such a direct line, though perhaps many claim to have?

  6. To those who think batteries will fill the hole in energy supplies inevitably created by intermittent renewables ….from the eminent science journal Nature….

    “Electric vehicles need powerful, light and affordable batteries. The best bet is commercial lithium-ion cells — they are relatively compact and stable. But they are still too bulky and expensive for widespread use……..

    …….we call on materials scientists, engineers and funding agencies to prioritize the research and development of electrodes based on abundant elements. Otherwise, the roll-out of electric cars will stall within a decade.” Google the complete article from evidential support.

    In other words the idea that we can replace the ICE with electric batteries by 2040 is just wishful thinking.

    This is what Bill Gates was saying 2 years ago, there is currently no practical alternative to fossil fuels, but we should be ploughing mega bucks into relevant research. In the meantime there are practical lower carbon alternatives such as CNG powered vehicles.

        • Agreed; this has been said before. For those of you who use a mobile phone, the picture above is for you. The person with no protective equipment on 8p a day is because that £1000 phone, which costs no more than £500 to produce and distribute, is lining the pockets of yet another offshore super yacht owner (600 more ordered this year).

          So, stop upgrading your phone or choose a one that supports better treatment for those at the bottom of the chain.

          As in all things we enjoy in the UK there is a hidden, disgraceful disregard for human rights if you dig deep enough; stop consuming things and start working towards a better planet.

          If you really support change and feel lithium is too much to endure in your electric car Paul, use your bicycle……

      • Interesting article re battery charging. But how can this fit with minimising impacts on our planet etc etc. Have a look at where Niobium and Tungsten are mined, who owns the mines (check Brazil for Niobium) and have a look at the devastation caused by the mines.

        • Paul, did you seriously write this?

          “But how can this fit with minimising impacts on our planet etc etc.”

          Coming from your pro fracking and associated avoidances of the word stance, that is somewhat rich if not catastrophically over spiced isn’t it?

          Isn’t your entire industry a threat that maximises the impact of fossil fuel pollution on our country and our planet etc etc??

          • Phil C – Yes, I wrote it. I am not the one harping on about saving the planet, impacts of hydrocarbon production, alternatives are better, batteries and renewables are the way etc. etc. I am realistic about our continuing dependence on oil and gas until at least 2050 and something better comes along. Batteries require materials – materials require mining and impacts – a given, not an issue for me but it generally is for “green” groups and anti posters on this BB. Although I do take exception to the mining by hand in the DRC in the photo. But like blood diamonds, there is a huge demand….

            You know that I will be proven correct, human nature, desire for wealth, corporate greed, consumer society, evolving middle classes (billions of people) will ensure that the demand for hydrocarbons continues to increase for some time to come, and there is nothing you and I can do about it. As all the current forecasts show.

            • I dont “harp on” about saving the planet, i state it clearly a precisely, and frankly, when when what you are clearly doing the opposite Paul, I might say that it is you who are “harping on” about the exclusive propagating fossil fuels monopoly and ignoring and sidelining all other renewable resources, however, I would not be so rude as to say so….

              I dispute that you are realistic about the future, look around you, all the signs are indicative of the run away greenhouse effect due to Fossil fuel pollutants, just as the silenced Exxon scientists predicted would be the result of primarily relying upon exclusive Fossil fuel energy.

              There is no realistic future with Fossil fuels, fifty more years will kill us all and render the entire planet uninhabitable. There are very real and important benefits from going all out for renewable resources now integrated with the very necessary post brexit free trade and sharing of resources we can get, it’s not rocket science, it’s only political and corporate inertia and protectionism of monopolies that have stood in the way for far too long.

              It’s the only intelligent way forward and it’s not even difficult, we could be half way there in twenty years and all the way there in fourty years, it should have been done from the late 1970’s when we truly knew this that we see around us every day now would be the result.

              But as usual you ignore anything that contradicts the industry litany and just repeat anything that suits?

              Can’t you see how little time is left to turn this present insanity back to an intelligent forward looking hopeful future, instead of this hate filled self destructive hopeless suicide bid?

              What is the point of a short term profit when it endangers everyone’s future?

  7. The technology is advancing quickly and has all ready superceded these heavy expensive rare element battery systems.

    Not only that a normal lead acid battery can be refurbished with distilled water and alum and work just as well. Then of course we will not need the weight legacy of heavily built lead acid batteries either, distilled water and alum don’t need a massive heavy armoured container, because they are not dangerously acidic and toxic, and they can be made from lightweight carbon or ceramics and new anodic and cathodic materials and that will make them lightweight and we can have more per vehicle with intelligent sensing and charging systems such as brake inertial recovery, ram scoop turbines, solar panel roofs, individual wheel drives, inductive charging as you go or charging lane and stop and go services pick up systems.

    The anti anti arguments are always based upon quite deliberately out of date anti diluvium technology and ignores the new developments in non turbine blade compressed air wind generators that can work even at low wind speeds and don’t suffer from overheating from overrun in high wind speeds, can easily overcome these old much propagated problems.

    The hindrance to progress and intelligent renewable energy generation is as per usual the government and industry inertia and jealously guarded centralised highly paid monopolies trying to protect their overflowing rice bowls by stifling small scale local intelligent renewable source micro grid plans because that will break up the entire monopolistic hegemony into intelligent rational bite sized rational chunks.

