Shale gas has flowed to the surface at Cuadrilla’s fracked well at Preston New Road near Blackpool, the company said this lunchtime.
The news, described by Cuadrilla as “significant” and “providing early encouragement”, follows its complaints earlier this week that rules on earthquakes caused by fracking were too strict and could “strangle” the UK industry.
The company has distributed a video showing the gas being burnt in a flare on the site.
The pro-fracking group, Lancashire for Shale, said the gas flow was a “real credit to the expertise and tenacity of Cuadrilla.”
The opposition campaign group, Frack Free Lancashire, said Cuadrilla was desperate to give investors some good news after fracking at Preston New Road had caused more than 30 earth tremors.
The company has been required to halt fracking twice because seismic activity exceeded the 0.5ML (local magnitude) red-light threshold.
Mr Egan had called for the 0.5ML limit to be raised to 2.0ML. But the energy minister, Claire Perry, said this would be “foolish” while the government was trying to “reassure people about safety”.
In an interview with the Times, Mr Egan said the company was not getting effective fractures and may not want to flow test.
But in a statement today, the company said flow testing on both wells was now planned for late 2018 and into the new year.
Mr Egan said today’s gas flow, though small, was indicative of the potential of shale:
“Considering that we are only at the very start of fracturing operations and, given operating constrains, have not yet been able to inject as much sand into the shale as we had planned, this is a good early indication of the gas potential that we have long talked about.”
“This Preston New Road site is being monitored to an unprecedented level. This initial gas flow is by no means the end of the story.
“However it provides early encouragement that the Bowland Shale can provide a significant source of natural gas to heat Lancashire and UK homes and offices and reduce our ever growing reliance on expensive foreign imports.”
The campaign group, Frack Free Lancashire, said in a statement:
“After the public relations disaster that Cuadrilla have suffered over the last three weeks, and the 25% crash in their parent company’s share price over the last 48 hours, Cuadrilla are clearly desperate to be able to give their investors some good news.
“However, it sounds as though they are now claiming that a small quantity of gas that returned when they had to depressure the well (after triggering both amber and red events) is somehow exciting news.
“We doubt that either their investors or the government are going to impressed by this last-ditch attempt to salvage something positive from a three-week series of unfortunate events.
“We look forward to seeing the associated data on the flow rate, which they will no doubt be publishing shortly.”
Shares in one of Cuadrilla’s investor, the Australian mining group, A J Lucas, fell sharply on 31 October 2018, the day of Ms Perry’s statement.
The Preston New Road Action Group, a resident’s group which opposed Cuadrilla’s plans through an inquiry and two court cases, last night welcomed the government’s decision not to relax the seismicity rules. It warned that it would challenge any move to raise the threshold in the courts. DrillOrDrop report
Lee Petts, chair of the pro-fracking group, Lancashire for Shale, responded to the announcement of the gas flow:
“This is fantastic news, and a real credit to the expertise and tenacity of Cuadrilla and its partners, proving that it is possible to safely recover gas from the rich shale deposits beneath our feet.
“Earlier this week, we saw three LNG cargoes land into the UK on the same day, two of which were fracked shale gas from the United States. There is no justification for remaining so reliant on imports of costlier, less secure and higher emission LNG from abroad when we are sitting on a vast untapped source of our own gas here in Lancashire.
“The news that Cuadrilla has been able to produce gas to the surface sets the scene for the future development of a successful new industry, and will be welcomed by the business community for the benefits it will bring to the local economy.”