Fracking to start this week

Cuadrilla has reported that it will begin hydraulically fracturing the shale rock at its Preston New Road site this week.

Cuadrilla drill crew

The testing process will begin at the first of its two horizontal shale gas exploration wells, and is expected to take around three months to complete both sites.

Natural gas will then flow up the wellbore to the surface, with the flow rate tested over six months. Initial results are expected in the first quarter of next year.

Opponents of the controversial practice have sought a court injunction to prevent fracking at the site. The filing states that Lancashire County Council's emergency response planning is inadequate for the work being undertaken.

A Cuadrilla statement said: "We remain confident that we and LCC have undertaken all necessary risk assessments and have thorough emergency response safety procedures in place.

"This is clearly a last ditch attempt at delaying our efforts to find a new source of much needed natural gas for the UK which is a national imperative. We consider that the grounds for Judicial Review are hopelessly weak and will vigorously defend any call for an injunction."

Meanwhile, Lancashire For Shale chairman Lee Petts said: "Getting to this point has been a long and winding road at times, but worth it. Every 't' has been crossed and every 'i' dotted, meaning that there is no reason why fracking for shale gas cannot now proceed.

"We look forward to receiving positive reports of commercial gas flows in the new year. In the meantime, we will continue to educate Lancastrian businesses about the supply chain opportunities and energy security benefits that a successful Lancashire shale gas industry will one day bring to the county."

Francis Egan, CEO of Cuadrilla, added: “The start of hydraulic fracturing is the final milestone in the journey to assessing the flow rates of natural gas from our Lancashire shale exploration wells.

"On completion of hydraulic fracturing and commencement of gas flow, we expect to have, in the first quarter of next year, an initial assessment of how much natural gas is likely to be recoverable from these first Lancashire shale wells.

"This will allow us to make an assessment of the commercial viability and future of this exploration site. Lancashire has benefited to date from over £11m of investment generated by our exploration operations. This investment will grow very significantly if we move from exploration into commercial production." He added: "We are confident the flow rates will demonstrate Lancashire can play a major and leading role in safely providing a new source of natural gas for the UK."