Everything we know so far as Fracking is given the go-ahead in Lancashire

Yesterday hydraulic fracturing for shale gas was given the go-ahead in Lancashire by the government.

By The Newsroom
Wednesday, 25th July 2018, 8:16 am
Updated Wednesday, 25th July 2018, 9:22 am
Here is everything we know so far following the announcement that fracking can start in Lancashire
Here is everything we know so far following the announcement that fracking can start in Lancashire

Here is everything we know so far.

::What is fracking?

More properly known as hydraulic fracturing, fracking is a process in which liquid is pumped deep underground at high pressure to fracture shale rock and release gas or oil trapped within it.

Here is everything we know so far following the announcement that fracking can start in Lancashire

::Why is fracking controversial?

The process has been mired in controversy since it hit the headlines in 2011 for causing two minor earthquakes in Lancashire, prompting a temporary ban onfracking in the UK.

The ban was later lifted, with controls put in place to prevent tremors, but fracking continues to attract opponents who fear it can also cause water contamination, noise and traffic pollution.

Environmentalists also warn that pursuing new sources of gas - a fossil fuel - is not compatible with efforts to tackle climate change, and that the focus should be on developing cleaner sources of energy such as renewables.

::Why is it backed by the Government?

Ministers believe the experience of the US, where shale gas has been widely exploited, shows it could boost tax revenues, create jobs, reduce reliance on energy imports and bring down household fuel bills, although experts have questioned whether it would have any impact on energy prices.

The Government sees gas as key to future energy supplies as it bids to phase out the most polluting electricity source, coal, by 2025, and has said it is going “all out for shale’’, with tax breaks and community payments to get the industry going.

::How we got here:

August 2010: Energy company Cuadrilla started drilling a well at Preese Hall near Weeton.

April/May 2011: Fracking was blamed for two earth tremors felt across Blackpool and the Fylde.

One tremor of magnitude 2.3 hit on 1 April, followed by a second of magnitude 1.4 on 27 May. A moratorium was placed on fracking

December 2012 The moratorium on fracking was lifted in December 2012 when the Government decided that it could go ahead with strict controls and monitoring.

February 2014: Cuadrilla lodged two applications for planning permission to drill and test frack at a site near Little Plumpton off Preston New Road and at Roseacre.

June 2015: After a series of delays brought about by both Cuadrilla and opponents, Lancashire County Council finally ruled on the two planning applications and the associated applications for extensive monitoring at the sites.

The monitoring at Roseacre was approved first and then the fracking bid after much deliberation was rejected at that site along with both the monitoring and fracking bids at Preston New Road.

They were refused on grounds of noise and visual impact at Preston New Road and on traffic impact grounds at Roseacre.

September 2015: Cuadrilla lodged four Appeals to the Secretary of State against the decisions to refuse planning permission for both exploration sites, the monitoring site at Preston New Road and against one of the conditions imposed on the planning permission for the monitoring array at Roseacre Wood.

October 2016: Communities Secretary Sajid Javid approved plans for fracking at Cuadrilla's Preston New Road site at Little Plumpton.

April 2018: A three-week inquiry begins into a request by Cuadrilla for a new fracking site at RoseacreJuly 2018: Cuadrilla given permission to drill for shale gas at Little Plumpton

::Reaction to the news

Francis Egan, CEO of Cuadrilla, said: “We are very pleased to be the first operator in the UK to have been awarded final consent to hydraulically fracture the UK’s first onshore horizontal shale exploration well.

"This is a testament to, and underpinned by, our strong track record of running a world class shale gas exploration site at Preston New Road, in compliance with robust health, safety, environmental and planning regulations.

"It is also a win for Lancashire, which has already benefited directly from over £10m of investment as a result of our exploration works at Preston New Road to date.

"We now look forward to submitting a fracture consent application to BEIS for our second exploration well and moving on to fracture the shale rock and flow the natural gas which we believe will make a major contribution to reducing the UK’s gas imports and improving our environment and economy.”

Shadow energy minister Alan Whitehead, said: "Overwhelmingly people don't want to take the unnecessary risk with fracking, to our natural environment and the purity of our water.

"Labour will ban fracking, instead committing to building our renewables sector and sourcing 60 per cent of our energy from clean, green sources by 2030."

Babs Murphy, chief executive of the North & Western Lancashire Chamber of Commerce said: “This is good news for the County. "Cuadrilla is now leading the way on UK shale gas exploration with hundreds of local businesses set to benefit from supplying products and services to this nascent industry.

