Shale gas exploration firm Cuadrilla has been given a reprieve on an order to cap its two wells by June this year, following mounting pressure from Conservative party grandees and the oil and gas industry.
They claimed that with fuel bills rising and supplies possibly under threat by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, fracking should be reconsidered as a way of boosting the UK’s stocks.
It remains in place until fracking firms could mitigate the quakes caused by fault lines being triggered by high pressure water and chemicals injected into shale rock to try to release gas trapped inside.
The permission to hold off on pouring concrete into the wells was granted by the North Sea Transition Authority which said: “Cuadrilla now has until the end of June next year to evaluate options for the Preston New Road and Elswick sites.
"If no credible re-use plans are in place by then, the North Sea Transition Authority expects to reimpose decommissioning requirements.”
Reacting to the news, a spokesman for Frack Free Lancashire said: “We are astonished to learn that the order for Cuadrilla to plug the two wells at Preston New Road has been withdrawn by the regulator, in a move that appears to kick this can further down the road.
“The local community has already suffered enough uncertainty and it is about time that this matter was finally brought to an end. The current energy crisis should not be an excuse for further delays.
“Fracking cannot be done safely. After 11 years of failures in Lancashire, now is the time to consign it to history, rather than dragging this disaster on further.”
Fylde MP Mark Menzies has expressed his disappointment saying he believes the industry has been given enough time already to prove drilling can be carried out safely in Fylde and has asked Ministers for urgent clarification on the latest decision.
He said: “Cuadrilla has been drilling in Fylde for 10 years and during that time has triggered two national moratoriums.
“The evidence could not be more clear. The geology in Fylde does not support fracking, it cannot be done safely here.
“All this decision does it create another year of anxiety and uncertainty for people in Fylde when the focus of the Government should be on long-term, sustainable energy security.”
Lancaster and Fleetwood labour MP Cat Smith said: “The Tories’ 2019 moratorium on fracking is unravelling and looking increasingly like an election promise that’s about to be U-turned on. With the regulator going back on forcing Cuadrilla to fill in the wells, it leaves the door open to fracking on the Fylde coast again.