Fracking due to start at Preston New Road in next week, says Cuadrilla

pnr 181003 Ros Wills

Cuadrilla’s Preston New Road shale gas site preparing for fracking, 3 October 2018. Photo: Ros Wills

Cuadrilla has announced it expects to begin fracking near Blackpool in the next week.

In a statement this morning, the company said fracking would start on the first of two horizontal shale gas wells at the Preston New Road site.

This will be the first high volume hydraulic fracture in the UK since 2011 and the country’s first ever frack of a horizontal shale gas well.

Yesterday, local anti-fracking campaigner, Bob Dennett, lodged an application for an emergency High Court injunction to stop fracking at the site (DrillOrDrop report). He said he feared the authorities had failed to protect local people from emergencies at the site. Cuadrilla said it would “vigorously defend any call for an injunction”.

Fracking at Preston New Road would take at depths of more than 2km, the company said. The process would release gas from the shale rock surrounding to flow up the wellbores to the surface.

Cuadrilla said fracking both wells would take about three months. It would then test the flow rates of the gas for about six months. The first results were expected in the first quarter of next year.

This is the latest stage in campaigns for and against exploration for shale gas at Preston New Road. They date back to 2014, when Cuadrilla first announced it was submitted a planning application for the site. DrillOrDrop timeline for Preston New Road

Lancashire County Council refused planning permission in June 2015. This was later overturned in October 2016 by the Communities and Local Government Secretary, Sajid Javid, on the advice of a planning officer following a public inquiry.

181004 PNR surfing Debs Whiteside 2

“Lorry surfing” protest near Cuadrilla’s Preston New Road site, 4 October 2018. Photo: Debs Whiteside

Since Cuadrilla began work at the site in January 2017, there have been almost daily demonstrations of opposition. The company sought High Court injunctions against protests in March 2017 and July 2018.

Last week, three men who took part in a protest that lasted 99 hours were jailed for 15 and 16 months. They were thought to be the first campaigners to be sent to prison for taking part in an anti-fracking action.

Earlier this week, a group of nine people locked themselves in front of the gate in a protest lasting more than 50 hours (DrillOrDrop report). Yesterday, a protester climbed on top of a delivery vehicle.

Cuadrilla is expected to show the Preston New Road site to journalists over the coming days. DrillOrDrop asked to join a tour but the company said a place was not available.

“Final milestone”

Francis Egan 9 Lancashire for Shale

Photo: Lancashire for Shale

Cuadrilla’s chief executive, Francis Egan, said today:

“The start of hydraulic fracturing is the final milestone in the journey to assessing the flow rates of natural gas from our Lancashire shale exploration wells. On completion of hydraulic fracturing and commencement of gas flow, we expect to have, in the first quarter of next year, an initial assessment of how much natural gas is likely to be recoverable from these first Lancashire shale wells.

“This will allow us to make an assessment of the commercial viability and future of this exploration site. Lancashire has benefited to date from over £11 million of investment generated by our exploration operations. This investment will grow very significantly if we move from exploration into commercial production.

“We are confident the flow rates will demonstrate Lancashire can play a major and leading role in safely providing a new source of natural gas for the UK. This cannot come a moment too soon as we currently rely on imports for over 50% of the gas that we all need to heat our homes and offices and generate electricity. Producing natural gas from shale will generate investment and new jobs and provide an environmentally preferable alternative to importing gas over long distances by ship or pipeline or to burning coal to generate electricity.

“Fight against shale invasion continues”

A spokesperson for the campaign group, Frack Free Lancashire, said:

“Next week will indeed be a milestone in the seven year battle to stop  Cuadrilla from turning the Fylde into what Mr Egan has publicly predicted will be will be the largest gasfield in Western Europe.

“However, it does not mark the end of any journey. Our fight against this invasion continues.

“The tide of public and political opinion against fracking is building up into a people’s powerhouse as the fracking companies’ attempts to manipulate and influence our the judicial and political systems exposes the massive unpopularity of their project.”

171214 Frack Free Lancashire1

Protest outside Lancashire County Council in Preston, 14 December 2017. Photo: Frack Free Lancashire

“Stop forcing fracking on reluctant nation”

Kate Blagojevic, Head of Energy at Greenpeace UK, said:

“Seven years after the last UK well was fracked, the industry has produced no energy and no money.

“But to try to keep it going, the government has changed property law to give frackers access to the land under your home and overruled local councils and people to force fracking on communities.

“Millions have been spent on policing to shield the frackers from resistance in those communities, and protestors have been sent to prison for trying to protect those communities and the planet.

