Shale gas regulators have cleared the way for the second phase of fracking at Cuadrilla’s Preston New Road site, near Blackpool, the company said today.
The hydraulic fracture plan for the second well, known as PNR2, was approved by the Oil & Gas Authority (OGA) this morning.
The plan, which sets out how fracking will be controlled and monitored, was approved last month by the Environment Agency (EA).
Cuadrilla said it now had all the permits it needed to begin fracking PNR2. The first well, PNR1z, was partially fracked and tested in October-December 2018. That operation induced more than 50 small earth tremors, which stopped fracking prematurely five times.
Francis Egan, Cuadrilla’s chief executive, said:
“We are pleased to have received the Oil and Gas Authority’s approval of our hydraulic fracture plan for PNR2. All consents are now in place for hydraulic fracturing at Preston New Road, which we plan to resume in the near future.
“Our upcoming work programme is the latest step in demonstrating the huge commercial opportunity of UK shale, including the potential for natural gas from shale to act as a domestic feedstock for hydrogen production.”
People living near the Preston New Road site have challenged Cuadrilla’s interpretation of the local geology in the hydraulic fracture plan for PNR2. In a lawyer’s letter to the regulators, the Preston New Road Action Group said there were “serious and fundamental errors”.
DrillOrDrop understands the group is still in discussions with the EA and OGA.
A spokesperson for the campaign group, Frack Free Lancashire, said this afternoon:
“The news that Cuadrilla have secured final permissions to frack once again at Preston New Road is no shock, considering the hand-in-hand relationship that the oil and gas industry appear to enjoy with the Conservative government.
“Cuadrilla have a continuing record of failure that is undeniable. Their last attempt at hydraulic fracturing resulted in 57 earthquakes with only a minuscule 5% of one well managing to be fracked.
“Their most recent breach resulted in an investigation by the Environment Agency for a water quality monitoring failure, with a previous episode of cold-venting of climate-killing methane.
“The local community has always been second preference to this industry – health and safety has been repeatedly ignored in favour of commercial interests.
“We will continue to actively oppose and object to having this dirty industry foisted upon Lancashire communities.”
In a newsletter about the Preston New Road site, issued today, the EA said it was satisfied that Cuadrilla would “monitor and adjust fracturing to prevent fractures outside the permitted zone and to report compliance”.
The OGA said it needed to be satisfied that Cuadrilla had “controls in place to minimise the risk of seismic events and disturbance to people living and working nearby”.
The traffic light system of regulations requires fracking to stop if it causes an earth tremor of 0.5 or more on the local magnitude scale.
Extended well test
The OGA also said today it had approved a three-year extended well test at Preston New Road. This includes consent for one year of flaring gas.
In the newsletter, the EA and Health and Safety Executive (HSE) said they had carried out a joint inspection of the Preston New Road site to assess the set-up for fracking.
The HSE said there were “no issues requiring enforcement action”. It said it “provided verbal advice to the operator on minor issues”.
The EA said it was satisfied that Cuadrilla’s preparation and operational plans were “in line with the conditions set in the environmental permit”.
- Use a higher viscosity gelled fracturing fluid, designed to carry more sand into fractures
- Use open-topped tanks for debris from well maintenance and sand returned during well circulation activities
- Frack on more than one occasion along a horizontal well
- Change monitoring methods for air quality
- Carry out periodic well workovers and intervention
Five days after the approval, Cuadrilla sought a new change to the permit to allow nitrogen lifting. This involves injecting large amounts of (non-combustible) nitrogen into a well to help bring liquids from the borehole to the surface.
The gas mixture that results from this process may not burn in the flare and the gases, including climate-changing methane, would have to be vented. Earlier this year, Cuadrilla breached a permit condition that prohibits venting in all but emergencies. The EA also said it was investigating a failure by the company to report groundwater monitoring results for some chemicals.
The EA is consulting on the latest application to change the environmental permit until Tuesday 13 August 2019.
- DrillOrDrop reported on 3 August 2019 that Cuadrilla would be seeking more time to drill and frack at Preston New Road. The company is expected to submit an application to Lancashire County Council to vary a condition of its planning permission. More details here