Cuadrilla has started horizontal drilling at its shale gas exploration site in Lancashire, after completing a 2.7km-deep test well which it said yielded “comprehensive data” showing “excellent rock quality and high natural gas content”.
The pilot drill at the Preston New Road site went through both the Upper and Lower Bowland shale rock, a large rock formation which stretches across the North and into the Midlands and is rich in natural gas. Companies such as Cuadrilla are looking at ways to release the gas through hydraulic fracturing, known as fracking, 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 said the data recorded across the entire Bowland shale section “represents the most comprehensive data set recovered to date from any shale well drilled in the UK and the quality of the data is excellent”.
Using this latest data, along with data recovered and analysed from three previous Lancashire shale exploration wells, Cuadrilla said it is “exceptionally well positioned to drill its first two horizontal wells into the gas rich zones”.
“Our early analysis of this latest data suggests excellent rock quality for hydraulic fracturing and a high natural gas content in several zones within the shale.”
Cuadrilla has planning permission to drill up to four exploratory horizontal wells in the shale rock underlying Preston New Road. The initial vertical sections of the first two of these wells have both now been drilled, and Cuadrilla started drilling what will be the first horizontal well in UK shale over the course of this weekend.
Once both horizontal wells have been completed, hydraulic fracturing of both is likely to be in the second quarter of 2018. Cuadrilla then plans to test the flow rate of natural gas from the horizontal wells for approximately six months after this.
Cuadrilla announced the results of the drill test on Friday, on the same day that the Court of Appeal dismissed two claims made against the Secretary of State for Communities & Local Government Sajid Javid’s decision to grant planning consent for the Lancashire exploration site. The case was heard by the three judges at the Royal Courts of Justice in London in August 2017. The Court of Appeal has also refused permission for the parties to appeal at the Supreme Court.
Francis Egan, chief executive of Cuadrilla, said: “We are very encouraged by our early analysis of the data and are confident that there is a very sizeable quantity of natural gas in the Bowland Shale. In addition, we can confirm that the rock composition is very suitable to hydraulically fracture. This give us great confidence as we start drilling what will be the first horizontal well drilled into UK shale rock.
“The Court of Appeal has robustly dismissed both challenges on all the grounds presented, as well as dismissing requests for further appeal. The same challenges were previously dismissed by the High Court in a similarly detailed judgement made in April 2017. We have always remained confident that that the planning consent would stand, particularly after such a lengthy and thorough review of the application and positive recommendations for approval by both the professional planning officers at Lancashire County Council, and subsequently an experienced planning inspector.”