Residents welcome plugging of Cuadrilla’s “doomed” fracked wells

Opponents of fracking in Lancashire have welcomed Cuadrilla’s announcement that it is to plug and abandon shale gas wells near Blackpool.

Cuadrilla’s Preston New Road fracking site. Photo: Cuadrilla Resources

In a statement last night, the company’s owner, A J Lucas, said a rig would soon be moved on to the site at Preston New Road to start the operation. Surface pipework and valves would also be removed.

The two wells at Preston New Road were the first onshore horizontal fracked wells in the UK.

The site came to represent the country’s onshore shale gas industry, with operational delays, regular protests and, at times, a heavy police presence.

Preston New Road has been mothballed since August 2019, when regulators stopped fracking by Cuadrilla . This followed the UK’s largest fracking-induced earthquake, measuring 2.9 on the local magnitude scale. An England-wide moratorium on fracking was imposed in November 2019 and is still in force.

A spokesperson for Frack Free Lancashire said this morning:

“We welcome the news that Cuadrilla have now accepted the inevitable and decided to abandon their failed site at Preston New Road.

“The combination of their inability to frack without provoking earthquakes, and the fact that we need to be reducing, not increasing, our dependence on new sources of methane always meant that this project was doomed.

“It is sad that our community had to put up with this attempted invasion for so long, but it should now be obvious to everybody that fracking has no place in the Fylde or in the UK as a whole.

“We look forward to the site being fully restored in the very near future.”

Susan Holliday, of Preston New Road Action Group, which also opposed the site, said:

“The recent statement from AJ Lucas is a welcome step towards a return to normality for the local community.

“Although it talks about plugging and abandonment of the wells, it also mentions looking for alternative possible re-use of the site, which is a cause for concern.

“Under the agreed planning permission, the site is due to be restored by April 2023. They have previously stated that restoration will take about 12 months, so time is fast running out with much of the site including the flare stacks still in place.

“Cuadrilla have a poor track record of timely site restoration so we will be looking to Lancashire County Council to ensure Cuadrilla meets its obligations at PNR.”

Friends of the Earth campaigner, Tony Bosworth, said:

“It’s great news that the UK’s most notorious would-be frackers are plugging and abandoning these wells, and a clear sign that fracking is dead.

“Above all, it’s a tribute to the work and resilience of the local communities in Lancashire.

“It is clearer than ever that the UK must get off expensive and polluting gas once and for all with a massive programme of renewable energy and insulation.”

The AJ Lucas statement said plugging and abandonment complied with Oil & Gas Authority (OGA) regulations.

The OGA declined to respond to this comment.

The regulations, the Onshore Decision Making Framework, state that the OGA seeks to “ensure that licensees manage their redundant well stock efficiently, including planning for the plugging and abandonment of a well at the end of its useful life”.

The document adds:

“the OGA will … normally set clear expectations that only wells which have real value are left suspended rather than immediately decommissioned, and work with licensees to review their existing well stock to secure a low-cost progressive plan for the decommissioning of redundant suspended wells so that only wells with real value are given consent to suspend or continue suspension.”

The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy said in a statement:

“We’ve always been clear that the development of domestic energy sources, including fracking, must be safe and cause minimal disruption and damage to those living and working nearby sites.

“We ended support for fracking on the basis of scientific evidence, showing that it is not currently possible to accurately predict the probability and size of tremors associated with fracking. Shale gas remains unproven as a resource in the UK.”

Conservative MP Steve Baker, deputy chairman of the Net Zero Scrutiny Group, tweeted:

“You couldn’t make it up. The fracking regulator has order two of England’s only viable shale gas wells to be sealed up despite the energy crisis. It’s time to get a grip. I’ve applied for an urgent question to @Kwasi Kwarteng and @beisgovuk”

Sam Hall, director of the Conservative Environment Network group of 123 MPs, said fracked gas had “limited potential to reduce energy bills, because of our population density and pipelines to the European gas market”. Writing for Conservative Home, he said

“Despite the Government removing multiple regulatory barriers to fracking in the 2010s and expending huge political capital in the process, shale gas companies were unable to frack without exceeding legal limits on earthquakes and alienating local communities.

16 replies »

  1. It’s regulatory so opponents can hop off their soap boxes, welcomed?!
    Energy poverty is real, and opponents are against the very product which gives them their comfortable lives! Haha… Doh!

  2. Eli-Goth,
    The admission by Government that this was an uncontrollable earthquake generator was also real …Doh !

  3. I don’t know why they are giving the so called Net Zero Scrutiny Group air space. A few denying, deniers and fossil fuel lovers that would have us digging up coal again and burning enough fossil fuels to destroy the climate. Why not consult the Conservative Environmental Group with 123 MPs as members? More members, more credible and that deal in science and fact.

    Energy poverty is real but you don’t see Shell, BP and the rest of them as they make £billions in profit every year doing anything to alleviate the situation. No, they just take advantage of the higher prices to make even more profit and squawk at the merest suggestion of a windfall tax. Sooner we ditch fossil fuels and all the geopolitic baggage that comes with it the better.

    Fantastic news Cuadrilla were ordered to plug and abandon the PNR wells. Long live the moratorium!

    • Ermm, seems fossil fuel is great when windfall tax can be suggested-which is an insane suggestion anyway-but what happens when there are no fossil fuel companies? Oh dear KatT, then “we” would have to fund such future exceptional costs. I suggest that one should be kept in the bag!

