Jobs and contracts will be up for grabs in Lancashire if the shale gas industry is allowed to prosper - so come and get them.
That was the message to the county’s businesses today from Cuadrilla chief executive Francis Egan.
Mr Egan said it was possible that “tens of thousands” of jobs could be created if gas could be successfully extracted from under the Lancashire countryside.
And he promised that his gas exploration company would do everything it could to recruit and offer work locally so the whole county would see the economic benefits.
Mr Egan said: “If we get approval it isn’t our intention to turn up, make a quick buck and disappear.
“We are talking long-term, 20, 30 or 40 years.
“The challenge for us and Lancashire businesses is to grab as many of these jobs as they can.”
Cuadrilla intends to drill for shale gas in two new sites in Lancashire – the first site, at Roseacre Wood, is located to the south of the village of Roseacre and the second is located north of Preston New Road to the west of Little Plumpton.
The jury is still out on whether Lancashire will welcome the industry in the coming months and years.
Cuadrilla claims natural gas could reduce the country’s reliance on imported gas and secure investment and jobs in the county for many years to come.
Mr Egan said the benefits would come directly from jobs being created, and from providing and making materials used on site and the supply chain.
The site would have to be constructed, staffed and maintained and all that would create work from engineers to utilities companies and lorry drivers. Some estimates say the shale gas industry could create over 70,000 jobs in the UK – although the industry stresses that all depends on the amount of gas that is extracted.
But based on an assumption that 10 per cent of shale gas could be extracted in Lancashire, Mr Egan said this could means “tens of thousands of jobs”.
He said: “If we get approval and Lancashire does become the first area to be used, then it is almost certain that Yorkshire and the Midlands and other areas will follow.”
Mr Egan also said the prospect of expanding the company’s presence in Lancashire and training shale gas industry apprentices locally was also a distinct possibility.
He pointed to the oil and gas industry, where they had more than one base. Cuadrilla’s current Staffordshire base may be joined by one in Lancashire, he said.
“If we get permission for the Lancashire operation to go ahead, we will be expanding to have people on the ground in Lancashire and we will be expanding our office,” said Mr Egan, who said he was pleased to note Preston’s stance.
Anti-fracking protestors, many local residents and green activists are certain to make life uncomfortable for Cuadrilla whether Lancashire County Council decides to grant permission for drilling or not.
But the company’s plans are being backed by no less than the Prime Minister.
Locally, the newly-formed North West Energy Task Force, is challenging industry and policy-makers to get behind shale, to boost “once in a life time” opportunities for skills and jobs in the region.