Fracked gas levels at Cuadrilla’s shale site so low that propane needed to light flare stack

pnr 181102 Cuadrilla Resources

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

A publicity video used by Cuadrilla as evidence of the first shale gas production from its site in Lancashire may not be quite what it seemed.

The company sent up a drone to film a burning flare stack at the site near Blackpool in early November 2018.


It released the news to the media, describing the development as “significant” and “a good early indication of the gas potential that we have long talked about”. The pro-fracking group, Lancashire for Shale, said the gas flow was a “real credit to the expertise and tenacity of Cuadrilla”.

But an official document released this week reveals that the volume of gas reaching the surface at Preston New Road at the time was so low that the company had to feed in propane as a support fuel to light the flare.

Opponents of Cuadrilla’s operation had been sceptical about the 12-second video and the volume of gas in the well.

This week, the Environment Agency confirmed that the volume of gas coming to the surface was “very low” and that the day before the video was released methane was released unburnt into the atmosphere.

181102 car report

Extract from Environment Agency report, 2 November 2018

The details are in a report of a site inspection by the Environment Agency on 2 November 2018. The document, called a Compliance Assessment or CAR report, said:

“On the 1st November gas was sent to the flare from the separator. The gas was not burnt at the flare on this occasion due to the very low volume of natural gas. The gas was picked up on the onsite monitoring instruments at very low levels (5ppm over ten minute period).

“We acknowledge that the level of methane detected was significantly below anything that would have an impact on human health or constitute a risk of explosion and there was no environmental impact. Gas was managed in this way for safety purposes and does not constitute a breach of the permit.

“On the morning of 2nd November gas was again sent to the flare from the separator. On this occasion a support fuel (propane) was used to assist combustion. There was no visible increase in methane emissions on the boundary monitoring equipment.”

DrillOrDrop asked Cuadrilla what were the volumes or proportions of shale gas and support fuel burned in the flare on 2 November 2018. We also asked why Cuadrilla had not mentioned the support fuel in the press release and how long the company had continued to use a support fuel in the flare.

A spokesperson for the company said:

“As you are aware, we are now in the flow testing phase at Preston New Road and will look to publish results in due course. We are very encouraged by what we are seeing but are not providing a daily commentary on testing.”

The campaign group, Frack Free Lancashire, said today:

“It would seem that Cuadrilla’s woeful PR campaign has fallen flat on its face yet again. In November, desperate for some good news after provoking a series of earthquakes, they published a video showing the flaring of gas from their first well.

“Widely ridiculed at the time, as it only lasted a few seconds before being seen to have petered out, we now learn that far from being a “significant” find, this gas flow was so weak that they had to add patio gas to it to make it burn. No further comment is really needed, is it?”

There are several options for dealing with gas during flow testing. It can be piped into the gas grid – as Cuadrilla plans to do during the extended well test at Preston New Road. It can also be flared or – usually in emergencies – vented to the atmosphere.

The Environment Agency said in the CAR report:

“We are currently reviewing what is best practice including the benefits of using a support fuel to assist the combustion of very low levels of natural gas against the management of natural gas without combustion through the flare.”

pnr 181121 Ros Wills4

Preston New Road, 21 November 2018. Photo: Ros Wills

The gas flow press release came after a difficult fortnight for Cuadrilla.

By 2 November 2018, fracking at Preston New Road had already caused more than 30 earth tremors.

The company’s Australian partner, the mining group A J Lucas, had seen its share price fall since the start of fracking on 15 October 2018. By 2 November, the price had dropped from 0.39 to 0.26 Australian dollars.

Cuadrilla’s chief executive, Francis Egan, told the Financial Times on 30 October that UK rules on fracking-induced seismicity – known as the traffic light system – were too strict. The country’s shale gas industry could be strangled, he said.

He called for an urgent raising of the limit at which fracking should pause from 0.5ML (local magnitude) to 2.0ML.

But the energy minister, Claire Perry, responded on 31 October that this would be “foolish” while the government was trying to “reassure people about safety”.

181102 claire perry letter

Extract from a letter by Claire Perry to Francis Egan, 2 November 2018

It has since emerged that she also wrote to Mr Egan on 2 November, saying:

“I note that your Hydraulic Fracture Plan was developed and reviewed over several months with reference to existing regulations, including the traffic light system and at no point did you communicate that it would not be possible to proceed without a change in regulations”.

She concluded the letter, released this week in response to a freedom of information request, saying:

“The Government believes the current system is fit for purpose and has no intention of altering it”.

The A J Lucas share price rose rose after the press release, reaching 0.31 AUD on 5 November 2018 but since then it has fallen to 0.20 AUD today.

111 replies »

  1. Things are often not what they seem, Sherwulfe. But, that is reality.

    The “puddle” at HH seemed to be a good piece of speculation when it was made, the 100+ tankers so far during initial flow tests, is the reality. But, it seems the same old failed story will be trotted out purely with the foundation that one day and in one situation it might actually turn out to fit. Too difficult to come up with a different piece of speculation?

  2. But of course Passepartout, no one will have noticed Mr.Musk cutting his workforce at Tesla stating “difficult to make Teslas as cheaply as conventional cars, and they were still too expensive for most people”.


    And then Jack could actually read in todays Times an item about the NT parodied within Leading Articles to get a better understanding around the great “support” for the NT and where its limits lie.


    Agree with you on nuclear though. UK took the wrong turn and should have gone for mini reactors. Not surprising. Energy policy has been a mystery to successive Governments.
    Claire will get it sorted! Fracking and fusion-that should keep her busy.

  3. No, Passepartout, of course not.

    You “notice”? Really?

    What is TOKAMAK?

    Easy to find out. You obviously are unaware and couldn’t be bothered to research. Your choice, but not mine. If you wish to research you may gain some knowledge. I have given you the reference.

    I thought it was Pavlova looking for his missing link?

    • Tut,tut; meaningless assimilation of random letters…..have you been at the green bottles again?

      Perhaps you could provide the lovely ladies and gentlemen on here with a proper link….what’s that Jono, still not had your link from HOW long ago? Sigh

      Pavlova is a pudding; giggle

      Perhaps you mean Pavlov and his slobbering dogs; seem like the conditioning has worked on the residents of the telephone box; ha ha

      Or perhaps you REALLY got mixed up and meant Lyell and his missing link? “Missing link is an outmoded term in biology, which I have to say most of us think should be forgotten and never used,” paleoanthropologist John Hawks

  4. No, Pavlova is an Eastern “delight”, as is Crembrule a Western “delight”.

    Passepartout was Phileas Fogg’s little helper.

    TOKAMAK is a fusion system under development.

    Pleased to help you out. If you can’t keep up, sorry, but perhaps better not to display it?

    • Links please…

      ….psst fusion is currently as far and away as UK shale am afraid; best review your master plan….

      ‘Passepartout was Phileas Fogg’s little helper’ – So this is your imaginary friend Marty. Am happy you find something so comforting from your childhood to help you deal with the disappointment of no UK shale gas.

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