Updated: Cuadrilla to frack second well at Preston New Road and granted permit changes

pnr 190710 Ros Wills

Work underway at Preston New Road, 10 July 2019. Photo: Ros Wills

Cuadrilla confirmed this morning it was preparing to frack again at its shale gas site near Blackpool in Lancashire.

In a statement, the company said it would remobilise hydraulic fracturing and testing equipment to the Preston New Road site between now and September. Cuadrilla told BBC News fracking would begin by the end of August.

The work was expected to take two months and scheduled to be completed by the end of November 2019.

Cuadrilla described the operation as “the latest step in demonstrating the huge commercial opportunity of natural gas from UK shale”.

The news was met with disappointment by local campaign groups but welcomed by supporters of a Lancashire shale gas industry.

In October 2018, Cuadrilla began fracking the PNR-1 well at the site – the first high volume hydraulic fracture of a horizontal well in the UK.

The company said that operation confirmed there was a reservoir of recoverable high-quality gas and that the shale fractured in a way that was typical of an excellent shale gas reservoir.

But the fracks induced more than 50 earth tremors reported by the British Geological Survey. The largest, measuring 1.5 local magnitude (ML) and 1.1ML, were felt locally (DrillOrDrop tremor tracker).

Cuadrilla said it had to stop fracking prematurely four times because seismic events exceeded the 0.5ML limit in the regulations, known as the traffic light system. Another five earth tremors had to be reported to regulators. Only two of the planned 42 stages (5%) were fully fractured, the company said.

181214 bubble chart refracktion

Seismic events at Cuadrilla’s Preston New Road shale gas site up to 14 December 2018. Source: Refracktion

Asked by DrillOrDrop today which wells would be fracked in the new programme, a spokesperson said Cuadrilla was concentrating on the other well drilled at the site, PNR-2.

Asked whether the company would return to refrack PNR-1, the spokesperson said:

“Both wells are prepared for fracking and it could be both but the focus is on PNR-2.”

Cuadrilla submitted a revised hydraulic fracturing plan (HFP) for PNR-2 in June 2019. This said the maximum strength of tremors induced by new fracking had been estimated at 3.1ML. But this was considered to be “a very low likelihood”.

1907 Francis Egan Cuadrilla Resources

Francis Egan, chief executive of Cuadrilla Resources. Photo: Cuadrilla Resources

Cuadrilla’s chief executive, Francis Egan, had previously asked for a technical review of the 0.5ML limit, which he described as “uniquely low”. He said Cuadrilla was the only company in the UK to provide data to support the case for a review.

In today’s statement he said:

“We have learnt a lot during the hydraulic fracture programme for the PNR-1z horizontal in 2018 and this expertise forms the basis for the new hydraulic fracture plan for our second horizontal well, PNR2.

“The new hydraulic fracture plan will operate in line with the existing traffic light system for induced seismicity. However, one of the key differences will be a more viscous fracturing fluid which has been reviewed and approved by the Environment Agency as non-hazardous to ground water and which we expect will improve operational performance under the uniquely challenging micro-seismic regulations.”

We asked Cuadrilla whether the hydraulic fracture plan for PNR-2 had been approved but the company’s spokesperson would not answer. The Oil & Gas Authority, one of two regulators responsible for approving the plan, said:

“The OGA does not comment on the status of any proposed activities or applications.”

At the time of writing, the other regulator, the Environment Agency, had not responded to our question.

pnr 181225 ros wills4

Mr Egan said in the statement:

“Work to date on what is probably the most highly monitored onshore oil and gas site in the world has proved that this is an entirely safe, well run and well-regulated operation – and there is no doubt that the opportunity for the UK is huge.”

This week, the Environment Agency revealed there was missing data in Cuadrilla’s groundwater monitoring for the two months after the end of the first fracking operation. The company has also breached conditions of its environment permit on methane venting and the management of surface water management and waste.

A spokesperson for Preston New Road Action Group, which opposes operations at the site, said:

“It is highly concerning for residents close to the Preston New Road Site that we are again going to go through a period of disruption and worry.

