Cuadrilla seeks more fracking time

Cuadrilla is to ask for more time to carry out shale gas drilling at its Preston New Road site near Blackpool.

The shale gas exploration company has revealed plans to write to Lancashire County Council to request a change to one of the conditions of planning permission at the site.

The condition requires all drilling and hydraulic fracturing operations to be completed within a period of 30 months from the date of starting drilling of the first well.

This would mean Cuadrilla would have to finish drilling and fracking by the end of November this year.

However, Cuadrilla says that by that time it is likely to have spent no more than 21 months in total drilling or fracking on site.

The company has made slow progress at Preston New Road (PNR) because existing rules mean it must halt all work if their activities cause an earth tremor which registers a magnitude of 0.5 or higher.

Cuadrilla announced last month that it would restart fracking at Preston New Road in the third quarter of this year.

In a statement chief executive Francis Egan said: “Our proposed variation would seek to allow additional time for drilling and hydraulic fracturing operations but not to change either the existing approved work scope to drill and hydraulically fracture up to four wells at PNR or the requirement for the site to be decommissioned and restored by April 2023.”

The shale gas opportunity underneath Preston New Road remains critical to the UK.

In February, Cuadrilla announced results from flow-testing of the UK’s first ever horizontal shale gas exploration, which it said confirmed a high-quality natural gas resource in the Bowland Shale formation.

It says the upcoming work programme will be the latest step in demonstrating “the huge commercial opportunity of UK shale”, including the potential for natural gas from shale to act as a domestic feedstock for hydrogen production.

Mr Egan added: “It is clear the shale gas opportunity underneath Preston New Road remains critical to the UK and can also be a key enabler in regenerating not just the local Lancashire economy but across the country as a shale industry is created.”

He added: “Natural gas extracted from the shale beneath Lancashire would be far more environmentally sustainable and economically beneficial than the alternative of importing gas from around the world either in tankers as liquefied natural gas or cross continents by long distance pipeline.

“For this reason, I am hoping our request to vary this planning condition will be approved.”

Campaigners against fracking in Lancashire say that any extension would be “a kick in the teeth for the community”.

The news come a week after Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn visited the site and demanded an immediate ban on fracking.

He spoke to around 100 campaigners outside Cuadrilla’s Preston New Road operation. Ahead of the meeting he said: “Instead of bending the knee to a few corporations who profit from extracting fossil fuels from the ground, we need to change course now.”

Labour says if the UK fully exploits its shale gas reserves, the amount of carbon released would “eliminate any hope of the government meeting its 2050 net-zero target”.

The party leader said: “We need urgent action to tackle the climate emergency, and that means the Prime Minister immediately banning fracking once and for all.”

Mr Egan has called on Labour to support a plan to eliminate gas imports into the UK by 2050.