Neighbours of Cuadrilla’s shale gas site in Lancashire are living in an “information vacuum”, campaigners said today after an apparent pause in fracking for three weeks.
Frack Free Lancashire accused the company of “refusing to engage” with the media and said local representatives who sought information about the Preston New Road site were being “fobbed off”.
Cuadrilla said it had provided updates, where asked, to local people and the media. The company also said it was analysing data and taking advice on how to “optimise” the fracking programme within what it called “the very rigorous operating boundaries” of the regulations.
Fracking began at Preston New Road on 15 October 2018 but it appears to have stopped after nearly three weeks on 2 November.
Between 18 October and 4 November, the British Geological Survey recorded 36 small earth tremors near the site. The largest was 1.1ML (local magnitude) and the most recent was 0.7ML. Six of the tremors were above 0.5ML, the red light threshold set by the traffic light system regulations at which fracking must pause for at least 18 hours. DrillOrDrop tremor tracker
Following the apparent three-week pause in fracking, Frack Free Lancashire said residents were asking questions about the situation at Preston New Road. These included suggestions that there were problems involving the impermeable membrane and the wellbore.
The group said:
“Cuadrilla are not offering any answers. Just five weeks into the fracking process, the situation is clearly not what should be expected.”
A spokesperson said:
“Local residents are living in an information vacuum. We can all see that this is not going to plan for Cuadrilla but they are refusing to allay our concerns by providing the community with the relevant facts.
“Instead, when our representatives on the Community Liaison Group question the regulators, they are fobbed off every time with excuses about “commercial sensitivity”.
“The local and national media are now coming to us looking for answers because Cuadrilla refuse to engage with them.
“If this is how the industry conducts itself when it is trying to present itself as a responsible operation, then what can we expect when they have all the permissions they need and start on their project of turning Lancashire into ‘the largest gas field in Western Europe’?”
“Optimise hydraulic fracturing programme”
A spokesperson for Cuadrilla responded:
“We are continuing to test the shale gas exploration well in Preston New Road, Lancashire, and the coiled tubing remains clearly and visibly attached to the coiled tubing tower on site above the well.
“We have completed a series of smaller fracks along the length of the horizontal well to gather data to assess the micro-seismic response of the shale rock 2km below the surface.
“We have said many times in recent days and weeks, to both local people and any media who have asked for an update, that we are now analysing that data as well as drawing on expert advice to determine how we can further optimise our hydraulic fracturing programme within the very rigorous operating boundaries of the micro-seismic traffic light system.
“These updates have included the reassurance that there are no issues with well integrity and there are equally no problems with the impermeable membrane underlying the site.”
Last month, Cuadrilla’s chief executive, Francis Egan, complained in media interviews that the traffic light system could make shale gas developments in the UK commercially-unviable. The company had said a day’s delay would cost it £94,000. Mr Egan called for the red light threshold to be raised from 0.5ML to 2.0ML. He said a 4.0ML limit was used in parts of Canada.
But since then a meeting of the Preston New Road community liaison group was reportedly told that Cuadrilla would not lobby to raise the threshold. A spokesperson for the company would not comment on the meeting until the official minutes were published.
- Last week, DrillOrDrop asked Cuadrilla whether there had been any problems with the well that might be considered to be damage but which did not involve well integrity. This post will be updated with the company’s response.
“Taking great care”
The pro-fracking group, Lancashire for Shale, said this afternoon:
“In highlighting what they perceive to be a lack of activity on site, campaigners again demonstrate how little they really understand the business of minerals and hydrocarbon exploration.
“Cuadrilla will simply be taking great care to study and interpret the vast amount of data it will already have obtained from the early fracking of this well, before continuing to execute its plans.
“Unfounded claims and speculation about problems are just that – baseless and nothing more than an attempt to manufacture public concern given that the latest government survey shows opposition to fracking has fallen in the last year whilst support has remained broadly static.”