Fracking moratorium will be lifted – but not this year, says Cuadrilla’s owner

PNR 191229 Maxine Gill

Cuadrilla’s shale gas site at Preston New Road, near Blackpool, 29 December 2019. Photo: Maxine Gill

The owner of the fracking firm Cuadrilla predicted today that England’s moratorium on hydraulic fracturing would be lifted – but not before 2021.

Fracking at Cuadrilla’s Preston New Road site near Blackpool was suspended on 26 August 2019 after causing the UK’s strongest fracking-induced earth tremor. The 2.9ML event was felt across the region and prompted almost 200 reports of damage to buildings.

The government issued a moratorium on fracking in England on 2 November 2019 following advice from the regulator, the Oil & Gas Authority, about the risk of seismic activity.

A statementfrom Cuadrilla’s Australian owners, AJ Lucas, issued early this morning UK time, said:

“Lucas expects the moratorium to be lifted and exploration to resume once appropriate measures are agreed and put in place to manage and mitigate risks from induced seismicity.

“However, we would not expect that decision to occur before 2021.”

AJ Lucas, which owns 93% of Cuadrilla, was responding to comments by the UK energy minister, Kwasi Kwarteng on 18 June 2020. He said “fracking is over”, “the debate’s moved on. It’s not something that we’re looking to do”.

The company suspended trading yesterday in advance of this morning’s statement. It added:

“During the moratorium AJ Lucas and other UK shale gas companies continue to work constructively together and with independent scientific experts with the objective of gathering and presenting appropriate scientific evidence to demonstrate that future shale gas appraisal and commercialization operations can be safely conducted.

“The UK Regulator, the Oil and Gas Authority (OGA), is also co-ordinating a number of separate studies led by technical experts using the extensive data set acquired by Cuadrilla.”

AJ Lucas said gas would continue to play “an important role in providing energy to the UK” for many decades. “Natural gas from shale remains a potentially hugely valuable UK resource”, it added.

A company statement last month said Cuadrilla was looking at conventional oil and gas opportunities in the UK and predicted there would be no fracking in 2020.

21 replies »

  1. Perhaps a statement issued to pacify concerned shareholders? It didn’t sound like the government was intending to allow fracking next year by stating that fracking isn’t something they don’t want to do, that the government has moved on and that fracking is over – does not sound reassuring. The industry is becoming increasingly desperate, not surprising given there is a glut of gas. prices are low and are forecast to stay low. Shale firms are going bust in the US and the State Attorney is successfully prosecuting fracking companies for wells leaking methane and water contamination in Pennsylvania. Plus to add to all the other negative health studies – yet another has been released linking increased deaths in rural areas to particulate matter/air pollution that is released from fracking activity. And here in the U.K. the last government survey showed even lower public support for fracking.
    Hopefully Cuadrilla and AJL may get the message and be able to read the writing on the wall very soon.

  2. I think they look at different walls, KatT!

    Yours seems to have a lot of bricks missing. I’m surprised it hasn’t fallen over.

    One brick might be Brent crude back up to $42/barrel. Another, DRAX to become Europe’s largest gas fired power station.

  3. Martin, keep on blowing your trumpet so loud and so often, then the walls of Jerico will surely fall down yet again,
    [Edited by moderator] What is your take on global coal.these days?

    Robin Grayson FGS
    Liberal Democrat Geologist

    • Still trying to work out whether your posts are under the Geologist banner, or the Lib. Dem. one Robin!

      Global coal? Is there such a beast? There is certainly coal in certain parts of the world used in large quantities. It is significant enough to lose elections in Australia. Germany likes it, Poland likes it, China likes it, Donald likes it, most voters in Australia like it-and so do others. As far as the UK is concerned, we don’t like it, but UK, in respect of coal, is a gnats bite upon an elephants hind quarters. DRAX on gas compared to the old days of coal can only be good, although I would expect that a coal fired Drax today would be a different beast to the coal fired one of years gone by. But, there will be some who will still want to protest about the use of coal in the UK and satisfy themselves that globally it would make a difference.

      You should ask the Labour Party about coal, Robin. They seem to want to re-open all the UK coal mines, but not use the output! Much prefer Ken Dodd’s Jam Butty mines myself-although recalling his hair, not too much selenium down there-either.

      But, world wide, there will be enough use of coal to keep a large number of Geologists busy and rewarded for our lifetimes. Perhaps not Lib.Dem ones.

      Must go. Post just delivered the last piece of my irrigation system, and need to see if the system now is going to work as I planned. Water pressure could be the deciding factor.

