Lancashire fracking firm Cuadrilla to test for gas from second well, but actual fracking will not restart before planning permission runs out

The tower which carries the pipeline down into the Bowland shale at the Preston New Road gas fracking site
The tower which carries the pipeline down into the Bowland shale at the Preston New Road gas fracking site

Fracking firm Cuadrilla is to test the flow of gas from its second horizontal well at its Preston New Road site over the next few weeks.

But no further fracking will take place there until the company gets the go-ahead from the Oil and Gas Authority which is investigating the spate of earth tremors which followed the fracking of the well at the end of August.

Cuadrilla CEO Francis Egan

Cuadrilla CEO Francis Egan

The Bamber Bridge-based onshore exploration operator said the flow testing would be accompanied by the demobilisation of some of the equipment at the site near Little Plumpton.

And it said a timeframe had not yet been agreed with the OGA for the investigation work to be completed which effectively means that further hydraulic fracturing will not take place at the Preston New Road drill site before current planning permission for fracking expires at the end of November.

Cuadrilla chief executive Francis Egan said: “Our second horizontal shale well was partially fractured in August and I am pleased that we are moving to flow test it in the next few weeks.

"We believe that this will further demonstrate the huge commercial opportunity here. Given the lower carbon footprint of UK shale gas compared to that of gas imported by ship from overseas, it clearly makes sense to look to develop this local resource rather than increasing reliance on imports.

"In addition UK shale gas has the potential to act as a domestic feedstock for Hydrogen production which can help the UK reach net zero carbon emissions by 2050.”

The company also said that the results of the flow testing of the first horizontal well drilled at Preston New Road from February this year, confirmed that there was a high quality natural gas resource in the Lower Bowland Shale under the county, which was capable of flowing to surface.

It said the initial exploration programme also confirmed that the Bowland Shale formation fractures in a way that was typical of "an excellent shale gas reservoir".

The fracking of the second well drilled horizontally deep in the underlying Bowland Shale rock, resulted in a spate of earth tremors widely felt across the Fylde coast culminating in one of strength 2.9 ML (local magnitude) on August 26, the largest associated with fracking and larger that the two in 2011 which caused the Government to halt fracking for seven years.

Another minor tremor from the site occurred on Saturday, September 28, at 6.30pm but at a level of just -1/3ML too small to have been felt at the surface.

If tremors exceed the government’s 0.5ML safety limit on seismic activity, then fracking must be paused for 18 hours.

A spokesman from Frack Free Lancashire, one of the organisations opposing fracking, said: “Frack Free Lancashire is delighted to learn that 35 days after they caused a 2.9ML earthquake which shook the Fylde and the confidence of their investors, Cuadrilla are finally demobilising the Preston New Road site.

“We are not surprised to hear this as if their claims are to be believed it has been costing them £94,000 a day to do very little while they waited in vain for the green light to carry on rocking our local community.

“The seismic activity which they provoked has not stopped though, with the 133rd event being recorded on Saturday, five weeks after they last fracked.

“We await the results of their flow test with interest as we have seen no evidence of any gas being flared from this well so far and we know that they have only fracked seven stages of the planned 47 (15 per cent) and they have only managed to inject 289 tonnes of proppant of the 3,525 tonnes that they were permitted to use (8 per cent).

“This flow test looks as though it has more to do with trying to maintain investor confidence rather than being a meaningful data gathering exercise and we hope that it won't be too much longer before local people are able to stand by the gates at Preston New Road and point towards yet another failed fracking site.”