Cuadrilla surrenders consents to drill, frack and flare at Lancashire shale gas site

Fracking opponents have called for a countdown to restoration at Cuadrilla’s shale gas site near Blackpool after the company gave up consents to key operations.

Fracking operation at Cuadrilla’s Preston New Road shale gas site. Photo: Cuadrilla Resources

The Environment Agency (EA) announced this afternoon that Cuadrilla had surrendered part of its environmental permit for the Preston New Road site.

The surrender notice showed that the company had given up consent to:

  • Inject hydraulic fracturing fluid
  • Incinerate gases
  • Manage drilling waste

Claire Stephenson, of Frack Free Lancashire, said:

“It is a welcome early Christmas gift to residents, to learn that Cuadrilla are now beginning their much-anticipated leave of Preston New Road.

“We encourage Cuadrilla to issue communication on such matters to the Community Liaison Group so that information can be passed to residents and parish councils in a timely manner.

“We would also urge Cuadrilla to present a timescale for site restoration of Preston New Road, so that long-suffering residents where fracking was forced upon their community, are able to feel closure on a very stressful and imposing chapter of their lives.

“Fracking is an unpleasant and dirty relic that should now be confined to the past where it belongs. We are now looking forward to a cleaner, greener energy revolution.”

Susan Holliday, chair of the Preston New Road Action Group, said:

“It is good to receive some positive news in this very difficult year. No more drilling, no more fracking and no more flaring this will be such a relief to those residents who live close to the Preston New Road Site.

“However, actions speak louder than words so I think that we will only believe that it is really true when the flare stacks are removed and the site is restored back to its former green field state.”

Cuadrilla’s Preston New Road fracking site near Blackpool, 27 April 2020. Photo: Maxine Gill

Cuadrilla fracked for shale gas at Preston New Road in 2018 and 2019 – the UK’s first high volume hydraulic fractures since 2011.

Both operations caused local earthquakes, including the UK’s largest fracking-induced seismic activity, measuring 2.9ML, in August 2019.

After the imposition of an England-wide moratorium on fracking a year ago, Cuadrilla scaled back activity at Preston New Road. Last month, the company described itself as “largely non-operational”.

Planning permission for drilling and fracking at the site has expired and earlier this month, Cuadrilla surrendered a permit allowing storage and handling of crude oil, gas condensate and mixtures of crude oil and water at Preston New Road.

In today’s surrender document, the EA said it was satisfied that the company could give up the parts of a separate permit covering flaring of waste gas, management of drilling waste and injection of hydraulic fracturing fluid.

On fracking fluid, the EA said:

“As there will be no further injection of fluid, this activity is no longer required.”

On incineration of waste gases, the EA said:

“This activity was taking place during the flow testing phase of the site operations. As this has now concluded, the flares are no longer needed on site and no gas flaring will take place.”

On the management of extractive waste, the EA said:

“As the drilling of the boreholes was completed some time ago and no further drilling will take place, this part of the activity is no longer needed.”

The storage of waste containing oil-based drilling muds was also not needed, the EA said. But it added that part of the permit would remain in force to manage any extractive waste generated when the boreholes were decommissioned.

A section of the permit controlling the discharge of surface water collected onsite would also remain.

The EA added:

“We are satisfied that the necessary measures have been taken to avoid a pollution risk resulting from the operation of the regulated facility.

“We are satisfied that the necessary measures have been taken to return the site of the regulated facility to a satisfactory state, having regard to the state of the site before the facility was put into operation.”

DrillOrDrop asked Cuadrilla why it had surrendered part of its environmental permit now and what timeline there was for site decommissioning. We also asked whether the company still intended to apply to extend planning permission for drilling and fracking at Preston New Road.

Cuadrilla responded on 11 December 2020:

“Cuadrilla surrendered these licences more than 6 months ago and the EA are only registering that now. As there is a moratorium on fracking we are not incurring the cost of licences we can’t currently use.  We will apply for the relevant licences at this or other sites as and when the moratorium is lifted.“

29 replies »

  1. The community opposition has had a significant influence over the current moratorium. The environmental group within the Conservatives worked with anti fracking activists and Conservative MPs. There was a concerted, cross party, coordinated effort to stop fracking. You only have to recall how Kwarsi Kwarteng praised the tireless work of Lee Rowley and other anti fracking Conservative MPs in the HoC. This was the speech where he said that fracking was over and that these MPs had won! Continued public opposition, surveys showing public opposition and a lack of support for fracking, the reality of climate change and timescales, all opposition parties being opposed to fracking and the falling cost and progress of renewables have all played a part. The geology has just helped seal the fate of fracking.

    As Mr Kwarteng said “The world has moved on”

  2. Kat T

    I think you would be right there in that Geology sealed the fate for HPHV fracking in the Fylde (and in Notts I guess). But that its failure to progress was also due to other factors.

    We perhaps should be left to reflect on the blue wall that swept across the country, and in some cases on the back of the anti fracking movement.

    That the party so reviled by many on here, won seats on an anti fracking is food for thought.