  4. My wall was damaged to the extent I’m now nearly ready to sue Cuadrilla Bowland , Francis Egan, Savid Javed and John McAdam, ex-Chairman of United Utilities for the cost of repairs and disturbance to my family home.
    Obviously I’m waiting for face to face court action to recommence not video link rubbish.
    All have been put on Notice of Liability and impending Legal Action and my bundles of evidence are nearly prepared. Delayed by the dreaded Coronavirus Lockdown obviously.

  5. Obviously Cuadrilla and their backers are simply intent on delaying their day of reckoning. PNR was financed on unachievable promises of quantities of recovered shale gas, massive numbers of new employment opportunities and lots of tax revenue for the UK government to squander on vanity projects and weaponry!
    All without causing earthquake damage and major unemployment in the Fylde’s tourism and agriculture /faIngham industries!
    What a crock of do do and Cameron and Co fell for it hook, line and sinker!

    • Looks as if some have found an income from flying over Man. City, Peter. Not quite the angels of the north you try and present. But, hey ho.

      Ref. your post of 1.37pm, if you are going to court, why ask the question? The court will now decide the answer. You have decided there is one answer, others have a different opinion. That is what courts are for. Outcomes will usually be a surprise to one side.

      • Maybe Martin but propaganda usage isn’t just for the fracking industry and Tory government.
        As a private citizen of a Democracy I too am entitled to say my piece. Who knows maybe the parties I have advised of impending legal action read Drill or Drop and will come their senses?
        After all it’s well known in civilised society that you cannot defend the indefensible.
        Obviously I’m not going to comment about your reference to planes towing banners. Your discrimination and provocation doesn’t wash with me. I’ll leave it to the Moderator to deal with.

        • Oh, I think the Moderator is reasonably happy with factual statements, Peter.

          Yes, I suspect those parties read DoD. But, not just the pieces you would like them to. I have gently suggested that to you previously when you have been so keen to say your piece.

          As I have said before, if you have a valid case, good luck. I would say the same to anyone claiming for whiplash compensation. There is a process to decide in both situations, within a Democracy.

  6. In that case AJ Lucas, how about admitting that the swarm of Hydrofrac Earthquakes over the 2019 August Bank Holiday weekend damaged homes around the Fylde and paying for their repairs and their owner’s upset and inconvenience?

  7. KatT, the charges brought by Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro against Cabolt have yet to reach court.
    Range resources pleaded no contest this month to the charges from Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro, that it allowed 2,000 gallons of fracking waste to leak from a storage pond at its Brownlee site and that tears in the lining of a storage pond at the Yeager waste treatment site caused contamination.
    They will pay $50,000 in fines and $100,000 in charitable contributions to the Washington County Watershed Alliance. 

    Oil and gas prices are slowly beginning to rise due to countries coming out of lockdown and restarting their economies. It may take a while but prices will return to pre-covid levels, experts are predicting that this should happen by mid 2021.

    Domestic combustion of wood in closed stoves and open fires, is the largest source of harmful Particle Matter pollution in the UK, accounting for 27% and 44% of PM10 and PM2.5 emissions respectively. Road transport is responsible for 12% of both PM10 and PM2.5 emissions in the UK.

    As you are aware, exposure to PM2.5 & 10 causes mortality from cardiovascular diseases, respiratory diseases and from lung cancer. PM exposure also effects lung development in children, including deficits in lung function as well as chronically reduced lung growth rate.

    At KIrby Misperton it was noted that activities from the activists also had a negative impact on PM pollution.

    At Redruth in Cornwall, the 30 metre high workover rig is now in position ready to start the clean up and testing of the Enhanced Geothermal Well, by September we should have learnt if the project has resulted in any induced seismicity. Comparisons and reviews of any seismicity and damage caused, could then be made with PNR and decisions on the future of both projects taken.

  8. Martin and John, the economics are there for all to see. As for the legal action in the US – there are plenty of cases that Josh Shapiro is going after and it is about time the industry got its comeuppance.
    Air pollution is a real problem in this country, we agree on that John – the government was, as I’m sure you will be aware, taken to court because of unlawful air pollution levels that it had failed to tackle. And perhaps you are also aware that the government had a report commissioned by experts that confirmed that fracking would cause a significant deterioration in local air quality? We certainly can’t afford higher levels of air pollution in the U.K. so more good reasons not to frack. Of course there are other serious pollutants that also damage health such as NOx and Ozone also caused from burning fossil fuels. There is also the huge issue of the need to reduce all greenhouse gasses, which is why gas boilers will soon not be installed in new build property.

