August 5, 2019


LEADING shale gas exploration operator Cuadrilla will seek a minor variation under Section 73 of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990 to one of the conditions of its planning permission at its flagship Lancashire fracking site in Preston New Road.

The company, based in Preston, will write to Lancashire County Council within the next month to seek a scoping opinion under Regulation 15 of the Town and Country Planning (Environmental Impact Assessment) Regulations 2017.

Chief Executive Officer Francis Egan said: “I would like to share our intention to formally request a variation to one of the conditions of the Preston New Road site planning permission.

“The condition requires all drilling and hydraulic fracturing operations to be completed within a period of 30 months from the date of commencement of the drilling of the first well. This would in effect require drilling and hydraulic fracturing to conclude by the end of November 2019. By the end of November 2019 we are in fact likely to have spent no more than 21 months in total drilling or fracturing on site since the commencement of drilling Well PNR1.

“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.”

In February, Cuadrilla announced results from flow-testing of the UK’s first ever horizontal shale gas exploration, which confirmed a high quality natural gas resource in the Bowland Shale, previously estimated at around 1,300 tcf by the British Geological Survey.

The initial exploration programme also confirmed that the Bowland Shale formation fractures in a way that is typical of an excellent shale gas reservoir. A complex fracture network was generated in the shale and sand injected into the fractures stayed in place during flow back.

Cuadrilla recently remobilised equipment and confirmed that it will return to hydraulic fracturing and flow testing of natural gas in the third quarter of 2019. 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.

Francis 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.

“The Committee on Climate Change Net Zero report published in May 2019 forecast that, in 2050, we will need approximately 70 per cent of the natural gas we are using today to generate hydrogen for heating and transport and as back-up to renewables for generating electricity. 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.”

The work programme builds on Cuadrilla’s unique experience and expertise as the leading onshore shale exploration operator in the UK. The new hydraulic fracture plan will operate in line with the existing traffic light system but one of the key differences will be a more viscous fracturing fluid which is expected to improve operational performance.