Fighting Fracking In 2018: Communities Resolute, Industry Shoots Itself In Foot
For several years the fracking industry in the UK has been hoping for a breakout year where they finally get to push aside community opposition, drill a load of wells, flow some gas and get a load more investment cash as a result! 2017 was supposed to be “the year of shale gas” and “Europe’s last hope for a fracking success” but the UK fracking industry failed miserably to meet these predictions. In 2018 the industry showed that even when they manage to drill a few wells, or even frac them, they are more likely to shoot themselves in the foot as not.
Cuadrilla Resources is now withdrawing equipment from its flagship Preston New Road site after persistent induced earthquakes disrupted its attempts to fracture the first of 2 wells drilled there, while IGas’ Tinker Lane well failed to find the Bowland Shale at all! In some cases the industry’s progress has been not just glacially slow in the face of sustained intense resistance from local communities, but actually a step backwards. The UK fracking industry continues to find it increasingly difficult to drive its plans through massive community opposition, with hundreds of anti-fracking groups across the country, the anti-fracking movement has gone from strength to strength (see below for highlights).
Another string of predictions of a turnaround in 2019 are inevitable; the industry runs on over blown hype to try to scrape up the investment cash it needs to keep limping along. However, a look back at the last year suggests more of the same is all the frackers have to look forward to. There will certainly be new attempts to push forward, but in the face of continued community resistance everything they do will be slower and more costly. As Cuadrilla’s flagship project at Preston New Road is demonstrating, the closer they move towards production the harder it becomes to disguise the true nature of fracking.
Cuadrilla was hemorrhaging cash even before it began work at Peston New Road, and the potential for community resistance to turn this project into Cuadrilla’s last stand is considerable. Across the country 2018 has seen a huge variety of creative resistance to the fracking industry, focused not only on the fracking sites themselves but also on the whole network of transport routes and support sites which supply them. While Lancashire is a major front in this battle, others are equally important, especially North Yorkshire, the East Midlands and the South East. Wherever you live the overall strategy of creating delays and increasing costs in order to wear the fracking industry down, starve it of investment cash and eventually bankrupt it, is proving highly effective. In the end this is a fight to the death, either the fracking companies get to industrialise the country with tens of thousands of wells or we drive them in to bankruptcy… there are no other options.
Cuadrilla has applied for permission to return to Lower Stumble Drill Site, London Road, Balcombe to flow test the well they drilled despite massive opposition in the Summer of 2013. They are seeking permission to try to extract oil from the horizontal well and install a 14m high flare to burn off the gases produced in the process. If permission is granted they will again create major impacts for the local community but also bring the threat of tight/shale oil extraction across large areas of the south east one step closer.
Fracking company Third Energy is withdrawing equipment it had previously brought onto at its Kirby Misperton site in North Yorkshire, to save money while it struggles to obtain final permission to carry out hydraulic fracturing tests. The company has significant financial difficulties which are stopping it from meeting some financial conditions need for final hydraulic fracturing consent. Ongoing community resistance to the company’s planning are continuing to delay and ramp up its costs.
Fracking company Ineos Upstream, a subsidiary of the chemical giant Ineos, is not having an easy time in its attempts to impose fracking on the communities living in its licence areas. So far all 3 of its planning applications for test sites have been refused, and must now go to costly appeals, while its fracking survey in Derbyshire/Nottinghamshire which was supposed to be completed by the end of 2018 still has large chunks missing due to resistance from landowners. Ineos’s plans for a seismic survey in North Yorkshire are meeting similar problems.
Ineos has applied for permission to construct fracking test sites at Bramleymoor Lane in Derbyshire, and at Harthill and Woodsetts in Rotherham. All 3 application have been refused after campaigns by local communities, and Ineos is now having to appeal to central government to overturn these decisions.
Trucks are rolling in an attempt to construct the East Midlands first fracking sites at Springs Road in Misson and Tinker Lane near Blyth, in the Bassetlaw district of Nottinghamshire. Frack Free Misson and Frack Free Tinker Lane, supported by groups from across the region and beyond, are resisting these ongoing construction efforts. In production fracking in the region could see thousands of wells drilled across the region, if not stopped.
Fracking company IGas Energy has plans to drill up to two test wells, including one horizontal well, at Springs Road and one test well at Tinker Lane. The site at Springs Road in Misson, is inside the old MOD rocket site (now Jacksons arms dealers), while the Tinker Lane site is on farm land near the A634.
The fracking of large swathes of Sussex and Surrey for shale/tight oil is a growing threat with four major test sites already drilled and a fifth planned. In West Sussex, Broadford Bridge near Billingshurst and Balcombe have already been drilled, while in Surrey Horse Hill and Brockham. Drilling is planned at a fifth site in Surrey, Leith Hill, before the end of the year.
