Cuadrilla to plug Lancashire fracked wells

The fracking company, Cuadrilla, has announced it is to plug and abandon its two shale gas wells at Preston New Road site near Blackpool.

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

A statement this evening said the work would comply with regulations from the Oil & Gas Authority (OGA).

A rig would be mobilised soon to begin the operation, the statement said. Surface pipework and valves would also be removed.

The Preston New Road site was the scene of 18 months of near daily protests. Fracking on both wells caused a series of earthquakes that breached limits in the government’s traffic light system.

They included the UK’s largest fracking-induced earthquake on 26 August 2019, measuring 2.9ML. This was felt across the Fylde region and prompted nearly 200 reports of damage to the British Geological Survey.

The OGA immediately shut down fracking at Preston New Road. Weeks later, the government imposed a moratorium on fracking, which is still in force.

Since then, planning permission has expired for drilling and fracking at the site and Cuadrilla has surrendered key environmental permits.

Cuadrilla’s Australian owner, A J Lucas, said this evening:

“the PNR [Preston New Road] site will not be moving into a gas production phase (at least for the time being)”.

But it said Cuadrilla would retain its shale gas licences in England and work to lift the moratorium:

“Other potential sites can also be evaluated as and when the Moratorium is lifted.”

The wells are the only onshore horizontal boreholes drilled and fracked into UK shale rock.

Preston New Road has seen little work since 2019. In 2020, Cuadrilla was described as “largely non-operational”.

The A J Lucas chairman, Andrew Purcell, said this evening:

“We are disappointed that UK government and regulatory requirements mean that the PNR exploration wells have not been properly tested.

“However, the gas resource that they have discovered remains in-situ and available to be further appraised and produced.

“Given the rapid decline in indigenous North Sea gas production and the ongoing UK gas price and supply crises we consider that the billions of pounds being spent annual on importing expensive gas from the Middle East, Russia and the US might be better directed, in part at least, on developing what is a [sic] considered a substantial shale gas resource.

“It is widely acknowledged that natural gas will continue to play a key role in UK energy supply for many decades to come, even as the country transitions to a Net Zero CO2 economy.

“We remain convinced that the Bowland shale gas resource has the potential to be a very significant contributor to UK energy supply and in particular a source of cost-effective fuel for heating UK homes and businesses.”

The statement said Spirit Energy, a partner of Cuadrilla, would provide funding towards the cost of plugging and abandoning the two Preston New Road wells and a suspended gas production well nearby at Elswick, in Lancashire.

In July 2020, Spirit Energy announced it intended to exit the Lancashire licence and transfer its 25% interest to AJ Lucas for a nominal sum. It remains liable for a 25% share of decommissioning costs.

  • Reaction coming soon.

22 replies »

  1. “ Bring back fracking, says Jacob Rees-Mogg” reported in the Times …Oh God that could be the last nail in the coffin of sensible debate about shale gas.

    Looks like Drill & Drop will have nothing to report soon. Shame.

  2. AJ Lucas trying desperately to put a positive spin on plugging and abandoning the PNR wells.

    Hopefully this signifies the end of fracking in the U.K.

    • KatT

      As noted here on DoD with the appearance of the moratorium, HPHV fracking of shale is not likely to feature in the UK. Fracking for other reasons will no doubt continue, be it for hot water or tight oil and so on. Either way it will be small beer.

      I am not sure AJ Lucas is putting a positive spin on the issue, or it is desperate. But good to see the wells being plugged and the land restored to something (maybe a bit of re wilding would be good).

  3. This was wildcat exploration. With the wisdom of hindsight, Cuadrilla should have done expensive extensive 3-D seismic surveys first, in order to locate any problematic faults, rather than risking horizontally fracking into them which they did; 3-D seismic beforehand would have shown that the huge drilling pad was in any case too close to major faults that would block their path. Perhaps even more importantly the Bowland Shales is simply too thick and rather uniform, and therefore horizontal fracking risks wandering off the pay-zone due to small faults not easy to detect even with good seismic surveys.

    Overall, the geology of NW England is rather complicated, due to the presence of numerous faults, many of which confront engineers and miners with costly surprises. For example the Holme Chapel No1 borehole was drilled in the Cliviger Gorge near Burney, without the geophysicist first considering the superb 6-inch:one mile Geological Survey maps, that clearly showed both the famous Thieveley Fault and Deerplay Fault. Both faults were easily predictable and both were encountered.

    Indeed, worth pointing out that the Lancashire Coalfield came to an end when the NCB invested in super-pits such as Moseley Common, Astley Green, Agecroft and Manchester Bradford Colliery using state-of-the-art mining methods but came to grief due to encountering too many large and small faults that rendering modern coal mining uneconomic.

    Yes the coal was there, but proved uneconomic to extract, largely due to so many faults.
    Seems to me fracking proved uneconomic due largely much to the same reasons.