  9. But, KatT, you seem happy for young kids in DRC to be suffering cancer related illness from handling cobalt to make your alternatives work out! Black Lives Matter? Oh no, you need that cheap labour to produce stuff to satisfy your alternative way of living. An echo of sugar plantations, but as long as you can refuse to look over the horizon, nobody will notice. Well, they will. I raised this before with you and you simply shrugged it off. Sorry, no statue.

    Air pollution? What about ocean pollution? No, not from plastic but from ocean mining as your rare raw materials are now starting to be sourced from there.

    No sign yet of any change to gas boilers. Every one of the houses that my son is building have gas central heating. Interesting sources you quote! Hammond? Whatever happened to him?
    Shale industry and bankruptcies? Well, yes, there will be some, AND there will be others who expand or enter the industry. I see INEOS are now starting to drill in USA.
    US industry has always been survival of the fittest, and USA is famous for it’s “ambulance chasers”. I have worked for a couple of US companies. They were successful whilst others in the sector were not. There are around 12 million employed in or connected to the oil/gas industry in USA. If you really believe that will be allowed to fail, clouds and cuckoos come to mind. Even Tesla is being kept afloat by regular injections of funding as they fail to make a profit due to current circumstances-although, with them, it is not just current circumstances. They never have, even with the questionable cost (and tree!) cutting they do, trying to.

    There may be a number of reasons why fracking will not progress in UK, KatT, but economics is NOT one of them. When you antis stop referring to economics produced by Covid-19, or speculation about what is unknown in UK, you may be able to address the economics sensibly. Until then, you are howling at the moon.

  10. KatT, the pollution charges relating to Range Resources involved practices that are not allowed under UK regulations. Previous court cases involving Cabolt at Dimmock have been unable to prove water contamination caused by the company.

    Under our NECD/Gothenburg 2020-2029 commitment, the UK is committed to reduce emissions of sulphur dioxide (SO2) by 59%, nitrogen oxides (NOx) by 42%, ammonia (NH3) by 6%, volatile organic compounds (VOCs) by 28% and fine particle matter (PM2.5) by 30% from their 2005 base levels by 2030.

    Efforts to reduce our PM pollution have stalled, with an increase in these harmful emissions witnessed in recent years due to the surge in popularity of wood burning stoves.

    This has lead to the EU and our government introducing new regulations on emissions from stoves and the type of fuels allowed to be used in them, in an effort to regain control and reverse the increase.

    If we are going to replace the gas central heating systems that are used in 84% of UK homes or not allow gas boilers in new homes, we must ensure that the alternative heat sources are affordable, available,effective, efficient and less polluting before the option of gas is withdrawn.

    It was seismicity and the resulting moratorium that halted the process of exploring the possibilities of Shale gas in the UK, not economic factors.

    Interestingly there is a low carbon energy project being carried out in Cornwall that will use very similar methods to those used at PNR, but is not subject to a Traffic Light System for seismicity under the regulations.

    • Thank you for your reply John. I agree replacing gas ch must be suitable and sensible, and perhaps hydrogen is looking promising. As the costs of green hydrogen continue to become more competitive at scale it would be far better for the planet to use green hydrogen, without the need for large scale CCS. Battery storage technology is also advancing. We can reduce energy consumption considerably by better insulation of buildings and some experts say that could be as much as a 26% reduction. I disagree on the economics of fracking, the industry in the U.K. is as least as vulnerable to the economics of shale as the US industry. The US is a mature industry with extensive infrastructure and a proven resource. It is interesting to see even Chesapeake has now filed for bankruptcy. The industry in the US is swamped in debt and can no longer access suitable credit. That should be warning enough that a UK industry would struggle to be viable.
      As for NOx etc, I’m very aware of the push to reduce emissions, which to me means is a very good reason not to frack as it would only add to emissions.

      I am very familiar with the prosecution of RR and of Cabot. With regard to Cabot – being able to prove something in court does not always mean pollution did not occur. The family that brought the action still received a substantial payment from Cabot on the basis of Tort (Nuisance). And the regulators would not have enforced a moratorium in Dimock if they didn’t consider there was a problem. Lots of families settled out of court with Cabot and had to sign a gag order as part of the agreement. But people are still living in Dimock with vent pipes in their gardens to release excess methane, mini treatment facilities to “clean” their water, which I believe the industry paid for the installation and some still have water buffalos and have to buy all their water. Does that sound like things are normal? I really hope Shapiro will be successful and the residents of Dimock get justice.

      And if you read Shapiro’s full report, the evidence shows that many of the harms suffered by people in Pennsylvania occur as part of any fracking process, they do not all arise from impoundment ponds, which I understand are no longer used in Pennsylvania nor because of US regs. It is the heavy industrial process of fracking.

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