A public consultation began today into plans by Cuadrilla to generate electricity from gas extracted at its Elswick site in the Fylde region of Lancashire.
The company has applied for a bespoke environmental permit that would allow gas to be piped from a single well to a new gas engine at the site between the villages of Elswick and Roseacre.
The well, known as Elswick-1, would not require fracking, Cuadrilla said.
The application to the Environment Agency said the well was drilled in 1990 by a British Gas subsidiary to a depth of 5,300ft into the Collyhurst Sandstone reservoir.
Production began in 1993. Cuadrilla said gas from the well had been used to generate electricity for several years.
The well has been shut-in since 2014 because the generator needed a major upgrade, the company said.
A modern generator has now been installed to produce electricity for the local grid, Cuadrilla said. It estimated that the Elswick-1 well had two-three years of gas production left.
Lancashire County Council granted planning permission in 2020 for another five years at Elswick.
The industry regulator, the North Sea Transition Authority, has given Cuadrilla until June 2023 to evaluate options for Elswick and the fracked wells at the Preston New Road shale gas site.
Today’s permit application listed waste materials that would be produced alongside the gas. They included produced, or formation, water which contains salts, minerals and naturally occurring radioactive material (NORM). Gas extraction also produces waste scale and water-based muds.
The application said the produced water would be separated at the surface and stored in a tank for removal by road to a disposal site.
Cuadrilla said it intended to apply for a radioactive substances regulation permit to allow for accumulation and disposal of NORM.
The company’s non-technical summary concluded there was no need for air quality monitoring at Elswick:
“There are no significant impacts arising from the process activity on human health or the environment air quality. Furthermore, the extractive waste generated will not have a detrimental impact on air quality.”
The site condition report, also included in the application, recorded:
“the groundwater within the Sherwood Sandstone Group at this location is highly saline and unsuitable for water supply.”
The application also reported there were no sites of special scientific interest, local nature reserves, areas of outstanding natural beauty or ancient woodland within 1km of the site.
The public consultation continues until 13 January 2023. The application documents can be viewed online.
Venting versus flaring
The application included a cost benefit analysis comparing burning any gas in a flare with allowing it to be released, or vented, into the atmosphere.
Cuadrilla estimated that a flare would cost £61,358 per year, based on rental and running costs.
Venting would cost just £48 a year, the company estimated. This assumed one vent of 0.00678 tonnes per year, at a cost of £252 per tonne of gas.
Flaring is normally preferred by the Environment Agency because it converts methane to the less potent greenhouse gas, carbon dioxide (CO2).
Cuadrilla assumed in its calculations that methane has a global warming potential (GWP) of 28 over 100 years.
GWP is the amount of heat absorbed by any greenhouse gas in the atmosphere compared with CO2. A tonne of methane, with a GWP of 28, is 28 times more powerful than CO2 over 100 years.
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change considers methane to have a GWP of 84-87, more than 80 times more powerful than CO2, over 20 years.
DrillOrDrop asked Cuadrilla to explain why it had used the 100-year GWP, rather than the higher 20-year GWP and whether this would make any difference to the cost benefit analysis. The company did not respond to our questions.