    Robin Grayson FGS
    Liberal Democrat geologist

    • Indeed, worth pointing out that the Lancashire Coalfield came to an end when the NCB invested in super-pits such as Moseley Common, Astley Green, Agecroft and Manchester Bradford Colliery using state-of-the-art mining methods but came to grief due to encountering too many large and small faults that rendering modern coal mining uneconomic.

      Yes the coal was there, but proved uneconomic to extract, largely due to so many faults.


    • Perhaps Robin, they just need to look in another place? Which has yet to be done.

      Shock/horror but that is what exploration often determines. I believe the North Sea demonstrated that quite adequately not only for UK but also for Norway. Or maybe the technique needs some work? Or a combination of both?

      I believe the Lib Dems are quite used to producing little in some areas with one approach, due to many faults, but do better in a few others with a different approach.

    • Eli, I’d love it if there was an alternative but at the moment there isn’t. Hopefully in time there will be because plastics are turning out to be highly polluting causing serious negative health and environmental impacts. I’d love to breathe air that wasn’t polluted with Nitrogen Oxides, particulate matter (PM 2.5) and micro plastics that harm my health and cause premature death but likewise at the moment I have no choice.

      Far from being delusional, I along with most of the world realise the urgent need to move away from harmful fossil fuels in order to prevent climate breakdown and improve air quality. We must move to newer, cleaner and greener energy alternatives.

      • Thanks, KatT for scotching this old denialist red herring.Hope you have more success than I had with this.
        Stay on your guard, though, the deniers are back again, thriving and well in the governing party as they try and persuade us that Net Zero is too expensive. At the risk of cliché – you couldn’t make it up. They, of course, deny that they are deniers, but then Johnson denies he’s a liar.

        • Thanks Iaith1720, I have noticed the deniers, that deny they are deniers, and the fossil fuel supporters have been taking every opportunity to exploit the massive increase in gas prices. But it seems the majority in government do not share the view of the fossil fuel loving/climate denier minority. We must not sit back on our laurels, time to get behind the sensible majority across all parties and become more vocal about the scientific realities. It is so wrong that they play on people’s genuine fear and difficulties over energy costs to further the fossil fuel cause and to scapegoat green energy. Especially as the large fossil fuel companies rake in £billions in profit each year. And Shell and BP paid no corporation tax for three years whilst paying £billions out in dividends.
          I didn’t see any of the infamous band of MPs concerned with poverty when they voted against numerous measure that would aid the poorer in society but suddenly they care about poverty when they see an opportunity to further their own unscientific, dangerous agenda.
          The government must help with the excessive energy costs and it should also look at the excessive profits at a time of hardship for consumers. Perhaps a windfall tax would help?

          • Katt

            There are calls for a windfall tax across Facebook, and interestingly in those posts that traditionally support the renationalisation of the energy industry, the re opening of old coal mines and building new coal fired power stations (I kid you not) and so on.

            It would be interesting to know which companies are making excessive profits from UK produced gas supply (and any gas suppliers and not producers who have managed to but cheap and sell high). I see a lot of calls for BP and Shell to be taxed, but they are not big players in UK produced gas, having got out some years ago and their UK based profits are not often mentioned, only their global profits. But they are household names.

            It may also be very difficult to tax Norwegian Companies.

            Maybe a DoD report on the subject is in order, as this issue will surface again I suspect.

      • Well, KatT, if you want that clean air then perhaps you should have made that point when DoD was full of posts about where to park your cars when driving from far away to protest at PNR!
        As far as plastic is concerned, it is no different to other materials. As with many, it is the incorrect disposal that is an issue. Disposal can be done in a way that is safe yet often is not. The same can be said of sewage from humans, yet the argument to get rid of humans is not advanced when it is a problem in the sea. (Thankfully for Greta!)

        Your most of the world looks a little suspect currently! I think what you meant to say was activists speaking on behalf of most of the world. That is what they do. It is part of the job description and needs the We and Everyone cloak to try and include most of the world. There is a very large difference between the two and that will become even more noticeable in coming months.

        Never mind, Moggy will sort it out, and he has a very strong view against the diesel debacle foisted upon the UK motorists, by the UK Government in collusion with Brussels and German car manufacturers. And, now with city Mayors from the same political party penalising motorists who did as they were told and now being charged a fortune for doing so! No wonder UK motorists are showing a lot of reluctance to do as they are told again.

        Meanwhile, UK will merrily import more cargoes of LNG from USA producing much higher emissions than if it was produced locally. USA is happy, drilling rigs are increasing in number every week and dozens and dozens of ships puffing across the Atlantic, and loads of dosh to help fund those $60k/year jobs washing dishes in Texas, whilst as of yesterday, cries for extra funding to Blackpool, UK. Except it has just been spent on a few more cargoes from Texas!

        • Martin, plastics are polluting our air and water just from manufacture and use. Tyres breaking down, artificial fabric wear and tear etc all cause micro plastics in the water and air, it is not all caused by disposal. And then of course there are all the hormone disrupting chemicals that seep into our food and drinks. In addition, the manufacture of plastics causes considerable air pollution.

