Energy firm Cuadrilla has completed drilling the UK’s first horizontal shale gas well at its Preston New Road site in Lancashire, ahead of starting the fracking process by the start of the third quarter of this year, subject to Government approval.
Cuadrilla started horizontal drilling at the site in January, following a 2.7km-deep test well which the firm said showed the area had “excellent rock quality and high natural gas content”. It also has low overall clay content making it “well suited” to the fracking process.
The horizontal well, which stretches for around 800 metres, will allow Cuadrilla to release the natural gas in the rock through hydraulic fracturing, which involves pumping water at very high pressures to break the rock.
While fracking proposals have received strong opposition, Cuadrilla and other shale gas explorers have maintained that using the natural resource could significantly add to the UK’s energy supply, and reduce the need to import the gas from other countries.
Cuadrilla has now also started work on a second horizontal shale gas exploration well, and has planning consent to drill up to four of these wells on the site.
The company now plans to apply to the Secretary of State for the Department of Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy for a permit to fracture both wells from July this year.
Initial flow tests on both wells will last for around six months, and Cuadrilla plans to have these connected to the local gas grid network in 2019.
Cuadrilla chief executive Francis Egan said: “Our completion of the UK’s first ever horizontal shale gas well is a major milestone towards getting Lancashire gas flowing into Lancashire homes as we lead the way on UK exploration.
“From the data we have amassed so far we are optimistic that, after fracturing the shale rock, natural gas will flow into this horizontal well in commercially viable quantities demonstrating that the UK’s huge shale gas resources can be safely produced and contribute to improving the UK’s energy security.”
The company also has a second site in Lancashire at Roseacre Wood. A planning inquiry, focused on highways issues, is due to begin on 10 April. The proposals were given the nod by Communities secretary Sajid Javid in October 2016.