“Will it all turn out to have been worth it? Of course not. If we ever see any shale gas at all, it will be small amounts of an expensive a fuel which we need to stop using as soon as possible to try and stop the worst effects of climate change.

“Next week climate scientists will publish their report on the changes we need to make to keep global warming under 1.5 degrees – a key recommendation will be to keep oil, gas and coal in the ground. The government should take heed, stop forcing fracking on a reluctant nation and start backing renewables now.”

“Desperately disappointing”

Liz Hutchins, Friends of the Earth director of campaigns, said:

“It is desperately disappointing for the community at Preston New Road, for the UK and for our climate. But it’s important to place this in perspective because it’s taken the industry seven long years to frack just one well, despite the government promising to ‘go all out for fracking’.

“In those same seven years, renewable energy has gone from providing a tenth of our electricity to supplying a third of it. There is no need to force fracking on this community in Lancashire when the alternatives are so clear.

“And it’s not just Lancashire that the industry has in its sights – we need to stop the government’s new plans to fast-track fracking before a surge of drilling sweeps across our countryside.

“Fracking has already been stopped in Scotland, Wales, & Northern Ireland because of the risks and England is looking increasingly isolated in pursuing this failing and unpopular industry. We will continue to stand shoulder to shoulder with local residents until it is stopped here too.”

Lee Petts

Lee Petts

“Worth the long and winding road”

Lee Petts, chairman of the Lancashire For Shale group, said:

“Getting to this point has been a long and winding road at times, but worth it. Every ‘t’ has been crossed and every ‘i’ dotted, meaning that there is no reason why fracking for shale gas cannot now proceed.

“We look forward to receiving positive reports of commercial gas flows in the new year. In the meantime, we will continue to educate Lancastrian businesses about the supply chain opportunities and energy security benefits that a successful Lancashire shale gas industry will one day bring to the county.”

Commenting on news that campaigners have launched an eleventh-hour legal challenge to try and frustrate the start of fracking operations, Petts said:

“I’m not surprised that campaigners have decided to have one last roll of the dice with a last-ditch legal challenge, but I believe the court will agree it has no merit.

“There are countless sites across Lancashire with similar risk profiles to an operational shale gas pad – including a gas pressure reduction site just off the A583 in Kirkham surrounded by homes and businesses – that do not require emergency plans of the kind campaigners are demanding of the shale gas industry. I’m confident the court will recognise this and accept that the relevant authorities are adequately prepared to respond in the unlikely event of an incident at the Cuadrilla site.”

“National demonstration”

Laurie Underwood, from Reclaim the Power, said:

“To get this far, the government and shale gas industry have had to imprison protesters, seek court injunctions to silence the public and change planning laws to push through fracking in the face of widespread opposition.”

“The protests and blockades that have occurred outside drilling sites are not exceptional scenes; fracking companies and their investors should expect this at every place they attempt to frack. This industry is not scaleable and not viable. ”

“In the week following the imprisonment of three protestors for blockading trucks near Cuadrilla’s drilling pad at Preston New Road – there have been two similar protest actions at exactly the same locations. We remain undeterred by attempts to silence dissent. The government have underestimated the breadth and depth of public opposition to fracking.

“Together with residents groups and trade unionists, we’re calling a national demonstration outside Cuadrilla’s gates on Saturday 20th October.”

“Fearful community”

Local campaigner, Richard Marshall, said:

“It is with total arrogance that Cuadrilla, with the consent of a government fully subservient to the Oil & Gas industry, are desperately trying to prove their worth.

“The local community are quite rightly fearful as there has been little to reassure them with breaches in the traffic plan and several breaches of compliance on the well pad, Cuadrilla does not convey confidence.

“What is most frightening however, is the lack of knowledge of the emergency procedures should something go wrong on the fracking pad and I urge people to support Helen Chuntso and Bob Dennet with their injunction as they fight for our community and put our safety on the agenda.”

28 replies »

  1. If anyone pro-fracking would like to study the Emergency Injunction they surely must realise that fracking is bad for the environment, drinking water supplies and people’s health.
    If they are unable to come to this conclusion and change their minds they are not decent people!.

      • Hi Paul

        As I understand it, the people behind the injunction have not themselves made the documents publicly available at this point.

        However the documents have been lodged with the High Court, and could probably be seen on application there.

        • Thanks Paul. The question was for Peter Roberts who indicates he has read them in his post above. Perhaps he hasn’t read them?

