Shale gas company Cuadrilla yesterday became the first operator to get the government’s go-ahead to frack an onshore exploration well in the UK.
The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (Beis) granted final hydraulic fracturing consent for Cuadrilla’s first horizontal exploration well at its Preston New Road site in Lancashire, subject to certain conditions being met. Cuadrilla had submitted an application to Beis in May.
“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,” energy and clean growth minister Claire Perry said in a statement.
“I have carefully considered Cuadrilla‘s application and I am content that hydraulic fracturing consent should be granted in this instance.”
Hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, is a process in which a high-pressure water, sand and chemical mix is pumped deep underground to release gas or oil trapped inside shale rock.
Cuadrilla completed the shale gas well into the Lower Bowland shale rock in April and will soon submit an application to frack a second well at the same site. Fracking both wells is expected later this year.
Following fracking of the first two horizontal wells, Cuadrilla will run an initial flow test of the gas produced from both for approximately six months, the company added.
“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,” said Francis Egan, Cuadrilla chief executive.
“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.”
The Infrastructure and Projects Authority said Cuadrilla has “an adequate level of financial resilience to undertake the project”.
Cuadrilla’s Lancashire site has been the subject of protests since work started a year and a half ago. Yesterday environmental campaigners blasted the government’s rubber-stamping.
“It’s taken the industry seven long years to just get to this point,” said Liz Hutchins, Friends of the Earth director of campaigns.
“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.”
The British Geological Survey estimates shale gas resources in northern England alone could contain 1,329 trillion cubic feet of gas, 10 per cent of which could meet the country’s demand for almost 40 years.