    What we have been eft with is nothing more than jealously guarded private monopolistic protectionism and monetary greed and profit centred inertia.

    Time to get out of these increasingly compromised government and paymaster industry strangleholds and move towards an intelligent renewable future no bogged down in private personal profit oriented greed and avarice

    • Phil C – even if you are right how do you propose to make it happen? Global revolution? As I noted above:

      “You know that I will be proven correct, human nature, desire for wealth, corporate greed, consumer society, evolving middle classes (billions of people) will ensure that the demand for hydrocarbons continues to increase for some time to come, and there is nothing you and I can do about it. As all the current forecasts show.”

      • Wrong Paul, you might say dead wrong, because that will be the inevitable result of that thinking.

        Greed and self interest are a result of the hateful eighties, the three worst sentences ever stated by a British politician, Margaret Thatcher (throws salt over his shoulder and spits loudly)

        “Greed is good”
        “It’s everyone for themselves”
        “There is no such thing as society”

        Up to then, post sixties and seventies we were finally coming out of the hate and shock abd austerity of the WW2 legacy, and were at least coming to terms with our shortcomings and learning to love and respect each other again.

        But then certain things began to become obvious, that authority had loved the wars and had become used to their power and control over people, and now they were realising they had been rumbled. People began to ask questions, like, “who gave you the authority?” And “who really owns this planet?” And ” we want it back?”.

        But that could not be tolerated, because authority was being threatened and discredited and challenged everywhere. So this entire sorry tirade, “You have never had it so good” (or so often) crap and the fear of authority had to be stamped on the human face once again.

        And that is what happened, gone was love and respect, they were replaced with greed and avarice and were promoted everywhere, as “good”.

        No Paul, those are artificial illusions, human beings are actually being used like abused rats in a cage, trapped and starved, living naturally rats are social creatures, just as are we.

        To evolve out of this crisis stage we need to recognise our true values, only love and care for each other and the planet that we rely upon can do that. Anything else is suicide

        Treating each other with hate greed and avarice will only reduce us all to rats in a decaying trap and eventually that will collapse and we and every other living thing on this planet are dead as dodos.

        Or we respect each other and look after this precious planet, we only have this one, and we might just come out of this crisis alive and give a viable future for our children.

        Reduced to your way, we don’t have a rats arse chance of surviving the next few decades, let alone fifty years hence.

        You are an intelligent person Paul, you know that is true

        • Phil C – unfortunately you may be proven correct in your prophesy of doom. I don’t disagree with your outcomes, where we disagree is whether or not the whole human race will be won over to your line of thinking by 2050. Personally I think it will take a lot longer if ever.

          And finding out if we have commercial gas reserves under the Fylde or not is irrelevant to this global issue.

          • It’s not a prophesy Paul, it’s simple common sense and logic, we work towards our own destruction, or we work away from it, and I don’t believe it’s all doom and gloom either.
            If we work together to make a better world, rather than working towards the worlds, and also our own demise?
            This entire present situation is fabricated by those who believe in divide and conquer of any and all opposition to personal private gain and power. That we “need” wasteful consumerism to survive, well that is only recent, maybe 2.5 million years of not needing such things have preceded that. So it’s not vital, it’s just a desire, and that can be changed if the consequences of desire become obvious.
            We are seeing that all around us at the moment..
            This is the crisis point we needed to see.
            We can now see the result of consumerist desire, it is all around us.
            That can only lead one way, slavery and self destruction.
            Our governments and institutions should be fighting hard to prevent that decay and suicide and engaging everyone in the struggle against our own greed and avarice and suicidal tendencies.
            Unfortunately they seem to be doing the direct opposite?
            In this age we have one thing that no other age (as far as we know) possessed, and that is what we are doing here now. Instant communication.
            And yet even that is under attack because free speech represents the same danger to the power base systems. Discovery and transparency, and there are far far too many skeletons in the racks upon racks of carefully concealed cupboards. They must be slammed shut by force if necessary.
            The only real question as I see it, is do we ride the beast and feed off it’s scattered leavings until it turns and looks at us and smacks it’s lips, or stand up and be counted together to make it a better world for everyone?
            I always remind myself that we never did ask for any of this, we were asleep thinking we had all the answers, only to find we hadn’t even understood the questions.
            And now we have to go through the entire crazy mess again, and hope we don’t get complacent again at the last minute and forget why we fought the first time around.
            Fossil fuels got us this far, it is true, but we and the planet can no longer sustain it or support it.
            We don’t just need to change everything and start again, at least by integrating renewables, we must do it now, or we will not survive the transition.
            We still might not, but I would rather go down fighting trying to fix things than simply ride the Fossil fuel beast down into where it is taking us. I owe my children and grandchildren that much.
            It was never personal Paul, we make our choice and do our best, that is all we can do.
            If my choice is different than yours, well we are free to make up our own minds at present aren’t we?
            I really can’t see that I can do anything other than what I am doing and saying and I know you feel the same way.
            Somewhere down the line it may become not a choice, but a dire necessity for all, regardless of choice, it may have to go that far.
            I would rather hope it did not get that bad, but recent events don’t fill me full of any hope, and yet hope only comes from knowing inside that you made the right choice, no matter where it goes.
            I really can’t say it any clearer than that.

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