      I wonder what will be plonked on the site at PNR? Perhaps a SMR?

      • What an extraordinary argument! Has it occurred to you that were it not for the fossil fuel companies’ greed there would be no need for the windfall tax, whether a good idea or not?

        • Nope, wrong again-seems to be consistent. Demand against supply is what sets price. [Edited by moderator]

          And then there is the little matter of investment into renewables. Is it greed that enables that? Yes, it is with land owners happy to pocket over £100k net profit per year per turbine whether the electricity was required or not. Or, Cash for Ash. Or kids being denied education in DRC whilst they risk contracting cancer.

          What an extraordinary argument!

  4. You do realise that Shell and BP,
    (UK household names) make profit on global earnings! So a windfall tax in the UK means higher energy bills in gas, and at the pump!
    A lose, lose, situation for most but not for you as your not concerned regarding energy poverty!
    What do you propose is the alternative, you understand it’s not as easy as flicking a switch?! Upgrades to the national grid as estimated to costing billions over the next decade and the EV car is just trading one bad idea after another! Didn’t the labour government get the diesel fuel is better for the environment, not non other than the same scientists advising the removal of fossil fuels! https://www.transportenvironment.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/07/worst.png

  5. “Shale gas is part of the future and we will make it happen” George Osbourne 2013. The Government will have known that fracking can cause earthquakes.

    UK shale gas, Pummelled by well organised communities.

  6. So Francis Egan states that his site at Little Plumpton is a ‘viable’ source of gas, notwithstanding undeniable uncontrollable fracking induced earthquakes ?
    But the Prime Minister’s official spokesman said the shale gas from fracking was “not a short-term fix and it’s still unproven as a resource in the UK”. He said: “The development of domestic energy sources including fracking must be safe and cause minimal disruption and damage to those living and working nearby. “We ended support for fracking based on scientific evidence so any further development would need to go through the necessary processes including environmental permitting and planning consents.“It would take years of exploration and development before commercial quantities of shale gas could be produced.“Even if the moratorium were lifted tomorrow there’s unlikely to be sufficient quantities of gas available to address the high prices affecting all of Europe and would have no impact on prices in the short term.”
    Pressed if No 10 was looking again at the fracking decision, he responded: “No.”

    • Well, it convinced yourself, Frank.

      However, the last sentence rather let the previous ones down. “Pressed if No 10!?” No 10 is a moving and fluid situation, not a tablet of stone, so perhaps the Amen is somewhat misplaced, and should be, watch this space.

      Time will tell. Meanwhile the many cargoes of LNG will continue to puff across the Atlantic with all the attending emissions, to address the high prices affecting all in Europe. But not enough to have an impact on prices in the short term, because that is not in the interest of the USA. Biden has an economic mess and mid terms to consider. But, upon review, it will make a nonsense of the climate change argument.

      Taking years, nay decades, to develop sources of energy is the norm, Frank. It still happens. See Sizewell C for an example. Heaven forbid that a UK Government would actually make strategic long term energy plans, but one day it might really happen.

      What I suspect will happen is that the N.Sea will be encouraged to develop existing projects, and greater effort made to direct that production towards UK demand. The opposite to a windfall tax. I also suspect UK shale gas will be seen as a resource to keep in the ground for some time, but may be subject to some exploration to determine future prospects. How that would be done is not so easy, as commercial companies may be reluctant to be involved in such, so maybe a little job for the tax payer, which would not be the first time.

  7. Why are my alarm bells ringing when a DBEIS official spokesperson speaks truly and accurately? When did we ever hear such well informed honesty? (Never before in my experience!) On the plus side, it does sound like current thinking at the top isn’t listening to the climate denial/fossil promotion brigade that have been so prominent since energy prices spiked. This appears to be a genuine quote, so what’s been said can’t be unsaid, although u-turns appear to be a routine manouevre for this govt.

  8. I suggest you listen to some other voices, Mike. There was plenty of debate around energy prices last week and there was a pretty clear statement from the Chancellor around N.Sea investment. He did seem to have quite a number of supporters too.

    So, whilst the on shore fracking may be a non issue I suspect you will see some announcements fairly soon regarding the N.Sea.

    • I listen to a lot of voices, but yours isn’t one of them Martin and never will be.
      I read and listen to a lot of sources and try to carefully assess the reliability and trustworthiness of each one. Trust is something that has to be earned over time, yet can forever be destroyed in one fleeting moment… or perhaps even through consistency.

  9. Well, as we have never spoken Mike, if you have been hearing my voice you need to ask Frank for some help!

    However, as I stated there was a lot of debate about energy last week, there was also an article in the Telegraph quoting Whitehall sources claiming 6 areas in N.Sea to be given green light to proceed, supported by the Chancellor and the Business Secretary.

    Not to do so, would:

    “Trash energy security, kill off 200k jobs, and “we” (oops) would only end up importing more from foreign countries with dubious records.”

    Those Whitehall sources have been doing some homework.

    Now, to add to Moggy there is Andrew Neil in the Mail stirring up the fracking issue. What a combination! I do look forward to a rematch between Mr. Neil and the Green Party on this particular subject. The last event on economics in general was the classic example that arithmetic wins very easily and exposes incoherence if it is submitted for serious scrutiny.

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