Community group challenges Cuadrilla’s view of geology at fracking site

190617 PNR2 fracking plan 1

Map of faults near PNR2. Extract from Cuadrilla’s hydraulic fracturing plan for PNR2, 17 June 2019.

People living near Cuadrilla’s Lancashire fracking site have said there are “serious and fundamental errors” in the company’s interpretation of local geology.

Preston New Road Action Group, which opposes operations at the site near Blackpool, has sent a lawyer’s letter to the Environment Agency (EA) about its concerns.

The EA is currently considering Cuadrilla’s hydraulic fracturing plan for the second well at Preston New Road, PNR-2. Cuadrilla said last week it expected to begin fracking this well by the end of August.

The group challenged a previous version of the hydraulic fracturing plan for PNR-2 in November 2018. But it said the Environment Agency did not respond beyond an acknowledgement. Cuadrilla later withdrew the document.

Barrister Estelle Dehon, acting for Preston New Road Action Group (PNRAG), has now asked the EA to confirm by 16 July 2019 that it will consider concerns about the revised version of the plan before any decision is taken on it.

She has also asked the EA to provide any disagreement with the assessment of geology submitted by the group within 28 days.

Fracking plans

PNR2 section Cuadrilla Resources

Section of the PNR-1, PNR-1z and PNR-2 wells. Source: Cuadrilla Resources hydraulic fracturing plan for PNR-2

Cuadrilla drilled PNR-2 to a depth of 2,100m. The well then extends horizontally for 750m into the Upper Bowland shale formation.

The hydraulic fracturing plan for PNR-2 sets out procedures for fracking, data on nearby faults, expected size of fractures and measures to control induced earth tremors.

Since submission of the original version of the plan, new data has been made publicly available. Cuadrilla also fracked the first well at the site, PNR-1z, into the deeper Lower Bowland shale.

Despite this new information and the original PNRAG challenge, the group said there were “only insignificant amendments” to the geological interpretation in the revised version of the hydraulic fracturing plan.

PNRAG said important assumptions made by Cuadrilla about the geology had been shown to be incorrect and the group’s earlier concerns still stood.

A spokesperson for PNRAG said:

“Concerns regarding the understanding of the geology around the Preston New Road Site presented in the previous version of the Frack Plan were raised with the EA.

“Since then the industry regulator, the Oil & Gas Authority, has released information which gives further clarity of the geology and also the data from fracking well 1, which all raise more questions.

“The majority of the concerns raised have not been addressed in the current version of the Frack Plan and to date we have not had a response from the EA.

“We want to ensure that the issues raised have been fully investigated prior to any approvals to frack being given. If the geology is not properly understood we face the risks of further seismic events and potential groundwater contamination”.

Key issues

A key issue centred on the presence or absence of Millstone Grit. Cuadrilla had predicted from its 3D seismic survey that this rock formation would be above the Upper Bowland shale at the PNR-1 pilot hole. But the formation turned out to be absent. Cuadrilla said this was because of geological faulting but it would be present above the PNR-2 well.

PNRAG used a report by David Smythe, emeritus professor of geophysics at University of Glasgow, to argue that Cuadrilla had misinterpreted the seismic survey data.

Professor Smythe said it would be “geologically unrealistic” to say that Millstone Grit would be present above PNR-2 when it was not above PNR-1. The company’s argument was not supported by 3D seismic survey data, he said, and cast doubt on Cuadrilla’s interpretation of the subsurface geology.

New concerns

Professor Smythe has also reviewed new data available from the Oil & Gas Authority (OGA). PNRAG said this raised new concerns about potential pathways for fluids:

  • Cuadrilla and the OGA identified many small seismic discontinuities in the Upper Bowland shale near the wellbores
  • Many near-vertical faults cut the Top Sherwood Sandstone Group and Mercia Mudstone Group extend to the near-surface and may feed ponds and sumps near the wellsite
  • The Mercia Mudstone Group is not a homogenous low-permeability barrier to upward flow
  • The PNR-1 fault, mapped as a single fault by Cuadrilla and the OGA, is actually set of faults cutting the Lower Bowland and into the Upper Bowland, some of them cutting the wellbores

The group added that fracture modelling had not been revised in the light of what was observed in fracking PNR-1z.

