UK fracking update – Sealing of Cuadrilla’s shale gas wells could be delayed by a year

The oil and gas industry regulator has said it would consider postponing the abandonment of Cuadrilla’s fracked wells in Lancashire by up to a year.

Cuadrilla’s Preston New Road site near Blackpool, 22 February 2022. Photo: Maxine Gill

The deadline for work on the Preston New Road wells near Blackpool had been 30 June 2022. But the Oil & Gas Authority said in a statement:

“The OGA has informed Cuadrilla that it would consider a request to extend the Plug and Abandon notice on the Preston New Road wells, and the parties are now considering the objectives of a one year extension and the arrangements for eventual abandonment.”

The OGA met senior ministers from the business department yesterday.

The energy minister, Greg Hands, told parliament the OGA had:

“proactively approached Cuadrilla as recently as this week to ask whether it will apply for an extension”.

But he added:

“Cuadrilla has not made a straightforward application to do so. As with any licensee, Cuadrilla can apply for a straightforward extension from the Oil and Gas Authority if it wants to extend the deadline.”

A moratorium on fracking in England, imposed in November 2019, remains in force. The Preston New Road site has been largely mothballed since fracking caused a 2.9ML earthquake in August 2019.

John Hobson, a spokesperson for the campaign group Frack Free Lancashire, said this morning:

“The government is clearly mindful of its legal obligations and exposure relating to licences paid for by Cuadrilla. They may see it as more prudent for them to kick this can further down the road than to risk litigation from a company that would have little left to lose.”

“The question arises as to what Cuadrilla intend to do with a site that they would have to maintain but not use, and how they would fund the costs without any income. 

“It is imperative that they be asked to demonstrate that they would remain financially solvent to ensure that any future decommissioning costs are still met in full.”

Any delay to abandonment would have implications for the ticking clock on Cuadrilla’s planning permission at Preston New Road.

Under the terms of the consent, the site must be restored by April 2023 and that work is expected to take a year.

The company has already submitted plans to Lancashire County Council for the restoration phase and more detailed proposals had been expected.

A spokesperson for the Preston New Road Action Group, which opposed Cuadrilla’s operations, said:

“Cuadrilla have had nearly 4 years since commence of fracking to prove the process at Preston New Road and have failed.

“They caused earthquakes from both wells and have not been able to come up with mitigating measures since they stopped.

“It is hard to imagine that an extra year is going to do anything other than extend the stress of the local community.

“They should just admit defeat and restore the site by April 2023 as per the original planning condition. Any requests to extend their permissions will be met with vigorous opposition from the local community.”  

DrillOrDrop asked Cuadrilla whether it has requested an extension.

Equipment was delivered to Preston New Road last week and the company told residents the work would take about five weeks.

Earlier this week, Cuadrilla said abandonment of the wells must start imminently to meet the 30 June 2022 deadline. The company’s chief executive, Francis Egan, said in a statement:

“I urgently request the Business Department and the OGA to formally withdraw their instruction to plug the wells.  They should also put sensible protections in place to ensure that companies like Cuadrilla and others aren’t forced to suffer the risk and financial cost of operating in a position where a Government can keep changing its mind and require wells to be cemented whilst they are eminently useful.”

The confusion appeared to have arisen from comments by the business secretary in parliament. Kwasi Kwarteng told MPs it did “not necessarily make any sense to concrete over the wells”.

18 replies »

  1. There was an urgent question on the subject yesterday in the HoC.

    Seems that there is some agreement that an extension would be allowed, but the critical point is what would Cuadrilla be allowed to do with it? IMHO they would need to be allowed to assess the wells in some way to make it worthwhile. A moratorium lite?

    • For the first time in history Martin we agree on something! Halelujah!

      The government is not supporting fracking (that much was very clear from yesterday’s UQ debate).
      The government is not not supporting fracking (that much was very clear from yesterday’s UQ debate)

      It seems we are in a state of quantum uncertainty as regards what is going to happen at PNR over the next 12 months.

      What is certain is that Cuadrilla won’t be fracking unless they can meet the criteria embedded in the 2019 manifesto. (Which it would appear they can’t)

      Time will tell I suppose, but we here in the Fylde are not unduly concerned right now. Even Mark Menzies has come off the fence now.

      (Did you mean “access” by the way?)

      • Nope, I meant what I stated-assess (estimate the size or quality of).

        Oh, I think a manifesto is known to change when circumstances change. Unless there is a Mystic Meg party spawned, I would expect that will need to continue. Would I have liked the Triple Lock maintained for my state pension? Not really, the comments from my children would have been difficult to answer, and the Bank of Mum and Dad would have been open 24/7.

        But, I note your past concern for spelling has also been modified, so things do change, and 2022 may produce even more. Hallelujah!

        Yes, I noted Mark Menzies comments. Seems he wants lots more nuclear! Well, it will have to go somewhere.

        Meanwhile, I noted on TV today, out of a panel of four, two supported fracking in UK, one was inclined that way, and only one against. How quickly opinions change when circumstances change.

        Are you okay with that Russian diesel shortage? Perhaps when XR stop playing around at Fawley Refinery, they can go ahead and produce you some more in the UK?( I recall there was £800m investment planned.) And, by so doing, create more income for the Chancellor, rather than for Putin.

        Never mind. All these trade deals and there should be some cheaper Shiraz coming our way from Australia.

          • Nope, reaction, I have been watching for some while how little diesel UK produces and how much it imports-and from where. Perhaps you have some different figures, or a different press release from Fawley Refinery? [Edited by moderator]

            • Keep up with your own output Fred!

