Cuadrilla has confirmed no more fracking will take place at its shale gas site in Lancashire before a planning deadline at the end of November.
Hydraulic fracturing equipment will be taken off the site, the company said in a statement today.
Opponents of Cuadrilla’s operations have welcomed the news.
The company’s statement confirms there will be no more fracking in the UK this year.
UK’s largest fracking-induced tremor
Fracking was suspended at the UK’s only active shale gas site at Preston New Road site on August bank holiday (26 August 2019) after a record-breaking tremor.
Cuadrilla carried out just seven main fracks in August, causing more than 130 tremors, the most recent two days ago. The tremors included the UK’s largest fracking-induced seismic event, measuring 2.9ML.
A total of 12 tremors measured more than 0.5ML. This is the threshold in Cuadrilla’s hydraulic fracturing plan which required the company to pause fracking and check well integrity.
Cuadrilla said today it was continuing to help the Oil & Gas Authority (OGA) with a series of studies following the 2.9ML tremor:
“A timeframe has not been agreed with the OGA for this work to be completed and further hydraulic fracturing will not take place at Preston New Road before current planning permission for fracturing expires at the end of November.”
Cuadrilla said last month that it would seek to extend the planning permission for drilling and fracking by 18 months (DrillOrDrop report). This would require a new planning application to Lancashire County Council. The council has said the application would be considered by its planning committee and there would be a public consultation.
No application has yet been published by the council and a decision is unlikely to be made in less than three months.
The only other company with permission to frack in the UK, Third Energy, has said it is focusing on conventional gas (DrillOrDrop report).
Seven stages fracked
According to Cuadrilla’s daily logs for August, the company fracked just seven of the expected 45 stages of the well, known as PNR-2. Despite this, Cuadrilla said today it would now test the flow of shale gas.
Cuadrilla’s chief executive, Francis Egan, said:
“Our second horizontal shale well was partially fractured in August and I am pleased that we are moving to flow test it in the next few weeks.”
Cuadrilla was also unable to fully frack the first well, PNR-1, in autumn 2018.
Logs for that operation showed two-thirds of the stages of that well were not fracked (DrillOrDrop report). There were just 15 main fracks of PNR-1 between mid-October and mid-December. Whole sections of the well were not fracked at all. The company had to use nitrogen to remove frack and formation fluids that were stopping free flow of gas.
Despite this, Cuadrilla said the flow test of PNR-1 confirmed a “high quality of gas capable of flowing to the surface”.
A spokesperson for the Preston New Road Action Group, which campaigns against the site, said today:
“It is great news that Cuadrilla are once again going to be demobilising their fracking equipment from PNR.
“We will watch with interest as they flow test. Last time they had an inadequate flow of gas to flare so used nitrogen lift which resulted in cold venting of methane. They do not yet have permission for nitrogen lift so cold venting will be a breach of permit.
“Given that they have only managed to frack 7 stages of the well it is hard to imagine that they are going to be getting very much gas out.
“The earth tremors from their failed attempt to frack still continue 5 weeks later. We truly hope that this is the end of Cuadrilla’s operations at PNR and that our community can return to a normal life once again”.
“Trying to maintain investor confidence”
Another local campaign group said:
“Frack Free Lancashire are delighted to learn that 35 days after they caused a 2.9ML earthquake which shook the Fylde and the confidence of their investors, Cuadrilla are finally demobilising the Preston New Road site.
“We are not surprised to hear this as, if their claims are to be believed, it has been costing them £94,000 a day to do very little while they waited in vain for the green light to carry on rocking our local community.
“The seismic activity which they provoked has not stopped though, with the 133rd event being recorded on Saturday, five weeks after they last fracked.
“We await the results of their flow test with interest as we have seen no evidence of any gas being flared from this well so far and we know that they have only fracked seven stages of the planned 47 (15%) and they have only managed to inject 289 tonnes of proppant of the 3,525 tonnes that they were permitted to use (8%).
“This flow test looks as though it has more to do with trying to maintain investor confidence rather than being a meaningful data gathering exercise and we hope that it won’t be too much longer before local people are able to stand by the gates at Preston New Road and point towards yet another failed fracking site.”
“Final attempt at positive spin”
Friends of the Earth’s fracking campaigner, Jamie Peters, said:
“Today’s flow testing announcement is just the latest, and hopefully final, desperate attempt to put a positive spin on the fracking fiasco at Preston New Road.
“With no more fracking taking place before planning permission expires, and Cuadrilla yet to apply for an extension, work at this site could soon be at an end.
“We are in the grip of an environmental emergency. It’s time the government pulled the plug on this unpopular and unnecessary climate-wrecking industry – and focussed on building the clean energy future we so urgently need.”
“Excellent shale gas reservoir”
Cuadrilla said the fractures in the Bowland Shale formation were typical of “an excellent shale gas reservoir”.
The company remained committed to exploring for shale gas, Mr Egan said.
But a critic of Cuadrilla’s operation has questioned whether the company actually fracked the formation.
An American fracking expert, Dr Grant Hocking, told a scientific meeting last week, that he thought Cuadrilla had opened slickensided bedding planes, creating seismic activity a long way from the well. He said a consortium including universities and the gas services company, Halliburton, concluded that the Bowland shale could not be hydraulically fractured because of the slickensided bedding planes.
The same meeting heard from one of the UK’s leading seismologists, Dr Brian Baptie. He said the Bowland shale appeared to behave different from some equivalent formations in the US, with what he described as “quite high seismicity rates”.
Dr Baptie said his research had shown that the pattern of tremors caused by fracking PNR-2 was different from that on PNR-1. The second well saw many more trailing events, tremors that happened after fracking.
- Yesterday, Cuadrilla said it was removing rainwater from the Preston New Road site by tanker. The vehicle movements were outside normal delivery hours but were allowed under the transport management plan, the company said.
Updated 1/10/2019 to add link to article about Cuadrilla’s intention to apply to extend planning permission for drilling and fracking.