After securing consent from Government this summer, energy company Cuadrilla will start hydraulic fracturing at its Preston New Road site in Lancashire in the next week.
The company is to spend the next three months carrying out fracking at its two wells on the site. This will allow it to make an initial assessment of how much gas will be recoverable from the site, and the project’s commercial viability. Cuadrilla expects to complete this work by the first quarter of next year.
The first horizontal shale gas well was completed by Cuadrilla in April 2018 through the Lower Bowland shale rock, at approximately 2,300m below surface and extends laterally for some 800m. The second horizontal shale gas well was completed in July and has been drilled through the Upper Bowland shale at an approximate depth of 2,100m below the surface, extending laterally for some 750m through the shale.
These are the first two horizontal shale exploration wells to be drilled onshore in the UK; the first well secured consent from the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy in July this year, while the second was given the go-ahead in September.
Francis Egan, chief executive of Cuadrilla, said: “We are confident the flow rates will demonstrate Lancashire can play a major and leading role in safely providing a new source of natural gas for the UK.
“This cannot come a moment too soon as we currently rely on imports for over 50% of the gas that we all need to heat our homes and offices and generate electricity. Producing natural gas from shale will generate investment and new jobs and provide an environmentally preferable alternative to importing gas over long distances by ship or pipeline or to burning coal to generate electricity.”
Reacting to the announcement, pro-fracking group Lancashire for Shale welcomed the news; chairman Lee Petts, said: “Getting to this point has been a long and winding road at times, but worth it. Every ‘t’ has been crossed and every ‘i’ dotted, meaning that there is no reason why fracking for shale gas cannot now proceed.
“We look forward to receiving positive reports of commercial gas flows in the new year. In the meantime, we will continue to educate Lancastrian businesses about the supply chain opportunities and energy security benefits that a successful Lancashire shale gas industry will one day bring to the county.”
However, campaigners have vowed to continue to challenge fracking on the site, with a legal challenge by Friends of the Earth still due to be heard in the High Court.
Liz Hutchins, Friends of the Earth director of campaigns, said: “It is desperately disappointing for the community at Preston New Road, for the UK and for our climate. But it’s important to place this in perspective because it’s taken the industry seven long years to frack just one well, despite the government promising to ‘go all out for fracking’.
“In those same seven years, renewable energy has gone from providing a tenth of our electricity to supplying a third of it. There is no need to force fracking on this community in Lancashire when the alternatives are so clear.
“And it’s not just Lancashire that the industry has in its sights – we need to stop the government’s new plans to fast-track fracking before a surge of drilling sweeps across our countryside.”