Industry

Cuadrilla produces first shale gas from fracking site – despite “strict” earthquake rules

pnr 181102 Cuadrilla Resources

Gas flares at Cuadrilla’s fracking site at Preston New Road near Blackpool, 2 November 2018. Photo: Cuadrilla Resources

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.”

109 replies »

  1. You don’t have to read my comments, Richard.

    I know crembule finds them addictive, but you could refrain if you so desire.

    It does make it a lot easier if you are a bit selective, I have found.

    But before you follow that advice, as I suggested would be the case, media covering first gas at PNR and not a lot about the protestors. Objective achieved.

    • I only read them as they are like a word puzzles you might get in the newspaper – Rearrange the following words into a legible sentence [edited by moderator]

  2. Seems like there may be some doubt about the claim by Egan that the flare on Friday was fuelled by recovered Shale gas!

    More likely to have been initially pumped down as part of the contaminated fracking fluids recovery method according to expert opinion!

    Comments please from those suitably qualified not industry pr trolls!

    • Hi Peter.
      Interesting post. However “seems like”, “may be some doubt” “more likely to have been” are not helpful.
      Please give your source for “according to expert opinion!” Robin Grayson MSc Lib Dem Geologist

      • Hello Robin,

        I have to be vague as I’m only qualified to repeat other people’s opinions!

        Amongst them are Mike Hill and Ian Crane.

        As both have opinions well worth respecting due to their experiences and qualifications I am happy to identify them. Their opinions are freely available and perhaps should have been sought before the local and national media shouted out Cuadrilla’s propaganda!

          • Have you ever tried “pumping” a gas Peter? Unless it is liquified it cannot be “pumped”. Compressed yes – however this is as far fetched as most of Ian Crane’s conspiracy theories…

    • Peter K Roberts
      As Robin notes, thin gruel to work with but here goes.

      See link to article looking at liquid loading in frack wells

      https://www.gateinc.com/gatekeeper/gat2004-gkp-2016-11

      It Would seem that your experts opinion is that Cuadrilla has used Hydrocarbon gas to gas lift the well, as it does not want to flow ( both frack fluid and hydrocarbons ) with the resulting lift gas being the only gas burned ( ie no frack gas was produced )? Plus that Cuadrilla were not telling the truth. I guess it would be really difficult to gas lift a gas well, but get zero formation gas, so I am doubtful that frack gas was not burned, tho if a well is gas lifted by Hydrocarbon gas, that gas is also burned.

      Here is a link to a company promoting nitrogen from air gas lift for loaded wells.

      http://www.alrdc.com/workshops/2007%5FEuropeanGasWell/presentations/27%20NitroLift%20system%20in%20the%20Barnett%20shale.pdf

  3. The video does raise more questions than it answers. For seriously successful fracking there would need to be days of flaring to burn off the excess gasses/pressure. If the flame was simply snuffed out you’d have methane plus impurities going straight to the atmosphere. They would not be pressures you could mess about with (by choking or plugging) without serious risks. Makes you wonder if they’re just experimenting with low pressures so far.

    An infrared camera trained on the site would show methane releases if there are any.

      • Most likely they circulated out some natural gas while killing the well, the sleeves will be closed so no connection to the fracked shale. How long did they flare for?

        Perhaps they are moving to the other well?

        • It was not uncommon to flare diesel in the early stages of the North Sea exploration to promote stock prices and fool other companies re open blocks nearby. But this burns with a nice black dirty flame…

    • Nick your enthusiasm is commendable but strides ahead of reality.

      Building a new nuclear power station takes many years to get into production. This one has been cancelled before a brick was laid.
      By the time it would ever have got into production, green energy would fully satisfy UK energy needs.
      Therefore notional extra nuclear capacity was not, and is now not, relevant to UK energy needs.
      The answer is blowing in the wind… …the tides… …the sun… not fracking.
      Robin Grayson MSc, Liberal Democrat Geologist

      • Robin – The tides – a small gain perhaps, but huge environmental issues with barrages, and defowling agents on sea bed devices (e.g the failed stingray project). Waves similar issues, plus even more challenging eningeering problems (e.g. failed Polamis wave generation device) . The Sun – well I have passive solar it works well, I like cold sunny winters, not mild wet ones!. Solar PV – very poor in the UK with current technology. Stubbornly at 10% load factor for several years, & a very poor winter source of electricity, when electricity is most needed. We just don’t have the solar insolation at our latitude & cloudyness. Ground source & air source heat – yes we still some opportunities – but homes are best built with these from new rather than retrofitted, plus air source heat systems are noisy, wind – yes we can continue to cover our shelf seas & onshore landscape – massive impact – plus lots of light pollution at night from the navigation lights (take a trip to Prestatyn & look out to sea at night). Then there is deeper geothermal, again probably niche, & will need fracking!!. We could bring an interconnector down from Iceland, but the massive currents on the rock scoured sea bed between the Faroes & Scotland are a major challenge. Then of course we need huge energy storage facilities- which once more will require underground storage in salt & depleted gas fields (by the way I am a former LibDem member, election candidate, & election agent). The Chinese build their nuclear power plants relatively quickly compared to us, they even have a floating portable one.

        • Hi Nick, thanks for the information. Again you overstate your case for instance in penning “The Chinese build their nuclear power plants relatively quickly compared to us, they even have a floating portable one”. Not quite relevant to the UK, scary even, and today the Russians announced the launch of their own floating portable nuclear power plant at huge cost. Understandably you advocate fracking is important to meet our energy needs, but fail to mention the industrialisation of the last of our green and plesant land, and fail to mention that wind turbines can be put in large numbers in the sea, and fail to mention that far worse than light pollution off Prestatyn from navigation warning lights is the much more serious flaring off of H2S and other greenhouse gases from sour gas of gasfields and oilfields in the East Irish Sea Basin which do permanent damage to our planet via global warming as you well know. You have not presented a convincing argument why fracking is essential for the UK to meet its present or future energy needs. Robin Grayson MSc Liberal Democrat Geologist

  4. Robin. I did mention offshore wind in my answer to your statement “The answer is blowing in the wind… …the tides… …the sun… not fracking.” Regarding offshore wind I said “wind – yes we can continue to cover our shelf seas & onshore landscape – massive impact” I pointed out to you that all of what you said – a renewables only trajectory is flawed. I was not overstating but giving you real experience (some of which I have been involved with in renewables – even when a post-grad & nuclear, geothermal & decarbonising fossil fuels subsequently). I would have hoped you could have given a more considered response, rather than the one you posted. Regarding H2S – I have already pointed out to you that the offshore sour fields are due to groundwater ingress into the conventional oil fields (perhaps in the Miocene – but the timing is not really known). Deeply buried shales are impervious to ground water, they are aquitards – so your H2S concerns with fraccing are “overstated”.

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