    • Peter do your homework, I live three miles from the PNR site

      For the last time, we do not get our drinking water from the water table under the PNR site. We get it from a reservoir. The water table under the PNR site being so close to the Coast is too high in salt content

      as for the protesters

      Katrina Laurie, 40, an activist protesting outside the Preston New Road site said even if the work was carried off without incident, she would not change her mind on fracking.

      I suppose even when Katrina is heating her home, cooking her food and enjoying hot showers and baths using Lancashire Shale Gas, Katrina won’t change her mind???

      • Kishy; Katrina and many others won’t change their minds, because of the bigger picture – don’t take it out of context.

        Shale gas is another fossil fuel, we already have reserves, if burned, will raise the temperature of the planet to the point of annihilation. In the interim, mass migration and conflict.

        Shale gas extraction in the US is reeking havoc, this is not just about local opposition.

      • Kisheny, my enquiries made to United Utilities disclose that approximately 50% of the Fylde’s drinking water supplies are sourced from the river wyre and it’s tributaries. The other 50% from the Lake District.
        Turning the Fylde into the largest onshore gasfield in Europe would obviously endanger half of our supplies.
        Where do you live and work by the way? My family and I live in a village less than 5 miles away from PNR!

  2. “Given the imminent nature of threat to public health that an escape of toxic gases or a well blow out would pose, and in light of the fact that fracking is set to start within days, I have applied to the Courts for an Emergency Injunction to stop operations on the site.

    We require full public participation and consultation in Emergency Evacuation and Contingency Planning procedures.”

    Clearly a major concern as £1,385 contibuted by 69 people – £20 a head average.

    It would be interesting to know the total of all the crowd funding undertaken for the various campaigns / prisoners etc. attempting to stop Cuadrilla at PNR – anyone keeping a total?

    HSE / OGA / EA all approved, not a COMAH site, very low risk, no threat to public health, not sure why a Judge would call a halt to this? On what legal basis?

    • Jack

      The report says some wells and operators, but not all.

      Clearly not an issue in the UK at present

      As I suspect a Tinkers Lane and Misson to be sweet ( as per various INEOS roll out shows ), I will keep a local eye out for any such activity.

  3. Meanwhile, Jack, $31 billion being invested in Canada to export shale gas to Asia.

    Maybe PNR is a tiddler in comparison, but there are plenty of examples where shale gas, and oil, is a success. Perhaps Shanghai welcomed the ship building contract too. (Check INEOS.)

    We will now see whether the same can be said in the UK. Will Lord Brown be correct? At least we could be at the start of finding out the answer to that question.

    • A little bit of water and pressure……..Appeased public but little gas and concerned investors

      Lots of water and pressure….Possible game over from large seismic events but more gas and possible investment

      Decisions Decisions.

    • MARTIN,

      YOU have totally ignored and failed to address the serious issues I put forward in my above post.

      BUT whilst you are talking about so called Shale Industry success. Are you talking about the success of the industry to rack up HUGE , eye watering debts ?????

      Now that’s something they are very skilled at .

      Talk About “Losing Money” — US Shale Gas Will Crash … Hard

      How America’s ‘most reckless’ billionaire created the fracking boom

      FRACKING where money goes to die

      • MARTIN

        WALL STREET JOURNAL …… Oil Is Above $70, but Frackers Still Struggle to Make Money.

        MARTIN . ……. This is in a country where almost anything goes in terms of Fracking.

        HOW , please tell me HOW, this industry can have a Cat In Hell’s Chance of making a single PENNY PROFIT opperating in such a restricted enviournment, within the UK ?????

        I’ve said it before and i’ll say it again. This Cuadrilla PNR site will be looked upon by future historians as a type of ” General Custers Last Stand. ”

        It MAY spuaradically pop up in a very small and limited capacity in its chosen sacrifice zones over the next year or so, but inevitably the industry is finished before it’s even started in the UK.

        I just hope shale investors have the foresight to see that and jump ship NOW.

        • I wonder WHO will be left to pick up the financial burden and ecological cost when the industry implodes with HUGE DEBTS.

          Well it won’t be the Frackers and their chums , I’m sure they’ll be long gone .

          It will be the British Tax Payer and sacrifice zone communities.

        • Jack TL
          It’s all interesting stuff.
          Maybe UK shale will be uneconomic and we will continue to import gas to suit.
          Plus, as anti fracking capability spills into onshore oil, then that too will go from very small to even smaller. In the meantime we will continue to import oil.
          But remember some companies are making money from US frack gas, and as good as everyone employed in it is American ( which no doubt resonates with Republicans and Democrats alike ) and they are making more money than they can in Mc jobs.