“Cuadrilla failed to fully frack their first well so it seems strange that they feel that they will get better results from the second.

“Only this week it has come to light that the site has not been as well monitored as we have been lead to believe and now they are intending to also use additional hazardous chemicals.

“From the previous well the methane was released into the atmosphere as they were not able to flare it properly. In this time of Climate Crisis we should be leaving methane in the ground.”

Mr Egan said Cuadrilla was working demonstrate that gas produced from UK shale would be the “most environmentally sensible and economically beneficial long-term feedstock for hydrogen generation”. This was essential, he said, if the UK were to hit net zero CO2 emissions by 2050.”
But Nick Danby, of Frack free Lancashire, said of today’s news:

“This is an unwelcome but not unexpected announcement.

“It seems extraordinary that with the government just announcing a climate emergency, we are contemplating a resumption of fracking on the Fylde.

“Let us remember that Cuadrilla have a long history of failure and that they caused 57 seismic events last time that they fracked.

“They have also recently been taken to task and are being investigated by the Environment Agency for failing to properly monitor water quality, having previously failed to record a methane leak. They simply cannot be trusted to put the health and welfare of the community ahead of their commercial interests.

“Yesterday, we held an event at Preston New Road to mark over two years of peaceful protest and over 150 people attended.

“We will continue to strongly oppose fossil fuels and demand an immediate transition to renewable energy.”

pnr 190710 100th call for calm Ros Wills2

100th Women’s Call for Calm protest at Cuadrilla’s Preston New Road site, 10 July 2019. Photo: Ros Wills

The pro-fracking Lancashire for Shale group said today:

“Cuadrilla’s plan to return to its Preston New Road site is welcome news. There is no doubt that Britain will continue to consume huge amounts of natural gas for decades more, including potentially in the production of clean-burning hydrogen to help decarbonise home and industry heating as well as HGV transport.

“With that being the case, it makes both economic and environmental sense to extract and use our own gas rather than relying on imports from all over the world.”

  • Cuadrilla has planning permission to drill, frack and test two more wells at Preston New Road. The conditions of the permission require this work to be completed by November 2019. It now looks unlikely that this deadline will be met. If the company wants to drill and frack the remaining wells it would need to submit a planning application for an extension to Lancashire County Council.

Permit changes agreed

The Environment Agency (EA) announced today it had agreed to most of Cuadrilla’s requested changes to the environmental permit for Preston New Road.

The changes mean Cuadrilla can now:

  • hydraulically fracture on more than one occasion along a lateral well
  • carry out periodic well workovers and well intervention.
  • use open-topped tanks for debris from well maintenance and sand returned during well circulation activities where there is an insignificant risk of natural gas emissions
  • Stop using diffusion tubes and gauges to monitor for methane, carbon monoxide, nitrogen dioxide, nitric oxide, sulphur dioxide, ozone, total petroleum hydrocarbons, volatile organic compounds, PM10, PM25 and dust. Higher quality continuous monitoring had been introduced for targeted substances, the EA said. Diffusion tubes and gauges would continue to be used to monitor hydrogen sulphide and BTEX.
  • Use methanol (alcohol used to lower the temperature at which liquids freeze) and gluteraldehyde (a biocide). Both are determined as non-hazardous to groundwater.
  • Use a higher viscosity gelled fracturing fluid to carry more sand into fractures

The EA did not accept the request to change the frequency of monitoring for surface water. It imposed a requirement to monitor fortnightly for all operations.

EA also varied wording of some conditions. These included analysis of gas to the flare, and monitoring of flare temperature, seismicity and surface water discharges.

A spokesperson for Preston New Road Action Group said

“It is disappointing that this permit variation has been approved. There have now been many changes since this application was first approved, it is going to get to the point where what is happening is nothing like what was originally granted. We know that there have previously been breaches at the site. This variation increases the risk to local residents as it is allowing extra chemicals to be used which will need to be transported along the roads along which we travel and by our homes. Open topped tanks to be used for the storage of flowback fluid could potentially cause fugitive emissions into the air that we are breathing.”