    We should have a round up of for and against issues, hotly debated at the time to see which came to pass, or which may still come to pass.

    Sustainable supply of energy on one hand vs Nuclear waste down frack wells maybe

    HPHV seismic activity vs renewable seismic activity

    Industrialization of the countryside by fossil fuel activity vs industrialisation by factory farming

    Behaviors of lorry drivers when hauling drill pipe vs behaviors when hauling sugar beet (It was a claim that a driver hat attempted to hit protestors that got me interested in this years ago – my thought – why would they do that when hauling drill pipe but be paragons of virtue when hauling sugar beet or chicken carcasses – say).

    Drive for profit – SSE chair £2.6 Million remuneration – UKOG SS £600,000. Which is morally correct in terms of trousering cash for going to work (and presumably paying tax on it). SSE are part players in offshore wind as is Equinor.

    Power cuts in winter?

    Maybe we need to construct a scorecard of prophesies and see which have come to pass (although some will not of course as we are not HPHV fracking)

    • Shock/horror! MPs agree with party decisions.

      Not convinced that there was that much anti fracking sentiment in the Notts area, hewes 62, although Mr. Rowley was quite determined. However, there was a very clear pattern of removing any impediment to the almost single message of “get Brexit done”. Not the most cerebral of messages but obviously focus grouped to destruction and then followed relentlessly. 1st January could be interesting, as it looks as if the EU has still to cotton on that Boris has a clear grasp of what is needed to hold the blue wall. Defence spending is just the latest piece of cement, on top of the nurses, doctors, hospitals, education and immigration, and that figure on the side of the bus already surpassed.

      Many I know were not concerned, one way or another, and some were more anti the protests than the possible fracking. Don’t think sights of large gatherings of people dressed as owls trying to suggest they were jumping about to prevent owls being disturbed, produced a very positive result amongst those who may understand the countryside-and owls. I heard such comments as, “I would try not to run over owls but may make an exception!”

      Might be an interesting score card for UK seismic events before fracking in the Fylde ceased against after! Then, there could be the Moses score card, as to how many believers houses were damaged in the Fylde compared to how many non believers.

    • KatT
      Your summary is excellent.
      Yes, Kwasi Kwarteng read the funeral rites for UK fracking.
      However, Cuadrilla (+/- HMG) must not be allowed to escape the responsibility and cost for decommissioning and restoration of the PNR site at Little Plumpton to safe greenfield land.

  3. Martin

    Thanks.. I mention Notts as it has the remaining well drilled to HPHV Frack, but nothing doing at present.
    The Tinkers lane well has been decommissioned and restored (I must go and take a picture).
    The Third Energy Well was an existing well.
    I think that the Owls are fine, but its a secret to stop owl thieves stealing them or otherwise disturbing them.
    As ever, the best place for wildlife to prosper is on ex (or in use) industrial land, be it Donna Nook for seals, or the many sand and gravel pits down the Trent. If its not industrial enough someone goes builds houses on it.

    Meanwhile someone intends to shell out £2.6 Billion on a battery Plant at Blyth (not the one in Notts) with the largest warehouse / factory in the UK (500mx500m). I will follow the planning permission with interest as it would be hard to hide that, and some locals may worry about lorries, congestion, eyesores, noise, the drain on the blue light services, the use of toxic chemicals in the manufacturing process, the bunding, the drainage (that’s a large site ), bats, toads, frogs, ducks, and so on. Maybe there will be some lights on at night? Its being build on the site of an old power station, but they tend to be havens for wildlife (as High Marnham is at present).

    Maybe this will be bigger than the various mega warehouses being built around Kegworth / East Midlands airport, which dominate the landscape for miles around – but no one has glued themselves onto them yet, as far as I am aware.

    But good that its been given a go ahead – in another blue wall constituency getting jobs into their area we hope.

    And hopefully it will be regulated by the gold standard regulations we have in place. That will be a good thing as for batteries made elsewhere, locals are not so happy about the environmental impact and health issues from the Toxic Waste produced by these plants.

  4. hewes62:

    See Mr. Musk is held up again by lizards and snakes in Germany. So, maybe we will see him decamp from there and rush over, as he seems in the mood having decamped from California to move to Texas.

    Not surprised by Sir Jim going to France, as a ready made plant had great attractions. Additionally, if he sticks to meeting the market he identified for his vehicle-forestry and agriculture-that will be diesel predominantly. And that technology will soon disappear from UK.

    I do recall chatting to my dentist who told me she had just bought her first house. This was going back to when oil was $100/barrel and many areas were looking at where previously non commercial oil was mapped as likely. One pocket right under her new house, so I told her to be careful when gardening but otherwise, as her house was now part of a large estate, her oil would remain where it was. That’s the most effective way to stop oil being extracted, (although I understand in USA they are fracking away below schools who are chuffed to receive some extra revenue. Maybe they wait for weekends/holidays?), so antis should be careful when pushing re-instatement too quickly. A small well head might be far better than the alternative. For them, and for wildlife.

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