The letter concluded:

“We remain confident that a proper consideration of the concerns raised by Professor Smythe will lead to the EA refusing to approve the HFP [hydraulic fracture plan) for PNR-2.”

  • DrillOrDrop invited Cuadrilla to respond to PNRAG’s legal letter to the Environment Agency. This article will be updated with any response from the company.

50 replies »

  1. Judith,
    you’re entitled to your opinion of course but in my opinion your opinion about my opinion is complete nonsense!
    The movement below ground required to cause damage to the old water pipes would be less than that required to damage new well bore casings which is what actually happened at Preese Hall resulting in fracking being halted.
    I think I’ll do a FOI REQUEST to United Utilities, that should clear the matter up.

    • Peter – why don’t you go and get yourself an education and then you might understand the issues. I’m not offering an opinion – I’m offering hard scientific facts. The casing damage was cause by a fault going through the borehole at depth. Water pipes are shallowly buried and will experience pretty much the same ground motion as someone stood next to a road when a lorry passes. That’s great – waste everyones money on yet another useless FOI

      • so you think that drilling below ground and inducing tremors cant damage the infrastructure present? Wow. Lets see some elaboration of your hard facts then please Mrs Scientist

      • Judith, [edited by moderator]

        Your education is obviously lacking! Check your post and ask the moderator to correct the error on the third line before criticising my education.

        Then please acquire some humility!

        Any FOI requests I submit are my right to do so, just as I can peacefully protest wherever I want, whenever I want, about whatever I want!

        Having to answer FOI requests brings problems to people’s attention, and surprisingly useful information.

  2. I remember the last water pipe gate. Seems that some never learn a lesson and just continue with the same speculation even when previous attempts have left them looking foolish.

    • The speculation at the time was whether the new blue drinking water pipes from Warbreck Reservoir through Blackpool and up from Blackpool airport to Westby Reservoir on Preston New Road was to supply the Cuadrilla fracking site.

      Well the only regular water tanker movements into the fracking site have been REMOVING contaminated water to the out of town treatment facility. The water used by Cuadrilla for fracking and other purposes has been PIPED IN either by a hidden direct link from Westby Reservoir or via a feed from the newly installed pipes from WARBRECK to WESTBY.

      United Utilities always said that they were obliged to supply Cuadrilla with constant fresh water as long as supplies were available and they could pay the bill, irrespective of the use it was put to. They also said that domestic consumers would be prioritised over non-essential commercial usage.

      Nothing foolish about obtaining all that information Martin!

      At least we found out where the residents of the Fylde stand!

      [Typo corrected at poster’s request]

      • Except it was the E.Midlands water pipe gate that I was referencing, Peter. Remember that one? Turned out to be a broken pipe and nothing to do with any gas exploration. We still await the apology from those calling for a moratorium at the time, including within the House.

        Construction of all sorts is a danger to water pipes. Never broken one myself but I remember digging through a buried telephone cable, in error. Took the local village out for 24 hours. Father lost two overhead telephone cables, one from a farmer shooting it instead of a pheasant and then the same farmer forgetting how tall his combine harvester was. Father did have a number of water pipe breaks as well. Guess why? Same farmer drove heavy agricultural machinery over them when the ground was rock hard and that compressed sharp stones against the pipe and cracked it.

        So, if looking for likely causes of water pipe issues, other than old age, usually someone digging through or very hard ground and compaction of same from the surface. Hope that helps, but probably not what you want to consider.

        • Sorry Martin I live on the Fylde so don’t subscribe to out of town or national media.

          Therefore I don’t know what you are referencing.

          Neither do I understand it’s association with the post we are talking about here.

  3. That’s good humour for Monday MARTIN .

    Between you and me MARTIN , I find it tiresome posting on a forum page ..

    The motivation is a lot harder to muster up when you are getting ZERO pounds an hour for your large chunks of time….. AHH but you wouldn’t probably know about that would you ?????

