Shale gas permit changes approved as operations set to resume near Blackpool

The fracking site at Preston New Road, Little Plumpton
The fracking site at Preston New Road, Little Plumpton
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The Environment Agency has given approval to Cuadrilla to make changes to its environmental permit at Preston New Road, Little Plumpton

It comes as the fracking company prepares to resume shale gas exploration at the site in the autumn.

READ MORE :>>> Shale gas firm Cuadrilla set to return to frack at second well near Blackpool
Cuadrilla's existing Environmental Permit governs activities at the site relating to the management of wastes produced from shale gas exploration the protection of ground water and flaring of natural gas.

The permit imposes the strict conditions that Cuadrilla must follow to protect people and the environment.

The permit variation provides consent for changes to the composition of the permitted fracturing fluid and refines arrangements for the management of wastes. It also updates procedures for environmental monitoring of surface water and ambient air quality.

The decision follows expert assessment of Cuadrilla’s proposals, as well as all comments submitted during a public consultation.

Steve Molyneux, the Agency's environment manager for Cumbria and Lancashire, said: “After completing a thorough assessment of Cuadrilla’s application and fully considering all of the responses to our public consultation, we are confident that the environmental permit sets out the right conditions to ensure that people and the environment are protected.

“The regulatory controls covered by the original permit provide a high level of protection for people and the environment. The changes we have agreed also meet these strict requirements.

“Our inspectors will enforce the conditions of the permit to ensure that waste is managed properly and both air quality and groundwater are protected.”

Cuadrilla’s changes to its existing Environmental Permit include an update to the waste management plan to incorporate refinements based on the experience gained during initial operations; clarification that hydraulic fracturing may be conducted during more than one occasion along a lateral well and approval for changes to the composition of the fracturing fluid to optimise fracturing operations; approval for the use of a biocide (glutaraldehyde) in the fracturing fluid to augment the use of UV disinfection of flowback fluid.

It also covers approval for the potential use of methanol to prevent the formation of gas hydrates (an ice-like formation) within the well during periods of well suspension and an update to the waste management plan to update ambient air quality monitoring in line with changes to operational activity on site.

Fylde MP Mark Menzies, whose constituency covers Preston New Road, said of the announcement that shale gas exploration there is to resume: “I have had meetings in recent weeks with the Environment Agency and have been in touch with other regulatory bodies to emphasise the need for continued robust regulation and enforcement of the safety guidelines, including the traffic light system.

“I expect full compliance with, and enforcement of those rules and regulations, from both Cuadrilla and the regulatory bodies, should there be a further attempt to hydraulically fracture on the site.”