The Environment Agency (EA) confirmed today that it had approved Cuadrilla’s hydraulic fracturing plan for the second shale gas well at its Preston New Road site near Blackpool.
The plan is intended to set out measures to ensure that fractures stay within an agreed area, well integrity is maintained and groundwater protected. It must also be approved by the Oil & Gas Authority before fracking can begin on the PNR-2 well.
Cuadrilla told the BBC it intends to start fracking again at the site by the end of August.
In a formal statement published today, the EA said it was satisfied with the company’s proposals for PNR-2 on microseismic monitoring, mitigation and reporting.
The EA said:
“We consider that the proposals for microseismic monitoring are proportionate to the planned operations and adequate measures are in place for the protection of groundwater.
“We have checked that the operator will have the appropriate monitoring equipment in place and the procedures for installing and checking their accuracy. We will undertake an onsite audit of the monitoring array once installed to confirm this.”
Cuadrilla has said it will use a modified fracking fluid on PNR-2. The EA said an assessment of different fracture fluids showed there was a “very low risk” of fractures extending beyond the agreed area. It said:
“The operator commits to adjusting or stopping the pumping of fracturing fluid if monitoring data indicates possible fracture growth approaching the permitted boundary.
“We will also be notified of any significant adjustments in the injection programme. If fractures breach the permit boundary, Cuadrilla will report immediately to EA and provide a mitigation plan to prevent future occurrences.”
According to the statement, Cuadrilla will inform the Environment Agency without delay if there are:
- Any issues of well integrity,
- Any indication of fracture growth outside the permitted boundary
- If pumping is changed due to possible fracture growth approaching the permit boundary
- If there are significant seismic events which trigger the Traffic Light System
Audits and inspections would take place before, during and after fracking to verify data and decision-making, the EA said.
Cuadrilla has also agreed to report on the location accuracy, installation and testing of the microseismic monitoring array.
Fracking on the first well, PNR-1z, took place from October-December 2018.
That operation caused more than 50 small earth tremors. Cuadrilla said it had to stop pumping prematurely five times because the operation exceeded the threshold for induced seismicity in the traffic light system regulations. The company said the well was not fully fracked or tested.