Regulation

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. Great efforts.

    Now we need to import more indispensable natural gas from around the globe, to prevent Britains electricity system instantly collapsing, and ensuring dependable and affordable thermal comfort is available for >80% of Britain’s households.

    Drinks all round.

  2. Missing the cold, wet stands by Preston New Road.
    Now having to watch the Big Bash cricket from Australia in my armchair instead.
    Almost as pointless and boring.

  3. Could somebody explain what the protrsts outside PNR actually achieved. Cuadrilla wre beaten by the geology, which I assume the protestors aren’t taking credit for?

    • One thing they achieved was public awareness. When Cuadrilla fracked at Preese Hall, hardly anyone, even locals knew anything about fracking and it’s consequences and planning permission for that was decided by planning officers alone. Public awareness and opposition meant PNR was decided by the councillors and was refused. Another thing was demonstrating to the public and government that fracking would require hundreds of pads and thousands of wells which wasn’t understood by many until protectors exposed this. They also warned that our geology and the fact that England is a densely populated country would mean earthquakes would be unacceptable. We don’t have the geology or wide open spaces of the US. The industry, police and government were made aware that industrial scale fracking would be opposed wherever it was planned. The resulting earthquakes did make the government and many doubters realise what the protectors had been saying had been true all along.

      • You mean the public awareness that still showed even after all the antis clowning around, and even after all the seismic activities, the majority of the public were not against fracking in the UK? And of the relatively small proportion who were against it, many of them admitted to not knowing much about it!!

        Any marketing person would be sacked if those were the results of a public awareness campaign.

        Sorry to spoil your view of the world, but if Cuadrilla had not had seismic issues, and had produced commercial quantities of gas, you would have found MANY who were undecided would have ended up supporting. I certainly came across many who were happy to sit on the fence but made it quite clear that they would become supporters if they saw a possible financial benefit to them or the UK.

    • ‘Cuadrilla wre beaten by the geology’

      More like Cuadrilla did not understand the geology. Preese Hall 1 springs to mind. Talk the talk but can’t walk the walk also springs to mind.

      See my comments below to see how ‘beaten’ could be replaced with ‘did not understand’

      Seriously. First attempt no 3D survey.

      • ‘Cuadrilla wre beaten by the geology’

        Cuadrilla had full un opposed planning permission to frack their Becconsall site. They drilled, took samples and indicated their intent to frack. After the community group REAF gave evidence in a private meeting with Lancashire County Council Development Control and Cuadrilla the application to frack was withdrawn later the same day. Maybe the geology altered during the course of that meeting or maybe Cuadrilla realised they were beaten by a well organised community. Their application to reatain the site for longer was later refused after more evidence was given by FOE,REAF, Councillors,land owners and others.
        I don’t see a ‘beaten by geology’ outcome here.

  4. I am amused by my own Schadenfreude, reading posts from the sad losers. here. Maybe not on Trumpian levels, but some people just don’t know when they are beat.

    To suggest that Cuadrilla were only beaten by geology is laughable. Was it not those opposed to fracking who called this, first flagged it up, as a major obstacle in the Fylde? And were these warnings not ridiculed by the pro-frackers, who attempted to discredit the scientific evidence? [Edited by moderator]

    How can it be maintained that awareness did not contribute? Public opposition to fracking grew and grew.the more information was disseminated. And how come if the opposition to fracking in the Fylde was not effective Cuadrilla spent more and more to combat the threat?

    The suggestion of people opposed to fracking as “clowning around” is beneath comment.

  5. What is beneath comment are those who want to claim a result upon public awareness which is NOT shown within the research that has been conducted on a regular basis, Alan. When you have to claim something grew and grew you may be right within your own circle, but that is NOT substantiated by the wider survey-that still shows the majority were NOT anti even after years of failing to observe a benefit they could assess. That normally is enough to drive the anti product group quite profoundly, and it didn’t in this case. It grew a little, but then plateaued at a pretty low level.

    As someone who assessed results of campaigns, if I had spent a number of years, many £thousands, and goodness knows how many people’s time I would also probably claim that it had all been a raging success. I would still have been handed my P45. Don’t think I would have added it to my CV, but feel free.

    And, yes, I would have liked to see fracking fully tested in UK, and it will probably not be now. I can assure you I have lost nothing from that, or have been beaten. I would also like to see my footie club win the Champions League, but I probably won’t, and will not have become a sad loser as a result.

    Opposition is quite different to awareness, Alan. Your need to conflate the two is comical, especially as many who opposed admitted they knew little about the subject within the official survey, and magnified by certain comments on DoD! Believing and acting without awareness is not something I would like to follow. There are some pretty nasty examples of that throughout history.

    And, I seem to remember the antis “flagged up” just about every area they could, including dirty wheels, ladies undies and selenium, to name just a few. I am still of the opinion that those had little to do with the current situation and were what I would call clowning around, but seismic events did. But, we all know CVs can accommodate all sorts of stuff, so if yours needs it, sad but okay.

  6. AJT – Cuadrilla were only beaten by geology – sorry, but you really do think too highly of yourself and the antis impact on this. No traffic light shut down – what would be happening now? The protests and your amusing book were irrelevant. [Edited by moderator]

    • Cuadrilla should be grateful they were pummelled by well organised communities. Remember what Cuadrilla posted on their website,

      ‘Members of Cuadrilla’s management team have each played leading roles in the drilling and/or hydraulic fracturing of more than 3,000 natural gas and oil wells across the world.’

      They didn’t even carry out a 3D survey before their first attempt at Preese Hall and kept quiet for months about their left a bit right a bit drilling technics that produced one of the largest earthquakes in the area.

      Then there was the response from the HSE,

      “Cuadrilla were looking for some guidance on when a cement bond log was required and who was responsible for the interpretation of the logs”

      Do post a list all the of Cuadrilla’s successfull global fracking sites so we can see they were just a bit ‘unlucky’ in the UK.

      • Good to see you are still around JP – still waiting (yawn) for your CBL advice and technical thoughts?…….

  7. A rather interesting parallel to the footie “supporter” who claims that their attendance at the match, where they spent their time swearing at the stewards and other officials, having previously tried to stop the arrival of the opposition’s team bus, won the game! The fact the ref. sent off two players from the opposition and their goalie was taken off on a stretcher had nothing to do with it!

    There will be a few bars where such could be proposed and actually agreed, but I hope not many.

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