Fracking Cuadrilla to restart fracking at site in Lancashire
Drilling at Preston New Road is last-ditch effort to convince regulators to relax safety rules
The first company to drill for shale gas in the UK plans to restart fracking at its Preston New Road site in Lancashire in a last-ditch effort to convince policymakers to relax safety rules.
Cuadrilla will drill a second well near Blackpool after it was forced to abandon the first, which caused multiple earth tremors.
It plans to remobilise its drilling and fracking equipment within the coming months to test gas flows from the site before its permission expires in November.
Francis Egan, the company’s chief executive, plans to use the data to convince the government and regulators to loosen the safety rules that have slowed the progress of the UK shale industry.
He said the work could help to make a case for the UK’s controversial shale ambitions by proving that the Bowland Shale region offers a “hugely exciting opportunity for the UK”.
Cuadrilla has struggled to convince the public among growing opposition to shale gas exploration and protests by environmental campaigners. Fracking involves pumping high-pressure water, sand and various chemicals into tightly packed shale rock formations. The process fractures the rocks and releases the gas contained within the shale layers.
Egan said it was no secret that Cuadrilla had asked for the “exceedingly low” tolerance for earth tremors to be lifted.
“It remains the case that we are the only UK operator currently able to move forward and provide more data to support an expert review of this threshold – and we intend to do so,” he said.
Ineos, the chemicals giant owned by the billionaire Sir Jim Ratcliffe, has an extensive portfolio of shale sites across North and South Yorkshire, the East Midlands and Cheshire. However, Britain’s richest man has been unable to move ahead with plans for Ineos to become the UK’s largest fracking firm because of opposition from local councils.
Ratcliffe accused the government of “playing politics with the future of the country” by refusing to relax its earth tremor rules. He said the policies would cause an “energy crisis” and “irreparable damage” to the economy.
Egan warned last year that commercial shale gas fracking could not go ahead in the UK unless rules on minor earthquakes were relaxed.
Cuadrilla was repeatedly forced to suspend its work at the Preston New Road site after the government’s safety limits for earth tremors were breached on multiple occasions.
The rules call for an immediate halt if frackers trigger an earthquake measuring a magnitude of 0.5 or higher, which is common when fracturing the Earth’s shale layers to release gas.
Natascha Engel stepped down as the UK’s first shale gas commissioner after only six months in April, blaming the “ridiculous” regulations for hobbling the industry.
The energy minister, Claire Perry, said last October there were no plans for a review after the Guardian revealed that the government was considering looser rules once the industry matures.
Since then she has said it would be a “foolish politician” who relaxed the regulations.
The government has legislated new climate targets to cut emissions from the economy to net zero by 2050 and hopes to host the UN’s next milestone climate talks next year.
Cuadrilla said that even the government’s official climate advisers, the Committee on Climate Change, expect the UK to continue using gas by 2050 alongside carbon capture technology. It argues that it would be better for the UK to have its own gas reserves than to import the gas from overseas.
Jamie Peters, a campaigner for Friends of the Earth, said: “Fundamentally, at a time when the government have declared a climate emergency, the last thing we should be doing is starting an industry that extracts gas — a fossil fuel, along with coal and oil, that should be left where it is.
“Fracking just isn’t viable and investment in renewables and energy efficiency is clearly the answer.”
- Share on Facebook
- Share on Twitter
- Share via Email
- Share on LinkedIn
- Share on Pinterest
- Share on WhatsApp
- Share on Messenger