The company behind Lancashire’s controversial ‘fracking’ industry has put its exploration plans on hold until next year.
Cuadrilla Resources has revealed it will not carry out hydraulic fracturing at the site at Anna’s Road, near Lytham, until 2014 as it puts together an environmental impact assessment.
It had been hoping to carry out the work this year.
The company has also revealed it is looking to create “a handful” of new sites where it will drill horizontal wells deep under the countryside which it will ‘frack’.
The process involves pumping gallons of water and a chemical into shale rock to unlock pockets of natural gas which caused a pair of earthquakes near Blackpool in 2011.
Cuadrilla chief executive Francis Egan denied the delay at Anna’s Road showed the company was bowing to pressure from environmental groups.
He said: “We will do whatever it takes to meet our targets in an environmentally and socially sustainable manner.
“It is going to take longer than we had thought and we would rather it happened quicker, but we are setting the standard for the industry.”
It is prevented from working on the Anna’s Road site between and October and March due to a large number of migrating birds which use the area during this period.
Mr Egan said: “There is simply no way we could get (the environmental impact assessment) done in that time.”
He said the new temporary exploration sites would be in Lancashire and would see it drill horizontal wells at each site.
Cuadrilla has approval to drill at ten sites in the UK, including at Kirkham, Wharles, and Elswick on the Fylde coast, but Mr Egan said the new work would “not necessarily” happen on any of these sites.
He said it would select the sites depending on “a range of criteria” including roads being capable of handling traffic.
The chief executive added: “We will discuss each proposal in detail with local communities.”
Work will continue at the company’s exploration site at Banks, between Preston and Southport, where it has already drilled a vertical well.
Graham Bentley, a member of anti-fracking group, Ribble Estuary Against Fracking (REAF), said he believed even with the tightest regulation there was still “a not insignificant risk” attached to fracking.
He said fracking in the United States and Canada had proved the risks exist.
Mr Bentley said: “If you were talking about a single well, the risk of a leaking well or a problem involved with the traffic attached to the site maybe minimal.
“But, Cuadrilla are looking at creating 80 to 100 of these well sites, so if you scale that up it is a far greater risk.
“We do not believe is possible to safely frack anywhere.”