Shale gas exploration firm Cuadrilla has broken new ground in the UK
The company has completed the first ever horizontally drilled well in shale ready for test fracking to begin later this year.
The well is 800m long and 2,700m below ground at the Preston New Road site near Little Plumpton.
drilla was granted planning permission to drill up to four test wells at the site by the Secretary of State for Communities Sajid Javid after a six week planning inquiry. A second inquiry will beheld next week to see if the firm can drill at Roseacre Wood.
Cuadrilla said it will be applying to the Secretary of State for permission to frack the wells which will take place in autumn.
Cuadrilla chief executive Francis Egan said: “Our completion of the UK’s first ever horizontal shale gas well is a major milestone towards getting Lancashire gas flowing into Lancashire homes as we lead the way on UK exploration.
"From the data we have amassed we are optimistic that, after fracturing the shale rock, natural gas will flow into this horizontal well in commercially viable quantities demonstrating the UK’s huge shale gas resources can be safely produced and contribute to improving the UK’s energy security.”
After fracking, Cuadrilla will run an initial flow test of both wells for six months with plans to then eventually connect those wells to the local gas grid network in 2019.
The only UK shale gas well which has been fracked was at Preese Hall, near Blackpool in 2011.
Supporters of shale gas industry have welcomed the news.
Lancashire For Shale chairman, Lee Petts, said: “
“Today’s announcement proves that Lancashire’s geology is suitable for horizontal drilling and that it can be done safely and without incident.
“Horizontal wells, which are then hydraulically fractured, have helped to unlock an enormous new source of energy in the US, lowering overall impact on the environment, and have the potential to do the same for us here.
“This is another vital sign that Lancashire has what it takes to grow a successful shale gas industry, and will come as encouraging news for businesses and residents hoping to benefit from the opportunities and jobs that will follow.”
But opponents pointed to long delays in the drilling programme.
A spokesman from Frack Free Lancashire said: “We are surprised and concerned that Cuadrilla have only just managed to complete the horizontal well. According to their information, this must put them almost a year behind their schedule, which considering their enthusiasm for erosion of democracy and land, makes their announcement a bit of damp squib.
“We have today begun a three month campaign against this industry. We are resolute in our commitment to ending this industry in Lancashire and the UK.
“As we’ve stated before: we’ll be here until Cuadrilla are not.”
Dr Doug Parr, Chief Scientist for Greenpeace UK, said: "Just as Bloomberg reveal that solar plants have dropped in cost by 20 per cent in the last twelve months, Cuadrilla announces that seven years after the last UK well was fracked, they are almost ready to have another go, notwithstanding local opposition, pending government permission, sometime in the summer, maybe.
"And this announcement of yet another delay in getting started is what Cuadrilla are trying to pass off as a success.”