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