"Already over 10 million pounds has been spent locally and we see that spend significantly increasing in the future”.

Caroline Lucas from the Green Party said in a tweet: "Disgraceful that the Govt has quietly signed off fracking on a busy last day before recess.

"They've ignored local people, overruled local councillors and torn up our commitments to tackle climate change."

Liz Hutchins, Friends of the Earth director of campaigns, said: “It’s taken the industry seven long years to just get to this point.

“In those same seven years, renewable energy has gone from providing a tenth of our electricity to supplying a third of it. There is no need to force fracking on this community in Lancashire when the alternatives are so clear.

“The government backed the wrong horse. Renewables have cleared the finishing line and have taken the cup while fracking is limping along on the first stretch.

“They have also had to really push the boundaries of planning law by trying to change regulations to go all out for fracking, and they’ve put everything into resuscitating this nearly dead-on-its-feet industry.”

Energy and Clean Growth Minister Claire Perry said: "Shale gas has the potential to be a new domestic energy source, further enhancing our energy security and helping us with our continued transition to a lower-carbon economy.

"It also has the capacity to deliver substantial economic benefits, both nationally and locally, as well as through the creation of well paid, high-quality jobs.

"We already have an excellent, long-standing reputation for safe oil and gas exploration. Our world class regulations will ensure that shale exploration will maintain robust environmental standards and meet the expectations of local communities.

"I have carefully considered Cuadrilla’s application and I am content that Hydraulic Fracturing Consent should be granted in this instance."

Frack Free Lancashire, said: “They have now proved beyond a shadow of a doubt that localism is a sham.

“The irony of allowing this water-intensive industry to go ahead at exactly the moment when the country is in the grip of the worst drought for 40 years and the area in which Cuadrilla will be fracking has been hit with a hosepipe ban, will be lost on nobody.

“The fact that they are also proposing to kill off small-scale renewable investment by removing the feed-in tariffs at the same time as enabling fracking is further evidence that this government's energy policy is hopelessly out-of-step with the real world and the issues that we all face as a result of imminent climate change."

Lee Petts, chairman at Lancashire For Shale, welcomed the news: "This is fabulous news for Lancashire, putting it squarely at the forefront of the UK's nascent shale gas industry.

"The opportunity for local suppliers to gain a significant first-mover advantage cannot be overstated.

"Already, operations at Preston New Road have seen millions of pounds spent with Lancashire businesses, and the scope for that to grow in the future is astonishing - there really is nothing with the quite same potential to change the game for Lancashire's economy.

"We are delighted that the Secretary of State has recognised this potential, and given Cuadrilla the final approval it needs to get on with demonstrating that Lancashire shale gas can be recovered in commercial quantities so that we can better assess the role it will one day play in meeting our energy needs as a nation."

::What conditions set for Cuadrilla so fracking can begin

1) (a) No associated hydraulic fracturing may commence pursuant to this consent until you (Cuadrilla) have submitted to the Department a copy of the unqualified audited report and accounts relating to the latest full financial year of Spirit Energy Limited and I have confirmed to you in writing that I am satisfied that they are broadly in line with unaudited financial statements previously submitted to the IPA in support of your application for Hydraulic Fracturing Consent.

Or; (b) If you wish to commence hydraulic fracturing operations in advance of Spirit Energy Limited’s audited accounts being ready for submission to the Department, you must provide the Department with evidence of the deposit of £557,000 in a suitable Escrow account in support of your potential Decommissioning Cost liability.

No hydraulic fracturing may commence until you have my written confirmation that these arrangements are satisfactory. Once Spirit Energy Limited’s audited accounts are available, you must then submit these to the Department in line with Condition 1a).2) The arrangements for publication of the results of the monitoring required by section 4A(6)(a) of the Petroleum Act 1998, set out in your letter dated 18 May 2018 which accompanied the application, must remain in place for the period for which this Hydraulic Fracturing Consent remains in force.Expiration

This consent will expire on the same date as the end of the second term of your Petroleum Exploration and Development Licence (PEDL No.165), unless this consent is withdrawn or extended by notice in writing given by or on behalf of the Secretary of State prior to that date. This consent may be withdrawn if there has been a breach of the conditions or the Energy Minister considers there to have been a material change in circumstances and it is no longer appropriate for this consent to remain in force.