Letter reveals Cuadrilla is running out of time to frack Blackpool wells

pnr 190417 drone footage uwoc4

Drone footage of Cuadrilla’s Preston New Road fracking site, 17 April 2019. Photo used with owner’s consent

Cuadrilla looks likely to miss the planning deadline to frack its second shale gas well at Preston New Road, in Lancashire, correspondence has revealed.

In a letter to the regulator, the Oil & Gas Authority, the company called for a review and revision of the rules on fracking-induced seismicity by the end of March 2019.

Meeting this deadline would allow “further exploration wells to be safely and effectively hydraulically fractured and tested within the 2019 planning approval window”, Francis Egan, Cuadrilla’s chief executive said.

The letter, sent to the OGA chief executive, Andy Samuel, in December 2018, was seen by the Financial Times and released in response to Freedom of Information request.

A condition of Cuadrilla’s planning permission requires drilling and fracking four wells at  Preston New Road to be completed by the end of November 2019.

So far, the company has drilled two wells and fully fracked just 5% of the first well, PNR-1z.

According to the letter, the company urged the Oil & Gas Authority to carry out a review of the traffic light system, which requires fracking to pause if it induces earth tremors measuring 0.5ML (local magnitude) or more.

Fracking PNR-1z induced 56 small earth tremors, most of which were not felt. The tremors included three “red events” where seismicity during fracking measured more than 0.5ML. There were also four “trailing events” where the 0.5ML level was passed when fracking was not taking place.

Cuadrilla said it had paused fracking at least five times during the operation between October and December 2018. In October, Mr Egan told the FT the UK shale gas industry could be “strangled before birth” because of the traffic light system.

Earlier this month, he called at an industry seminar for a new approach to seismicity rules. He said a new system should include measurement of ground vibration.

The OGA is analysing data collected by Cuadrilla at Preston New Road but it confirmed that no review was underway.

Last week, Cuadrilla told DrillOrDrop it was demobilising specialist equipment from Preston New Road. It said:

“We’re looking forward now to the next phase of hydraulic fracturing and unlocking a huge economic opportunity for the county and country for decades to come.”

The company told the FT it had “recently completed a work programme designed to ensure that our wells remain ready for further hydraulic fracturing”.

Lancashire County Council has told DrillOrDrop and residents that if Cuadrilla needed to extend the duration of the planning permission for drilling and fracking it would need to submit a full application. This would be advertised locally and if any objections were received, the application would be decided by the county council’s development control committee.

20/4/19  Dates of Cuadrilla fracking corrected to 2018.

35 replies »

  1. Cuadrilla, Rathlin, Third Energy…. have any of these companies managed to work within deadlines set by planning regulations?
    How can anyone have confidence in an industry which cannot project plan a small number of exploratory wells?
    Together with frequent breaches of EA and HSE regulations and a contempt for local communities what more evidence is needed that these incompetent cowboys need to be closed down before they do more to put our air and water at risk?

  2. LCC requires contentious decisions to be decided by committee and can not be delegated. So if Cuadrilla requires an extension of time they will have to persuade LCC Planning Committee.

  3. “Cuadrilla said it had paused fracking at least five times during the operation between October and December 2019”. Does Cuadrilla not know exactly how many times?

    • But who decides whether an application is contentious? Particularly for what is often regarded as a minor change to an existing consent. The Chair of the Committee, in conjunction with the Chief Planning officer or Chief Executive? I wouldn’t raise my hopes too high on that front.

      • Extending Cuadrilla’s time at PNR cannot be said to be a minor change, with all the repercussions extending the time would cause the local communities, regulators and police. If it was considered a minor change, all companies would underestimate their time scale in order to more easily gain planning permission. . Cuadrilla have already taken far longer than their estimated time with no excuse and since they have only carried out a fraction of the work they originally promised it’s time to admit they have chosen the wrong place at the wrong time and pull out.

  4. What is the point on keeping to “schedule” whilst testing? Ermm, if you knew the results before you tested you would not need to test! Then you could just steam ahead and keep to schedule. However, it would not be very efficient regarding optimising procedures for future work.

    If you doubt the logic of that, just read the reports regarding the drilling of the two wells recently by Igas.

    • Martin. Cuadrilla have had since January 2017 at PNR to “test” as you call it. They have been given every opportunity and the regulators and Council have rolled over backwards to overlook Cuadrilla’s numerous breaches in order to assist them. Still they have managed to frack only 5% of just 1 of the 2 wells they have drilled. Wells 3 and 4, which should be drilled and fracked by November 30th 2019 under the present Planning Permission, have not even been started. Fracking only 5% of one well has caused 57 seismic events and at least 5 red alert stoppages under the Traffic Light System. This self same TLS that Cuadrilla and the industry previously agreed to. They now claim that to carry on is impossible without raising the TLS levels and using more and different chemicals than previously agreed. A cynical person would conclude that this was what they intended all along and the previous “Gold Standards” were just an industry ploy to deceive the public.

      • Well, Pauline, you may be a cynic. I am a realist, and like many have been involved within testing programmes-but in other industries- know that such is a high risk, and (timespan) unpredictable, enterprise. Most know that, even most who invest in companies that may be involved.

