Cuadrilla publishes methane data

Fracking firm Cuadrilla has published its environmental monitoring data, relating to methane levels at its Preston New Road site.

The figures contain hundreds of thousands of separate air quality readings and has been posted on Cuadrilla's website as part in line with its Environmental Management and Monitoring Plan (EMMP), as required by a range of regulators such as Lancashire County Council, the Environment Agency, Health and Safety Executive and Oil and Gas Authority.

Independent specialists have been undertaking continuous air monitoring including recording methane and nitrogen dioxide levels continuously since the beginning of 2018. Independent monitoring was also carried out from February 2016 to January 2018 to establish a ‘baseline’ of levels occurring in the area.

The findings show that the baseline levels of naturally occurring ambient methane peaked at 70ppm. Now that work is under way, any reading above the 'purposefully low' 7.1ppm  is reported to the Environmental Agency.

Four such instances have occurred since May 2018. Three short term spikes of methane were recorded between 11 and 23 January, 2019. The highest spike was 30.5ppm which is less than half of the highest level recorded during the baseline period. This was a controlled release of methane through the flare during the well testing phase.

The absolute level of methane emissions over the 12 month reporting period is reassuringly tiny.

The fourth instance of elevated methane emissions was in October when a reading of 12.1ppm was recorded for about 10 minutes. This related to methane gas in flow back water stored in tanks.

Cuadrilla reported that methane levels were below the reporting threshold for 99.7 per cent of the time.

Nick Mace, environmental manager at Cuadrilla, said: “The absolute level of methane emissions over the 12 month reporting period is reassuringly tiny. While there were four instances of somewhat higher methane levels detected at Preston New Road, let me put these into context to reassure people. The instances were short in duration, very low in absolute volume and naturally occurring background methane at this level was also detected before the site existed, so it is not uncommon to see short term spikes in data.

“In addition, there are no health consequences whatsoever from very short term emissions of methane at these low concentrations.”