    Paying well is it MARTIN ??????

    YES, it is an interesting and very entertaining read the IGAS share chat web page ( LSE ) .

    Apart from the entertainment value, if I could contact the individuals you refer to on that webpage, that are stiring the fracking investors mud pot …… I would ask them to use their time more productively, educating and informing the undecided people about the potential dangers of Fracking . They are wasting their time on the IGAS investors page ……As the vast majority on there have to much ” skin in the game ” and are nursing some horrific loses .

    I have to agree though , most people like myself have been burnt on an investment at one time or other. That’s the risk you take ..

    Unless you are in a position of power, or political power and already know how some decisions are going to be decided, or which company is going to be awarded that lucrative multi £ billion contract . You really are just taking a BIG gamble on the stock market.

  4. Yep, Green Jack. You are correct about markets. I think some Tesla investors are nursing some horrific losses also.

    Never mind it can always be regained, especially if receiving three lots of remuneration!

    Paying-well, well, well. (Does baby jack only get pocket money?)

    • And as Mr Collyer and “Baby Jack” scramble some eggs I cant help but notice an illogical comparison- fracking and electric cars. My oh my what do we have here? Surely someone so pretentious as to parade their own intellect wouldn’t think that drilling the earth for gas is equal to “groundbreaking” green motor energy hmm?

      • No, blah. People are quite happy to buy gas as it does the job for them, whilst electric cars sales in UK are dropping, because they don’t do the job for them. Compare and contrast. Not too intellectual.

        But perhaps hydrogen fuelled cars may be more popular, with the hydrogen produced from that tried, tested and accepted????-ermm GAS!

      • BLAH MAN YEAH,

        Not sure what point you are trying to make in your above post , but as your new on here , I will put you in the picture .

        Myself and MARTIN have been at each other’s throats on this forum for several years now.

        MARTIN is a strong Pro Fracking supporter

        Myself , I’m against Fracking

        You will note over time we argue a lot, although never in an aggressive way .

        Sometimes as a result of another topic coming in to the equation, we may find ourselves more aligned in our thoughts .

        This doesn’t, in any way mean either side is weakening on our Fracking stance, just that we have on that rare occasion, lowered our guards for some ” Lighter Banter “

        • Morning Jack, hope you have caught up on your sleep. Strange hours you lot keep.

          Just a small correction. Martin is a strong supporter of fracking being fully and properly tested in UK. Martin then will have the extra information to decide whether he then converts to become a pro UK fracking supporter, or not. An important difference. Wouldn’t want newbies to be under the false impression that Martin decides things without full data. I happen to believe that volumes of gas achieved and economics around that are fairly important factors and the reality is a different matter than speculation around it. Longer term posters will have seen me make that point many times before.

          I don’t think that is too unusual with any sub surface project. Until one knows what actually can be produced then the rest is speculation and invariably shown to have been incorrect-either way. That also explains, IMHO, the gamble of investing in such projects.

          I also feel we agree to disagree and have a bit of fun along the way. Mind you, my wife calls that arguing as well, so you have a point!

    • MARTIN,

      I would like to refrase and clarify what I said regarding the IGAS share chat webpage …

      The entertainment value I referred to is NOT at the loss of UK investors cash …. It’s solely to do with the arguments that erupt from one various member who is advising people only to take a chance and invest at 39p a share.

      As previously stated , I’ve lost myself on other investments , so I know how it feels .. You have ups and downs.

      But as they say in this life, ” fortune favours the brave “

      • Yes, that is AIM. If you want a pretty certain investment then it should be Shell-for the foreseeable future, IMHO. But, dull in comparison.

        Unlike Mr. 39p I invested some while ago in IGAS and subsequently sold at a profit. (Which is why I keep viewing. Like watching an old flame-no pun intended- and what she is doing. Kindly, I add, rather than stalking.) He obviously didn’t. As you imply, easily done, but if you then get bitter about it then it doesn’t change your wrong decision/timing. Perhaps there is a Partner 39p that needs constant “justification”?

        I just hope lithium continues to be dragged upwards. Who knows? Reaction could see the (electric) light, and the market could explode, and it would be better than the tulip boom!

