Cuadrilla fracking suspension to continue during investigation – government


Suspended fracking equipment at Cuadrilla’s Preston New Road site, 16 September 2019. Photo: Ros Wills

The business minister, Kwasi Kwarteng, has confirmed that Cuadrilla will not be allowed to resume fracking at its Preston New Road site near Blackpool until last month’s record-breaking tremor has been investigated.

Mr Kwarteng made the statement in a letter to the local Conservative MP, Mark Menzies.

The Oil & Gas Authority (OGA) suspended fracking on the PNR2 well within hours of a 2.9ML tremor on August bank holiday (26 August 2019). This was the UK’s largest seismic event induced by fracking.

The tremor was felt across the Fylde district and registered as a level 6 on the 1-12 intensity scale. Residents reported damage to buildings.

Mr Kwarteng said in the letter:

“The Oil and Gas Authority recently announced that operations at Preston New Road are suspended, pending further extensive investigations which now must be undertaken by Cuadrilla.

“Data from these investigations will assist the OGA’s full consideration of whether the assumptions and mitigations in Cuadrilla’s PNR 2 Hydraulic Fracture Plan continue to be appropriate to manage the risk of induced seismicity at the Preston New Road site.

“Hydraulic fracturing operations will remain suspended until the OGA’s considerations are complete.”

No timescale has been given for the investigation. A separate analysis is also underway of data from fracking the first Preston New Road well, known as PNR-1z.

Mr Kwarteng repeated the government’s view that shale gas development must maintain “the very highest safety and environmental standards, which we have established as world leaders in safely extracting oil and gas over decades”.

The traffic light system, which was intended to prevent damaging seismic activity, required Cuadrilla to pause operations if there were tremors measuring 0.5ML or more during fracking.

No tremors above the 0.5ML threshold were recorded during fracking on the PNR2 well, raising concerns about the effectiveness of the traffic light system (TLS). Before August’s tremors, the industry had called for the TLS 0.5ML limit to be raised.

Cuadrilla’s hydraulic fracturing plan for PNR2, approved by the OGA, required the company to pause fracking for 18 hours following any seismicity measuring 0.5ML or above, whether or not it happened during fracking. The company paused fracking four times. But this also did not prevent the 2.9ML earth tremor.

Some experts on fracking and seismicity have argued that regulators should be monitoring other issues, including injection pressures. More on this coming soon on DrillOrDrop

Mr Menzies said on his website:

“I am pleased to see activity suspended while a thorough investigation is carried out.

“An event of 2.9ML is simply far too high to countenance and I believe the shale in Fylde is not suitable for the development of a shale gas industry.”

The British Geological Survey has now recorded 132 tremors caused by fracking at Preston New Road. The most recent, measuring -0.7, was on Saturday 14 September, 23 days after the most recent frack. DrillOrDrop’s Preston New Road 2019 tremor tracker

  • DrillOrDrop is investigating damage to properties from the Preston New Road earth tremors and how Cuadrilla is handling complaints. We’re very keen to talk to people who have made a complaint to the company and been visited by its representatives. Please contact us in confidence here

29 replies »

  1. Well, this is obvious, surely? There was no possibility that they could continue causing earthquakes while this was being investigated, and it looks highly unlikely that they will ever be allowed to resume fracking. Cuadrilla, I’d start packing up your gear as it’s game over.

  2. 41 Signed Legal Letters of Intent were sent from people living in the vicinity of PNR to Cuadrilla on 31st July 2015 warning them that they would be liable for any damage to property and public health caused by fracking operations if Cuadrilla received Planning Permission to frack. I have copies of those letters if they are of any use in pursuing claims against the company. David Penney, Media Officer, Keep East Lancashire Frack Free

  3. The problem here is that the OGA are the body that approved the hydraulic fracture plan in the first place. They are complicit in permitting Cuadrilla to instigate the seismic activity by allowing them to continue to frack after significant trailing events over 0.0. Hardly gold plated regulation when the operator specifically states that activity up to 3.1 can be expected and the regulator passes the fracture plan and permits fracking. The OGA is a public limited company with a pimary purpose of maximising the UKs exploitation of oil and gas reserves, safety considerations are secondary and they have consistently ignored independent advice on the shortcomings of Cuadrilla’s fracking activity proffered for free by other industry experts and academics. The danger now is that Cuadrilla will be permitted to resume with a modified hydraulic frack plan and a little more monitoring and considerations of limiting the bottom hole frack fluid pressures. Failure to control the seismicity is still inevitable. The Fylde is still being treated as a guinea pig and maybe subject to a major earthquake from a critically stressed major fault in the vicinity of Preston New Road that can be triggered by seismic activity on faults closer to the fracking. The Fylde is in a stable tectonic region of the earth but many of the major faults are critically stressed and the faulting pattern in the region is complex and not fully understood. Lubricating these interconnected faults with frack fluid is a recipe for disaster.

    • Richard Parker

      Regarding ‘the operator specifically states that activity up to 3.1 can be expected’ ….

      The frack plan ( page 12, third para ) notes 3.1 as a worst case event, assuming fluid injection into a critically stressed fault. It is described as ‘low probability’.

      Click to access PO3-HFP-PNR2.pdf

      Hence I do not see that the operator ( or the regulator ) expected a 3.1, rather it’s occurrence confirmed the assumptions ( if geosierra are correct ) that this was a worst case, and hence suspension of fracking.