Updated to correct fracking of PNR-1 from October 2019 to October 2018 and to add information on the permit variation

44 replies »

  1. Really? They cannot be serious? All gone too quiet on the fracking frontline and now Cuadrilla want to test the wrath of the anti-fracking community. Beyond belief!!

  2. All these activities and hypes are just for show to justify for more investment and keep their paycheck rolling in. The public is not interested that much neither in the scaremongering stories by the anti frackers nor in the economic potential hypes spewed out by the frackers.

  3. Interesting that the timescale of third quarter 2019 matches the schedule for a forced Brexit when the Environmental oversight of the European Union will cease giving the Tory Government free rein to destroy our environment and community health in the ‘dash for gas/cash’ that is their policy!
    I’m deducing Cuadrilla and friends have been tipped the wink that restraints on their activities because of earthquakes, drinking water and toxic emissions will be removed then!
    Why else would they be spending a fortune re-installing fracking equipment slowly but surely at Preston New Road, Lancashire?
    Either that or they’re just hoping to extend the period and increase the amount of investors cash they’re sucking up!

    • Peter – Perhaps they want to stimulate and test the second well and there is no conspiracy after all? The world is full of surprises! You shouldn’t worry if they have similar TLS problems as with the first well it will fail and they will call it a day.

      However in the event they adopt a different methodology to overcome the TLS limitations (or the limits are raised…) then the results may be positive and more wells may be drilled and fracked…

      Sit back and enjoy.

    • Martin – it’s not CP who’s the problem – she seems very up for getting the TLS – it’s GC whose the only one holding things up

      • I recognise that Judith, however she unfortunately supported GC too much and as they say in agriculture-“hitch your wagon too close to the horse and you get s*** on”. A bit unfair but senior politicians do need to be strategically astute.
        Besides which, it looks as if Boris has indicated all around him will have to sign up to support a no deal Brexit, if it comes to it. Don’t think CP could do that.

        Shame-I liked her directness.

  4. This needs to be stopped immediately and never be started it’s not fracking its actually cracking the earth

    • Can you show us the cracks, Thomas?

      Do we get the same when quarries blast thousands of tonnes of rocks into the air?

      • The presence of existing faults around the Fylde is an accepted FACT! Check out if you wish.

        As Thomas says the fracking process is to create and expand ‘cracks’ and ‘faults’ then prop them open to release whatever gaseous and liquid products are present.

        However as a quick check will show there’s more to it than that which is why The List of the Harmed from the mature fracking zones of North America now extends to over 20,000 victims, human, animal, aquatic and environmental!

        This situation on the Fylde is just so wrong and perverse on so many levels.

        • Peter K
          Thomas says that the earth is being cracked! He does not say that fracking is a process designed to expand cracks and faults. Fracking is designed to create cracks ( by fracturing the rock ) and avoid faults.

          There has been discussion here on DOD as to how close to a fault you can frack and not frack the fault itself. Plus a few papers on that issue.

          Click to access 10.1007%2Fs40948-018-0081-y.pdf

          Then there are concerns as to the presence of faults and their potential to be a conduit for frack fluid from where it is supposed to be, to where it is not.

      • Martin, do you really think quarries blasting thousands of tons of rocks into the air would be permitted in close proximity to motorways, schools, family housing, small businesses, reservoirs etc.

        Earthquakes can and have caused problems many miles away from their centre of activity, particularly liking to travel along fault lines.

        Your comment has no relevance!

        • Peter – maybe you should try using google maps and satellite view. I fly into the UK at least once a week and I’m always amazing how many quarries there are and how close they are to major infrastructure.

        • Oh really Peter?

          Have a word with the people of St. Keverne who have a certain Swansea Lagoon project wanting to do exactly that, without their local consent.

          Maybe my comment has some relevance to those who actually know what is being proposed, and then supported by some who do not bother to check what it brings with it.