  5. By the way, Green Jack, rather than read the IGAS site posts you should have spent some time reading the report in the journal, Nature Sustainability and you would have learned all about my reward!

    “Wise action needed to stop frackin sense supplies running out”!!

    You see, there is a booming demand in the West, where it is marketed as an antidote to anxiety!

    It is a challenging task, Jack, but I am determined to see it through.

  6. Posted on behalf of Michael Hill:

    Whilst David raises some excellent points for discussion and pause for thought I would also hope the Env Agency examine their own astonishing failings. They assured me in 2012 that my statements on air emissions and potential for serious groundwater contamination were baseless as they (the EA) would be regulating and enforcing! James Bevan stated that to my face at the Picking debate. It has subsequently proven to be incorrect with the EA “admitting” that there were air emissions right over the Fylde, their monitor (singular) was in the wrong wind direct for some 97% of the time and now it appears the operator failed to monitor highly toxic chemical in the groundwater (oh you don’t say – funny that). So where is the EA? Why are they always so far behind the curve they appear to be on the wrong track! I stated this to Tony Grayling in 2012 and I stated it again to James Bevan. Total failure.

  7. Hmm well I thank the two of your for introducing yourselves and apologise for misconstruing the nature of your comparison. As for myself I will quickly and easily paint myself as against fracking, because I do not believe in cheap quick cash solutions at the cost of the world that feeds us. Furthermore I have noted the disturbing elements of undemocratic government overreach, where civilians are pointedly ignored again and again for sharing views that seem similar to my own.

  8. Well, blah, you can always vote in a more democratic government. Only trouble with that is there are no contenders currently for that label.

    “I do not believe in cheap quick cash solutions at the cost of the world that feeds us”!!

    Very noble, shame the antis don’t operate in that way. How does turning grain into fuel for vehicles fit in with that? A truly immoral venture whilst there are people starving in the world. And, on top of that, because it is often more profitable for farmers to grow cereal for that market, soya plantings often decrease and that results in animal feed prices escalating around the world and animal protein becoming more expensive.

    When those who are anti fossil fuel come up with some serious and worthwhile alternatives then many will embrace them, and do, but at the moment there are too many projects cobbled together to virtue signal but if you scratch the surface they are seriously flawed. Whilst that continues you will find trying to con the public that there are ready made alternatives and they do not need to check the detail will receive their democratic response. That has just happened in Australia. So, just because democracy doesn’t come up with the answer some would like, it does not make it undemocratic.

  9. Exactly! And to think that ethanol is produced mostly to reduce demand on foreign oil, when we have killed and slaughtered millions to gain… very upsetting. And probably why there are few contenders for democracy in these civilized governments. We greedily overreach altogether, and morals are thrown out the window in pursuit of gain, the ones with the reins do the dark deeds and lie, so we no longer trust those on high… and thus democracy has shattered, and powerful men with big wallets buy their way into this nebula of demands. Not sure how relevant I stayed with that…
    ANyhow I am a great believer in removing animal protein from the mix in drastic quantities, I myself no longer pay for this commodity. Cut out the middle man and get the soya protein in ya my friend, its cheaper and far more economical… And on your notes of fossil fuels I do agree, yet I think they are more ready than you would believe, perhaps I see a side where more infrastructural development is needed for serious embraces. As for democracy, no that was quite apparent. Many localities had no desire for fracking in their backyard, yet Big UK gov’t overruled them (which it has every right to in its unwritten constitution), I am just simply pointing out that locale by locale, democracy does not exist. MAny were extremely high figures (99.2% against) and yet fracking goes on by their homes. There are many examples, primarily in the North. By the way, the antis…? TO whom do you refer?

  10. Back to the point in question,

    only a soon to depart Politican or Civil Servant would make so many decisions which fly completely in the face of The Presumption of Harm to the General Public and the Environment.

    New untested chemical process proven to cause harm when carried out elsewhere?

    Oh just wave it through, we’ll have made our money from Licence Fees and moved on before any adverse effects can be proven!

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