Aurora Energy Resources has announced it is seeking consent to frack for shale gas in West Lancashire.
In a statement this afternoon, the company said it wanted to drill, frack and test two exploratory boreholes near the village of Great Altcar, on Altcar Moss, near Formby.
It said it would be submitting a planning application to Lancashire County Council.
The proposals were first unveiled in January 2018, when the company sent initial details of the scheme to the council.
The planning application will be the first to frack in the UK for just over five years.
Cuadrilla applied in May and June 2014 to drill, frack and test four wells at both Roseacre Wood and Preston New Road. The Preston New Road site saw fracking last autumn on the first of two wells drilled. Roseacre Wood was refused permission and Cuadrilla has said it will not pursue its proposals.
Today’s statement from Aurora Resources had no details about the scheme.
If approved, the first borehole would be drilled vertically through the entire Bowland/Hodder shale. The second well would be drilled initially vertically and then horizontally for about 1,500m within a target layer. Both wells would undergo multi-stage hydraulic fracturing and flow testing. The horizontal borehole may have an extended well test of up to 90 days.
Aurora has said any employment linked to the development would be time-limited and unlikely to be significant.
The site is in an area classed as having a high probability of flooding.
There are seven protected wildlife sites within 2km of the proposed wellsite. They include one of the few remaining places in England where you can see red squirrels.
Ian Roche, the company’s managing director, said today:
“The Altcar Moss project looks to open a new chapter in the hydrocarbon story of West Lancashire, which has an exploration and production history dating back over 80 years.
“If successful, the development of a significant new indigenous energy resource would provide an important contribution to both the regional and national economies through the growth in high-skilled jobs, supply chain opportunities, and tax and business rate receipts.”
Mr Roche said gas would “continue to play an important role in UK energy supply beyond 2050”. He said the UK must maximise production of its own resources to reduce dependency on imports.
“Prepared for today”
Aurora’s plans have already attracted opposition. A campaign group, the Moss Alliance, was formed to fight the proposals.
The group said tonight:
“We were expecting their planning application and we have positioned ourselves well in terms of raising funds for expert advice and we have long prepared ourselves by way of our own research towards this day.
“Aurora’s licence obligations for PEDL 164 were amended last November (for the fifth time) and the area of the PEDL was split into two parts.
“Aurora’s obligation for the Great Altcar site is to submit a planning application by the end of September 2019, and drill at least one well there within the ensuing twelve months.
“For Aurora to say nothing for seven months and then announce an intention to submit a planning application which is required anyway within the next three months is a bit strange.
“Additionally the timescale for the remainder of the PEDL area is to complete seismic surveys there by end September 2020, submit another planning application by 2021 and drill at least one well there by 2023.”
“Not unexpected but disappointing”
A spokesperson for Frack Free Lancashire said this evening:
“We have seen today’s announcement from Aurora Energy Resources regarding a planning application to frack at Altcar Moss.
“This announcement, whilst not unexpected, is very disappointing. The government has recently declared a climate emergency and it seems extraordinary that we are now contemplating a new fracking proposal. The launching of a new fossil fuel industry is completely incompatible with our commitments regarding climate change and any such proposals should be rejected.
“We need now to de-carbonise our economy and we will oppose fracking applications both in Lancashire and elsewhere.”
“Strongest resistance yet”
Joe Boyd, of Frack Free Liverpool and Sefton, said:
“So finally the frackers have decided to invade this part of the world. But rest assured the frackers will face their strongest resistance on the ground yet.”
Mr Boyd brought a successful appeal against sections of an injunction granted to Ineos. He said:
“Ineos weren’t defeated in the Court of Appeal, so the frackers could just roll on into town unimpeded here as Aurora will find out.”
DrillOrDrop understands that Aurora sent letters to local councillors today and residents will be contacted tomorrow.
We also understand that the company has told planners at Lancashire County Council that it intends to submit a pre-application, rather than a full, application. There is no date for when this will be submitted.
When the full application is submitted to Lancashire County Council it must be validated to ensure it is in the correct format and contains sufficient information. There will then be a public consultation and the decision will be made by the council’s development control committee.