      • Hewes62,

        This discussion is irrelevant. 100 plus seismic events compounded by the Bank Holiday Monday 2.9 Earthquake, all instigated by fracking operations at Preston New Road, Little Westby, caused damage to people’s homes and trepidation to their occupants.

        The attempts at fracking were short term and underpowered, targeting just a small section of just one short horizontal well. To even think that increasing this activity to Industrial Scale is viable is totally ridiculous, extremely dangerous to local aurcraft manufacturers and nuclear installations plus seriously disrespectful to the Residents of the Fylde.

        The onshire fracking industry hereabouts and hopefully everywhere is finished.

      • I suggest by permitting fracking to continue with scores of seismic events, a number in excess of 0.0 implies that both the OGA and Cuadrilla knew they were lubricating critically stressed faults well before the 2.9 event. In fact a significant trailing event of 0.4 occured only a few hours before the final frack that probably caused the 2.9. So it is inevitable that the worst case scenario was a good possibility, even probability. The OGA is totally complicit as in response to an FOI that I raised with them they stated that they were responsible for stopping the fracking if not following the frack plan. They didn’t stop it after the earlier 1.6 on Tuesday when it was obvious a critically stressed fault had failed. Instead they permitted Cuadrilla to continue to frack. So yes, a bit flippant of me to state that a 3.1 would be expected but by permitting the operator to continue to frack with events over 0.0, it would only be a matter of time before a critically stressed fault would fail and produce such a result.

  4. Perhaps Ruth is going to publish an article on DOD showing all the damage caused by therecent induced seismicity? And update us on all the damage claims? A summary perhaps? That would be useful for those that don’t use TwitFace – someone posted on here that the “damage” was shown on TwitFace but no where else?

  5. If you read the article thoroughly Paul Tresco, your suggestion is already in hand. Very unlikely that the results will be made public in detail until Cuadrilla have assessed and repaired the properties involved.

      • Hi Paul,
        Only Cuadrilla and the Insurance Companies involved know the ongoing total, I only know those I communicate with.

  6. It will certainly be interesting to hear how many damage claims are made and, more importantly, how many of the claims receive payment for damage caused. This goes to heart of insurance or any other form of cover for the fracking industry. How will the baseline be proven i.e. credible evidence of property condition prior to any seismic event (or any other form of contamination etc), and can it be definitively proven that fracking caused the seismic activity and the seismic activity caused the damage?
    This is a minefield and highlights what has been repeatedly reported from countries with an established fracking industry, where David v Goliath cases grind through courts with largely inevitable outcomes when those with the deepest pockets (in other people’s trousers) can buy the most beneficial legal results.

    • Mike

      It would be better if Cuadrilla repair the property and or work through the property owners insurers to ensure any damage is reinstated to the appropriate standard ( ie signed off ).

      British Coal moved to such a direct system latterly.

      Having purchased a number of houses in mining areas, all had suffered from subsidence, but few had been repaired out-with those requiring substantial underpinning.

  7. Mike-this is the same for all insurance claims. Whiplash is a widespread example of how insurance companies have to examine claims for validity. In some situations it is cheaper to just pay out rather than do a full, expensive, investigation, but I suspect there could be an unwillingness to do so in this situation, and create a precedent.

    It will be interesting to see if this comes down to more than Polyfilla-(other brands are also available), and whether some spurious claims are uncovered. [Edited by moderator]

    • Largely agree Martin, but proving claim validity in some circumstances will be significantly harder than others, particularly when the full force (or should that be cost) of law is overwhelmingly on one side.
      [Comment edited to remove reference to a previous now-edited comment – moderator]
      In the case of the Fylde earthquakes, claims (genuine or false) will be from anyone whose property was damaged, pro, anti or oblivious, which will be a salutory example of how potential harm from fracking will be indiscriminate.

    • .Cuadrilla have now proved beyond doubt that they cannot control the level of seismicity from fracking the Bowland shale.

      I doubt Insurance companies and building societies will be standing idle. They will presumably put pressure on the Government and the Government will listen.

      In case you are wondering about who is left in control of this ‘industry’ check out who is still active in the Cuadrilla companies,

      Cuadrilla Balcomb Ltd Just Mr Egan 9 resignations.
      Cuadrilla Bowland Ltd Just Mr Egan 5 resignations
      Cuadrilla Elswick Ltd Just Mr Egan 9 resignations
      Cuadrilla Elswick No 2 Ltd Just Mr Egan 7 resignations
      Cuadrilla Gainsborough Ltd Just Mr Egan 2 resignations
      Cuadrilla North Cleveland Ltd #Just Mr Egan 2 resignations
      Cuadrilla Resources Ltd Just Mr Egan 9 resignations
      Cuadrilla Services Ltd Just Mr Egan 7 resignations
      Cuadrilla South Clevland Ltd Just Mr Egan 2 resignations
      Cuadrilla Weald Ltd Just Mr Egan 8 resignations
      Cuadrilla well services Ltd Just Mr Egan 8 resignations

      Check company house to confirm if this is correct.

      Spot a trend?

      I wonder who the insurance companies will ask for if they get in touch?

      Of course you still need a holding company so Cuadrilla Holdings Ltd still has plenty of active officers.

      • The fact that all those Cuadrilla sites are separate Limited Companies should ring some alarm bells. Even the farmer who leases the land at PNR has formed a separate Limited Company for the land.

  8. I remember Martin, the spurious claims from Cuadrilla that they didn’t cause the earthquakes that closed down Preese Hall and the fracking industry for some 6 years or more for starters!

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