          However, as we approach the next election, maybe fracking will be sidelined if there are no votes in it.

          So tongue in cheek….

          To plug the gap, all we need to do is keep the coal fired power stations going until renewables catch up.

          What is not to like.

          Coal, not in your back yard, not industrialising the countryside and in particular not bothering the fylde or any ex mining areas in the UK ) not polluting your water ( allegedly ), arrives by rail ( no extra traffic ), no earthquakes ( all imported ), no flaring, no frack fluid returns, no pipelines, no explosions, toxic gas risk, evacuations ( etc etc as I have listed this before ).

          And Labour have sussed it out. Ban fracking, nationalise power and then ( now owning coal fired plants ) keep them going, keeping city dwellers happy ( no cities affected ) as well as unions. They will also have read the articles saying frack gas is more polluting than coal.

          The coal will be imported through Immingham and Hull. Jobs all round in the East in coal, rail, power stations, and offshore wind.

          Now, this may happen or not, but you have to be careful what you wish for, as you may get it. Just think how nearly all that protesting would evaporate once the threat is, once again, out of sight and out of mind.

          Scotland know this as they have offshore gas and oil coming out of their ears, so they have no need for frack gas or coal.

  4. So, I expect this time the BBC will be allowed on site, which will mean that they have obtained two stories out of PNR in the last few weeks, instead of one repeated twice.

    More fog cleared away.

  5. Hallelujah. The googlers, keyboard warriors, nimbys, retired left wing professors, corbynistas, communists (apologies if missed anyone out) aka as the ‘antis’ realise that the nation (despite not being behind them at present) will definitely not support their cause once fracking commences without any major catastrophes, hence recent illegal and generally annoying activity.
    Political mood will also sway in favour.
    Activists will always portray they are a larger group of people than what is reality. A bit like the Labour Party, yes they have a large pool of die hard members, however this is still a fraction of overall voting population, this is why we see lots of tears when they continually lose.
    We’re about to have a big win my fellow rational bloggers, oh yeah 😁.

  6. Erm-how do you invest $31 billion when struggling to make money, Jack??? Sorry, you continue to fail the common sense test and rely on speculation, and ancient text to rival the Dead Sea scrolls!

    Perhaps if you are so fond of Giggling do a little search for the oil companies who now admit they failed to see the true economic potential for shale. I think you will find quite a list of those who thought OPEC could force them out and then found they couldn’t because the fracking sector managed to adjust their economics. And then, they found playing catch up in terms of getting to the table was very expensive.

    But, those economic factors will soon be established with direct relation to the UK, so you continue with the scrolls and speculation, and I will await the meaningful factual data with interest.

    • EASY to answer MARTIN,

      Fantasy driven expectations from the industry and promises of riches beyond your wildest dreams, is always a good starting point to net in some gullible investors .

  7. Sorry Jack, silly answer. Companies like Shell are not driven by fantasy. They may have some gullible investors, they also have some very tough, astute investors. The reality is there if you want to look for it but it is you who wants to focus on the fantasy and speculation.

    Here’s one for the weekend. What proportion of USA gas and oil is now produced utilising fracking? You may get a surprise as to how such a failing industry continues to defy your forces of financial gravity. And how about the oil and gas they now export? Some kind soul paying a premium for it?

    • IGAS …….. I rest my case MARTIN.

      After a share price crash , they were diluted at a ratio of 20/1 and relisted at about £ 0.76

      A lot of investors lost the shirt of their backs .

      • JackTL
        You only lose your shirt if you bet it on the company.
        A diverse portfolio is always required.
        Maybe they were invested in IGas and dabbled in Gulfkeystone at a few pence.

        • HEWES62,

          Fortune Favours The Brave………

          BUT the shale gas rollacoaster, already now has the chips heavily stacked against it.

          But then again if you are brave enough to play the long odds on this one and it does take of in the UK …. You really will be in the money.

          Unfortunately, the chances of that happening are slim and getting slimmer by the day.

          There was a small window of opportunity of it successfully starting of it in the UK when it first took of in the USA…

          Now though , with the endless horror stories coming out from the USA and climate change at the top of the political and public agenda , that window of opportunity has all but closed .

          Hewes62, your right, spread your investment over a wider range of companies . Minimise your exposure.

          Thanks for your responses to my posts today Hewes62, Paul Tresto and Martin . Enjoy your weekend , Jack.

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