The combination of these developments poses a significant fracking threat in the Weald Basin, threatening not only the local communities near these sites but the whole of South East England. Fracking companies, principly UK Oil and Gas Investments (UKOG), Angus Energy and Europa Oil & Gas are drilling these test wells into the Kimmeridge Clay shale formation, and are now pushing forward with plans to flow test the wells for unconventional tight/shale oil. This is just the beginning of attempts to finance much larger plans to frack whole swaths of Sussex and Surrey. Exploitation of tight oil would mean drilling hundreds or thousands of wells across large areas of Sussex and Surrey.
Central government has overturned Rotherham Council’s decision not to give permission for Ineos to construct a fracking site near Harthill. In a rare win for Ineos, it has succeeded in its appeal over plans to exploit the Bowland Shale, in its South Yorkshire/East Midlands license areas. Fracking company Ineos Upstream, a subsidiary of the chemical giant Ineos, is not having an easy time in its attempts to impose fracking on the communities living in its licence areas. Up until now all 3 of its planning applications for test sites have been refused, and have had to go to costly appeals.
Linc Energy has been fined $4.5 million for polluting 320 square kilometers of the Darling Downs in Queensland Australia with hazardous contaminants but it is unlilely that the fine will ever be paid.
The area used for this small test project is tiny in comparison to the massive licence areas issued for Underground Coal Gasification (UCG) around the UK. Currently the companies that hold these licences, Five Quarters Energy and Cluff Natural Resources have pulled the plug on all UK projects but the licence areas and the threat still exists.
As drilling rig parts begin leaving Preston New Road attention turns to resisting Cuadrilla’a plans to hydraulically fracture the two wells it has expended so much time and effort to drill. A whole new phase of the resistance to fracking in Lancashire is now beginning as Cuadrilla tries bring large amounts of hydraulic fracturing equipment onto the site, and Lancashire communities try to make it as slow and costly for them as possible.
Fracking company Cuadrilla Resources has taken the best part of 7 years to get back to where it was, following the 2011 earthquakes it caused in Lanacshire and the subsequent explosion of resistance to fracking. It has now drilled 2 of an orignally 4 planned wells at its Preston New Road (PNR) appraisal site, while its other new site at Roseacre Wood is having its planning refusal appealed in central government. A year and a half into activity at PNR the ongoing resistance is clearly taking its toll.
As fracking company Cuadrilla Resources prepares to carry out hydraulic fracturing operations on 2 wells it has drilled at Preston New Road in Lancashire, the state is ramping up oppression against the communities resisting these developments.
More than 300 people have been arrested since Cuadrilla began constructing a fracking pad at the site in January 2017, though few have actually been convicted of anything. However, 3 people who halted a convoy of trucks carrying drilling equipment on to the site for almost 100 hours in July 2017 have just been sentenced to 15-16 months in prison, for causing a “public nuisance”.
After a brief pause to amp up its media spin Cuadrilla Resources has restarted hydraulic fracturing at its flagship Preston New Road site in Lancashire, and unsurprisingly so have the earthquakes. The count is now up to 36 earthquakes in less than 2 weeks (the largest so far a magnitude 1.1), with a general trend of increasing size over time.
Cuadrilla is trying to carefully gather the data it needs, while not exposing the full reality of fracking. If Cuadrilla’s carefully planned, cost no object, slow and steady, test project is producing so many small earthquakes from the first few stages on one well, then production in the UK could be expected to be littered with many Preese Hall style wells, destroyed by earthquakes they created.
The drilling rig, delayed by a lock-on outside the gates earlier in the day, has arrived at the Tinker Lane fracking site near Blyth, in the Bassetlaw district of Nottinghamshire. Fracking company IGas Energy is preparing to drill a well on its East Midlands site, and the local community (see Frack Free Tinker Lane), supported by groups from across the region and beyond, are resisting these plans. In production fracking in the region could see thousands of wells drilled across the region, if not stopped.
Cuadrilla Resources is in the process withdrawing large quantities of fracking equipment from its Preston New Road site in Lancashire, in order to save on rental fees while it tries to come up new strategy. Significant ongoing activity at the site will likely continue, but it does not seem it is in a position to continue hydraulic fracturing operations when every attempt causes earthquakes which force it to pause.
As its previous test at Preese Hall in 2011 suggested, it seems hydraulic fracturing in the UK will directly induce earthquakes. Cuadrilla has now spent 2 years, and tens of millions, drilling two wells and conducting some limited fracturing tests on one of them. Its original timeline called for drilling and fracturing 4 wells in that time.
With the continued mobilisation of active and organised communities the coming year can be equally successful in thwarting the fracking industry’s plans. If you want to start a group in your area see our Get Involved page or contact us at email@example.com.