          Our use of plastics is so vast how do we dispose of it all safely? A lot of plastic can be difficult to recycle and sadly it is easier and cheaper to dispose of it in landfill. And some experts say that realistically only about 9% is recycled. Our use of plastics needs to be drastically reduced, it is not only about how we dispose of it.

          And thankfully it seems most Conservative politicians are sensible enough to recognise the threat to our climate and health posed by fossil fuel use. This government was elected on a Net Zero mandate. So “Moggy” looks to be in the minority!

          So please the PNR site is to be plugged and abandoned.

          • Nope, KatT, you are incorrect.

            Plastic does not need to end up in landfill. It is simple to separate and recycle or use to generate energy. Certain parts of the UK are very good at it, others not.

            You conflate support for net zero with removal of fossil fuel. Fossil fuel will continue to be used in UK beyond 2050, it is well documented that it will be, it is part of the UK Net Zero plan.

            No, Moggy will not be in the minority, the Chancellor has already made that clear. He has also made his stance clear about the insane suggestion of a windfall tax, and no the fossil fuel companies have not made huge profits every year. Certainly not in 2020. A windfall tax would increase the cost of oil and gas further, as investment for fossil fuel and renewables would be reduced. The first policy suggestion from New, New Labour, having had years to produce one, and it is simply economically illiterate and no impact assessment done. What’s new? Fossil fuel prices have rocketed as there is more demand than supply. Demand will rise further. To get prices down, supply needs to rise even further. Putin knows it, most others know it. New, New Labour have yet to catch on, but as they are only just beginning to catch on regarding new nuclear it may be another 20 years for enlightenment.

            As far as your worry about tyres, then see my previous comment about trips to PNR or 1720’s campaigning against HS2. Pollution? You mean that pollution in DRC that is killing young children to provide cobalt to make EVs? Some “we’s” are not setting a good example. Good job few will take note of them.

            You also seemed to have missed the £9billion help the Government have just announced to help with regard to energy bills. Not their money, but “ours”. Not too sure the many “we” will be too happy to cough up another £9billion in 9/10 months time. Here’s hoping there are more drill rigs ready to be mobilised in USA, but there must be a limit.

        • You have to be the first amazing human I’ve come across who is pro plastic. These comments are a hoot and yours has won the gold star. Before you get pedantic I understand your educating on reusing of plastic in particular.
          Because why encourage reusable materials when you can go for single use that requires re processing and has been found to reach our unborn children in the womb. Did you know it’s even in the little creatures at the depths of the ocean? So don’t hate plastic because it is us now! I’m sure your fantastic advice isn’t self serving and considers the bigger picture. I can see it why can’t anyone else?

          • Ahh, Pro plastic, using the Internet to show he/she has the moral fortitude to be against plastic! I can see what a nonsense that is, and everyone else can also. That is really a hoot. Perhaps you should send your message by a pigeon? Not the Pony Express, otherwise there is another waste disposal issue.

            There are many materials that humans use that create issues if they are not correctly disposed of, Pp. And, many of them used within renewable energy provision. Or, perhaps you have not recently had the need to visit a hospital and open your eyes to the use of plastic within the medical sphere.

            It is very silly to blame a material rather than the humans who utilise it. If humans utilise a material they should be responsible for using it correctly and for disposing it correctly. The technology is there to do so in the case of plastic. Crocodiles have been flushed down toilets. I do not blame the crocodiles.

            I do have issues with certain plastic packaging where it seems OTT. However, I have bothered to discuss that with Supermarkets and there they have a big issue with maintaining product security against idiots who might otherwise contaminate products and attempt to blackmail the retailers. And, yes, it has happened, even with Pick & Mix . Get rid of the idiots? Not so easy.

    • You really need a new argument Eil , you are struggling to find anything original. The Shale scam has failed as predicted .

      • Shale scam – I suggest you look at the recent history of shale development in the USA where shale gas has replaced coal to a significant degree in electricity generation and enabled the USA to be largely self sufficient in energy while also reducing it’s carbon footprint, compare this process with the situation in Germany for example.

        In my opinion the rejection of shale and also nuclear generation in Europe will prove to be a disaster and is already leading to a huge increase in fuel poverty especially amongst the elderly and low paid.

        • Other ways of addressing the scandal of poverty must be found, but preferably not those that will place the planet in a situation from which there is no recovery.

          • 1720 what do you suggest, as an alternative energy source for your woeful planet recovery?, recovery!!
            Veganism?, EV vehicles? Or here a good one, population reduction! Ouch!

  4. What you have to do E-G is first find someone with money and then take it off them!

    Or, you can find someone with little money and provide them with a job that takes them out of poverty.

    If you follow path one, those who had the money taken off them decide to get rid of some expenditure, and sack people, and then those responsible leave Government in UK ALWAYS with unemployment higher than when they started, and have a sick joke at the expense of the sacked people by calling themselves Labour.

    I prefer the second path, but it seems there are still some who wander off down path one and rejoice about the prospect of a windfall tax, alternatively known as a redundancy tax.

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