          Interesting little new development “cluster” when some decide something is irrelevant merely because they do not understand the relevance.

        • Peter. K
          The answer to your question is . Yes. Blasting is carried out in close proximity to motorways, schools, houses and so on.
          Check out the location of a few quarries.

          Here is an example, no too far from Woodsetts, and right in the middle of frack country.

          You can see the village in the picture. It is also right next to Cresswell Crags ( though most visitors are unaware of its proximity ), and next to a railway line ( convenient for transport ).

          There are quarries in the proximity of motorways as well ( Shap?)

          Mountsorrell quarry is next to a reservoir, village, schools etc etc.


          • One difference between quarrying and fracking appears to be that the former can control the timing of any tremors by choosing when to blast. Tremors from fracking may occur many hours after the operation is completed, in the middle of the night.

            • Paul Seaman

              Yes, you can control the timing of the blasting, and the blast itself only lasts a few seconds ( depending on number of holes and detonator delay ). Then some of the resulting issues are similar.

              But proximity is not a great problem.

    • Thomas Vounsell

      Yes, it is cracking the earth. But it may help to know that tectonic activity is cracking the earth as well, with a magnitude likely to be a billion times more than fracking ( or indeed the sum of all mining, quarrying and hydrocarbon extraction combined.

      Here is a link to where all the cracking is taking place.

  5. Meanwhile (Dorkinian will like this):

    “The Oil and Gas Authority has opened up applications to explore in large areas of the North Sea and West of Shetland.

    There are 768 blocks or part-blocks on offer across the main producing areas of the UK Continental Shelf (UKCS).

    It is the 32nd round of licensing for exploratory drilling over more than 50 years, but the first since the UK committed to cutting greenhouse gas emissions to net zero by 2050.”

    “But the OGA said oil and gas were still seen as part of Britain’s future energy mix.

    “Maximising economic recovery from the UKCS is vital to meet our energy demands and reduce reliance on imports,” it said.”

    This could be a quote from John Powney who will be very happy…..

  6. Just wondering why Cuadrilla are still carrying out self-monitoring after their failures and subsequent concealment were recently exposed and allegedly under investigation by our Gold Standard Monitors?

    Surely all monitoring should have been immediately taken into independent control and Cuadrilla been liable for all subsequent costs?

    The health and safety of residents and the environment has again been compromised and the Gold Standard Monitors have again done nothing about it!

    • Peter, information suggests that Cuadrilla had changed the groundwater monitoring contractor towards the end of 2018, that to me indicates that they pay for a specialist companies to carry out the analysis on their behalf.

      The EA wants a review of Cuadrilla’s quality control measures on groundwater monitoring and is carrying out an investigation as to why some of the monitoring data was missing.

      Once the review and investigation is completed, the EA has stated that it will consider whether Cuadrilla has breached the conditions of its permit.

      Again it looks to me that the Gold Standard Monitors are on the case and taking action.

      • It looks to me that by the environment agency continuing to allow Cuadrilla to mark their own homework before the investigation into their failure to do so previously is premature and in favour of the frackers over the wellbeing of the population!

        There is a presumption of whitewash and no worthwhile punishment once again.

      • John,

        There is also the possibility that if Indeed Cuadrilla have changed their groundwater monitoring contractor it could because that Cuadrilla didn’t like the water testing results they produced!

        I don’t know yet but I’ll be trying to find out after the weekend!

  7. Perhaps the contract with the original company doing the water analysis had ended Peter and there’s no conspiracy to be found.

    • John Harrison

      It will be interesting to find out why Cuadrilla did not spot the missing data early on, as this miss has then caused them to be in breach of the need to inform the EA it was missing. Especially as they moved to a new contractor.

      But good to see regulation working. If the EA was not doing it’s job it would not have spotted the error, and if it was a conspiracy, we would not have found out. Plus if Cuadrilla were cooking the books they would not submit a return with missing data to the regulator.

      No doubt we will find out more here on DOD at sometime.

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