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. Earth tremors are normal & natural in the East Irish Sea Basin. From the BGS:

    Date 11 July 2019
    Depth 5Km
    Mag 2.4
    Location 14Km NW of Fleetwood

    The local rag reports that “desks slid across rooms” in Fleetwood as a result of this.

    Blackpool Gazette ”
    An earthquake sent desks sliding across an office in Fleetwood earlier.
    The tremor, which measured 2.4 on the magnitude scale, happened in the Irish Sea at 11.53am local time, the British Geological Survey (BGS) confirmed.

    It comes on the same day Cuadrilla said it is to resume fracking at its Little Plumpton site in Fylde, which saw a number of quakes until the controversial practice was halted in December, but a spokesman confirmed that has not yet happened.

    One officer worker told The Gazette: “We have just had the desks move which can only be down to an earthquake.”

    Sounds very fishy to me. Perhaps they felt something. Perhaps such reports were an immediate reaction “it must be fracking to blame” and made an exaggerated claim???

    Why this event not reported as a headline on Drill or Drop, or even reported at all (I do not have time to read through every thread).?

    • 127 recent reports of damage from a 2.5 magnitude quake,

      I doubt you can get bricks and mortar damage insurance in areas with regular earthquakes. Banks and building societies must run a mile.

      I wonder how much money would have been lost from the devaluing of properties if Cuadrilla had the technical ability and Government support to develop a shale gas industry across Lancashire.

    • Cuadrilla nowhere near restarting fracking yet Nick!

      Lots more equipment to be convoyed onto site first and final permissions granted.

      Last attempts caused over 50 siesmic events, aka earthquakes before being halted!

      Virtually no siesmic events reported around the Fylde Peninsula since then or previously apart from when Cuadrilla attempted and failed to frack Preese Hall 6 years previously.

      Cuadrilla mouthpiece Egan has repeated ad nauseum that they cannot possibly frack successfully under the existing Traffic Light Monitoring System limitations so the real danger signs will be these numbers being increased by the Government! Possibly on the way to the airport before flying off on Summer holidays at the end of July.

      Watch out!

  2. Paul, I know, but is does relate to fracking indirectly as an example of the natural background experienced in the Fylde. Also, I am very skeptical about the story of desks sliding across rooms when it was a 2.4M . This also relates to possible exaggerated claims by those who report fracking tremors.

    • ‘Also, I am very skeptical about the story of desks sliding across rooms when it was a 2.4M’

      I am very sure the 127 recent reports of damage from a 2.5 magnitude quake in Groningen (see link above) are genuine.

      Any one think the Groningen damage is caused by the public deliberately damaging their own properties?

      • John, I looked at your link. Groeningen are not fracking earthquakes, as your “trusty” Dutch rag reports – so what else are they misreporting? . Groeningen tremors are caused by differential subsidence of a large conventional gas field that is being depressurised. Nothing to do with shale gas, fracking nor the behaviour of natural faults. There are other differences too.

        • “trusty” Dutch rag reports,

          How about this,

          The Chamber, after hearing the deliberation,

          ‘whereas there is no support whatsoever in the Netherlands for the extraction of shale gas due to the local risks for the environment and the aim to abandon the use of gas; calls on the government not only to ban shale gas extraction during this cabinet period, but also
          to exclude shale gas extraction on Dutch territory for an indefinite period thereafter, and is moving forward with the day’

          So according to this comment,

          ‘Groeningen tremors are caused by differential subsidence of a large conventional gas field that is being depressurised. Nothing to do with shale gas, fracking nor the behaviour of natural faults’

          There would be no reason for the Dutch Government to ban shale gas……..

          But they have.

          • More “trusty” Dutch rag reports,

            The Netherlands second largest bank, Rabobank, successfully overturned Cuadrillas Boxtel drilling proposals.

            As a response, Rabobank Nederland started a legal procedure to stop Cuadrilla Resources from starting the exploration drillings at Boxtel, Their main argument is that the temporality of the licence can be questioned, which had legally the best opportunities of success compared to other procedures and jurisprudence. Rabobank Nederland also had other concerns but these were less likely to make a difference.

            On 25 October 2011, the court decides that the temporality of the exploration drillings is not proven and decides in favour of Rabobank

            Click to access RnDialogue%20case%20study%20-%20shale%20gas.pdf

            Rabo bank current stance,

            For instance, it is our policy not to finance the exploration and production of shale gas and other non-conventional fossil natural resources (tar sand oil, shale oil and shale gas, or coal seam gas).

            Click to access rabobank-sustainably-successful-together2017.pdf

          • John Powney

            Somewhat tortured logic there?

            Or is this better.

            The Dutch Government has a reason to stop production from the Groningen field, but they have not.

            Hence Groningen is nothing to do with fracking.

  3. I am alarmed that the biocide Glutaraldehyde is deemed non hazardous to groundwater. It was used by the NHS as a disinfectant but was withdrawn from use due to its harmful effects ( and the CDC describes the effects as “throat and lung irritation, asthma and difficulty breathing, dermatitis, nasal irritation, sneezing, wheezing, burning eyes, and conjunctivitis. Workers may be harmed from exposure to glutaraldehyde. Workers can be exposed to glutaraldehyde through inhalation or skin contact. The level of exposure depends upon the dose, duration, and work being done.”

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