              I’ll simplify it so it’s easy for you 😉

              “Meanwhile, I noted on TV today, out of a panel of four, two supported fracking in UK, one was inclined that way, and only one against. How quickly opinions change when circumstances change.”

              “Oh Martin you’ve not been watching KGB News again have you?”

              Understand now?

              • Not really, as it was the BBC.

                One was a Labour MP, one sits in the House of Lords, the inclined was a Tory MP and the one against a union official wanting strikes at Universities.

                So, whilst the BBC may sometimes look like the KGB, I am not sure they have yet reached the point where they dictate the output of individuals, and if so, not those particular individuals.

                But, I am sure your wish to contrive something to suit your agenda was valuable to you, and even more valuable to readers to note how such situations are clumsily manipulated.

                Meanwhile, what occurred did occur.

      • I notice even Scott Benton MP, who includes himself in the small but noisy number of MPs who are members of the NZSG, says fracking at PNR is clearly unviable. It’s time to admit this, concrete the wells, reinstate the land to useful farmland and save local residents any more anxiety.

        • Are you the farmers official spokesperson? and speaking on their behalf to reinstate the farmland to use? He can do what he like, i hope he instated 100,000 swine munching pigs in place… Oh i do hope Scott has recovered after breaking parliamentary rules.

  2. Not much support in Parliament,

    Mr Speaker, we are clear that shale gas is not the solution to near-term issues. It would take years of exploration and development before commercial quantities of shale gas could be produced. Additionally, fracking relies on a continued series of new wells, each of which produces gas for a relatively short time, even if the pools were lifted. There is unlikely to be sufficient quantities of gas available to address the high prices affecting all of Western Europe, and would certainly have no effect on prices in the near term.

  3. Probably of more significance in the near term is the news that Teeside (Trafigura) are in the process of (maybe) opening up UK’s fourth LNG terminal, which would be capable of handling up to 600m cu.ft. of gas per day, probably from US or Middle East, and maybe then onward to N. Europe.

    Would make sense of all that increase in US rig counts and Boris talks currently in Middle East.

    • PM is in the Middle East to conduct trade deals with the Saudis regarding oil and gas contracts, (short term), while also discussing from an international perspective a huge investment in renewables for his & of course other half net zero plans, Saudis also have their foot in the door so to speak, as they own (Newcastle United) and huge sovereign wealth fund, albeit like the UK should have had when then the North Sea taps were turned on in the billion dollar boom years!

      The US would have been a good fit for relations too, as Ineos has LNG ships sailing in and docking in to Grangemouth with fracked gas weekly! ( oh to have a fracking industry ) hold on, wait a minute, that would be a good idea….!! Hmmmmmm….

    • Together with the recent IPCC report, Richard, the drift of your article should settle such rational debate as exists; but will it?

  4. Nope.

    So many reports, so many reporters making money out of reports.

    Phil C indicates “we” should be suspicious of the financial situation. I am. Ever since I heard my Research Director state he could not afford to employ science graduates as they would earn much more working on anything to do with climate change-including writing reports!

    I also noted the following:

    “There was also risk that policies to drive down emissions in the UK might increase emissions elsewhere.” (CCC) Greta has said the same, but somewhat more angrily.

    Those comments are conveniently ignored by some, but they exist, they are common sense and validated by pretty simple arithmetic. Yet, they will be conveniently ignored, and debate will have to trash the laws of arithmetic and price elasticity of oil, especially as vehicle fuel, to achieve a debate. But, it will still not be rational.

    • Regarding that odd, in fact, very odd, attempt by the usual suspect to reference myself into supporting their own own side of the issue, entirely out of context. That I would not support that implication anyway regarding this particular subject if I had done so, which I didn’t.

      I would point out what I said subsequent to my initial comment on the subject of Joe Corre and Ineos Upstream. That it may well be best to leave that alone, due to the possibility of any comments one way or the other, becoming judged as contempt of court.

      It is better not to become implicated into something that is best left alone at this point. Just as I do not wish to be implicated on the wrong side of this subject. Always better to be clear, precise, unambiguous and careful isn’t it.

      Have a Nice, Unambiguous and Careful Day.

    • But surely any fracking well in the U.K. would immediately result in the closure of the well it was replacing. Have you forgotten your own version of arithmetic, or has realisation eventually dawned that a new well here will add to total emissions as you cannot reliably predict that ‘replacement’ rather than doubling up will take place. Your arithmetic seems to be aligning itself with the commonly accepted version.

      Repeat after me….”No”. That’s the commonly accepted British English negative. Just because you are a fracker does not mean you need to adopt the language. Break free! They understand ‘No’ over there.

  5. Nope.

    Why would I follow your lead, 1720? It is going nowhere. Sorry teacher, you lost the class. F.

    At last you attempt some arithmetic! However, you have not done your research about fracking wells. There are wells closing every day around the world, many fracking wells in USA doing so, as well. They do not last that long, and there has been much discussion around that in the media and on DoD. Ermm, why do you think so many are drilled?

    So, no, a well being tested/assessed in UK is not going to double anything. Arithmetic also has to consider minuses. You could be more local and consider UK on shore oil and gas. That would be even more subject to minuses.

    What may be doubling is the number of fracking wells in USA to produce oil and gas to be shipped to Europe to replace product from Russia, with the resulting transport emissions. LNG has some particular issues in that respect. Comments from USA state they can do the job-by 2030.

    If you want to try and manufacture a point, please be a little more aware of the subject. Otherwise, you will simply go where it may be better not to go.

    But, thanks to fossil fuel, I have a bedroom where the paint awaits me to be plonked on the walls.

    Have a good day. It is nice and sunny here in the UK.

Add a comment

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s