Shale gas company Cuadrilla has applied to the Environment Agency to allow a new chemical in its bid to extract gas from under the Lancashire countryside.
The firm, which is preparing to resume fracking at its Preston New Road site near Little Plumpton, has asked permission to use nitrogen gas under pressure to better extract natural gas from the deep-lying shale rock.
It has announced it will frack the second of its two drilled wells at the site, sometime after next month.
The Environment Agency has confirmed that Cuadrilla has asked to vary its permit to allow the use of ‘nitrogen lifting.’
The EA said the technique involved pumping nitrogen into the well to lift injected fracking fluid and formation fluids from the borehole to the surface, thus clearing the well and easing the flow of gas.
Steve Molyneux, Environment Manager for the Environment Agency, said:“We will assess these proposals, to vary the conditions of the permit, to ensure that the activity proposed by Cuadrilla can be carried out safely and provide a high level of protection for people and the environment.
“We also welcome comments from the public and interested groups on local environmental factors that people feel are important and relevant to our assessment.”
Cuadrilla paused fracking to assess results from its first well at the site and has lobbied for safety limits on earth tremors to be raised to allow it to frack more strongly to access the gas. More than 50 tremors were recorded in the fracking last autumn.
Oil and gas body UKOOG has supported the bid to raise the tremor limits.
The move comes as another fracking firm, Aurora, has applied for permission from Lancashire County Council to drill two test wells on farm land off Suttons Lane in Great Altcar, just east of Formby.
Friends of the Earth’s Estelle Worthington said: “Communities will be appalled by Aurora’s plans to frack in the beautiful Lancashire countryside, in an area of high flood risk and near villages and important wildlife sites.
"The world’s top climate scientists have warned we need urgent action to avoid dangerous climate change, and this means rapidly moving away from fossil fuels. The UK Parliament has declared a climate emergency and the government has committed to becoming net-zero by 2050.
"But to have any hope of reaching this target, we need to get serious about ending our reliance on fossil-fuels.”