        I suspect the majority of the public will not have been deceived by what is standard. However, if there are some feeling deceived I am sure there will be some to excite them. By the way-it is not me calling it test. That is what it is, and has been referred to by many. And most of those expect fracking to cause seismic “events” if they have looked at the technique involved, and the measuring equipment.

        Many agreed to red flags being walked in front of motor vehicles initially. Another form of red alert, but soon superseded. I don’t look back and think that was cynical-just over cautious. Even the 10 Commandments have been slightly adjusted over time.

        • Martin. I’ve never heard Cuadrilla’s exploits at PNR referred to as a “test”. The sign to the site says “Cuadrilla Exploration Site”.

          • If you want something recent, Giggle, Independent- Harry Cockburn. You will see the following:

            “In February the company urged the Oil and Gas Authority to “urgently review” the traffic light system to enable PNR wells to be “properly TESTED and produced effectively, without compromising safety or environmental protection.”

            Perhaps us realists just seek the facts?

  5. Errrm I thought that they had a schedule to frack 100% of the well ? Seems they didn’t mange to schedule that .

  6. I wrote to the Chief Exec of LCC regarding this issue on January 15th and received a reply from Richard Kenny, Interim Director of Economic Development and Planning on the 25th January, assuring me that Cuadrilla will have to apply for a change to condition 2 of their current application which states that they have to complete drilling and fracking at PNR by 30th November 2019 and that any such application will have to go through the full planning process which will give us the opportunity to object and lobby councillors. I am unable to attach the letter here but will email it to Ruth today.

    • Pleas by both Cuadrilla and Ineos, the energy and petrochemicals company that hopes to frack for shale in England, have been rebuffed by the government and the regulator, although the Oil and Gas Authority (OGA) said in February it was carrying out a “scientific analysis” of the data gathered from Cuadrilla’s recent work.

      This analysis did not, however, constitute a review of the traffic light system, the regulator stressed.

      No new threshold, no commercial viability, no need to continue.

      • AURORA had their scoping request agreed by LCC months ago. They said they would be putting in an application but have yet failed to do so. Their second term end date is 30/06/2019 only a few weeks away. They have promised to drill 3 wells by 20/07/2021.

        That would seem highly unlikely to happen judged against what little they have achieved so far.

        The Director of Aurora is also a Director of UK onshore oil and gas. A company which Francis Egan is also a Director.

        You would imagine there would be a professional working relationship between both companies and if PNR was a commercially viable venture then Aurora would be trying to get their drill bit into land at Altcar.

        Of course any attempt to do so would be met with the extremely well organised and well prepared Moss Alliance.

    • So Bob, a few people are unhappy Cuadrilla won’t complete drilling in the allotted time given; but what your saying is you are doing everything you can to slow it down?

      You can’t have it both ways…

  7. Good morning ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, it is Sunday again and its the 26th Sunday since fracking was first attempted to be resurected in the UK, and has so miserably failed to achieve anything within the TLS limits. We see yet another attempt to change, if not entirely trash them apparently to the deaf ears of the government, who have more problems with the brexit debacle and Extinction Rebellion has demonstrated across London all this week and the children will again be striking for the climate on May 3rd, also Greta Thunberg is arriving in UK today and will be addressing the Extinction Rebellion in London,

    “The Swedish activist will also take the campaign to the UK parliament, where she will speak to dozens of MPs including the Green party MP Caroline Lucas, the Labour leader, Jeremy Corbyn, and the environment secretary, Michael Gove.”

    It is again interesting to note that Claire Perry is not listed in the governments representatives, and that she refused to allow the last school strike for climate on April 15th to speak to her and hand in their petition and actually locked the doors, which perhaps indicates that her words supporting the childrens strike was mere empty rhetoric.

    Perhaps Greta can illicit a more adult response from our so called climate change MP, if she can be bothered to attend, we shall see.

    I see that Nastasha Engel is also not listed as being present, perhaps she has changed her mind again?

    So there is a tremendous groundswell of activity against the governments lack of any real action on preventing further climate change.

    This is David Kesteven of the Fracking Farmouse website on the Cuadrilla press release and now we have the freedom of information release that Cuadrilla are still attempting to get the government and the OGA/EA to change those pesky gold standard TLS limits yet again.

    The Extinction Rebellion, the School Strikes For Climate and The Concerned Health Professionals report on fracking and The Permanent People’s Tribunal session on fracking and climate change are making the governments complicit support of fracking and its associated avoidances of the word even more difficult as this year progresses.

    I cant see that the government and its pet regulators will be allowed to roll over and play dead for Cuadrilla, ineos et al, now or in the future without causing the most almighty stink and losing what little support they still have left.

    Well have a good Sunday with family and friends and enjoy the Easter bank holiday and we shall see what results from the erstwhile illusive and that infamous and unaccountably “silent majority” demonstrating that they are speaking up and saying “we are no longer silent and we want real movement to prevent further climate change”.

    Interesting days indeed.



  8. Just a note to observe that the Times today report that the number of deaths and serious injuries on unlit motorways has risen by 90% since lighting was switched off to save energy. How much anger is there among young activists about that senseless waste of life.

  9. Ahh-the answer will be ” they shouldn’t be on the motorways in the first place-unless you are an activist looking out for the future generations. Then you can trundle around in your 3 litre BMW diesels as much as you like!”

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