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.
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.
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.”
“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.”
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.”
“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.”
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.”
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.”