Preston New Road fracking site to be 'plugged and abandoned' after three years of inactivity

Two shale gas wells run by fracking company Cuadrilla will be filled in and and abandoned three years after operations were forced to a standstill due to earth tremors associated with the site.

By Wes Holmes
Thursday, 10th February 2022, 9:38 am

The site, near Blackpool, was the subject of fierce debate for two years, as Frack Free Lancashire volunteers and other environmental campaigners carried out frequent protests there.

READ: Extinction Rebellion protesters block Lancashire fracking siteA nationwide fracking ban was announced by the Government in November 2019 following a series of earth tremors associated with the Preston New Road site, run by Cuadrilla.

Studies commissioned by the Oil and Gas Authority and carried out by the British Geological Survey in March 2020 found "it is not yet possible to accurately predict the seismic response to hydraulic fracturing", and that attempts to mitigate associated earth tremors were limited.

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The Preston New Road fracking site

In December that year, Cuadrilla surrendered the drilling licence it was granted for Lancashire, but said at the time that it would reapply if the ban was lifted.

READ: Fracking's future looks bleak as Cuadrilla gives up its drilling licence in LancashireNow the company has received orders from the Oil and Gas Authority (OGA) that the horizontal shale wells must now be 'plugged and abandoned'.

Cuadrilla's chief executive officer, Francis Egan, branded the decision 'ridiculous', as the company has spent 'hundreds of millions of pounds' on its fracking projects.

But Cuadrilla’s parent company, AJ Lucas, announced yesterday that the instructions would be followed. A rig will be set up to begin of filling the wells with cement and removing the associated surface pipework and valves from the site.

Extinction Rebellion outside the fracking site in 2019

Cuadrilla's chief executive officer, Francis Egan, said:

“At a time when the UK is spending billions of pounds annually importing gas from all corners of the globe, and gas prices for hard-pressed UK households are rocketing, the UK Government has chosen this moment to ask us to plug and abandon the only two viable shale gas wells in Britain.

“Cuadrilla has spent hundreds of millions of pounds establishing the viability of the Bowland Shale as a high-quality gas deposit. Shale gas from the North of England has the potential to meet the UK’s energy needs for decades to come, yet ministers have chosen now, at the height of an energy crisis, to take us to this point. Once these wells are filled with cement and abandoned it will be incredibly costly and difficult to rectify this mistake at the PNR site.

“Safe shale gas offers us a chance to combat the cost-of living crisis, create 75,000 jobs and deliver on the ‘levelling up agenda’ in Red Wall areas, in addition to reducing our reliance on imported gas so that Britain becomes more energy secure.

“What’s more ridiculous is that leaving our own shale gas in the ground will make reducing global emissions even harder. Emissions from importing gas are far higher than those from home-produced shale gas. I don’t think that this has been properly thought through.”

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