Following submission of Cuadrilla’s planning application for up to four shale gas exploration wells at its proposed site at Preston New Road, to the west of Little Plumpton, Lancashire County Council has formally validated and accepted the application and will now begin their own consultation regarding the proposals.
The planning application and its accompanying Environmental Statement is now accessible to the public from today. The Environmental Statement details the findings of an extensive Environmental Impact Assessment of the sites, which was carried out by experts at Arup, an independent consultancy. It contains 21 chapters looking at a wide range of issues including air quality, lighting, noise, transport, water and visual impact. A non-technical summary of the Environmental Statement is also available.
Arup’s Project Director, Des Correia said:
“The work we’ve undertaken for both the Environmental Impact and Environmental Risk Assessments has been tremendously comprehensive. We’ve been using best practice standards throughout our work and we’ve covered a full exploration life-cycle as well as considering cumulative impacts in both our scope and analysis work.
“Our approach throughout has been one of absolute thoroughness – we’ve undertaken in excess of 100 site visits and our work has ranged from anticipating potential impacts to developing mitigation strategies, and we’re pleased to have been able to draw on a huge range of expertise – some 25 different disciplines have been involved, including seismic interpretation and monitoring and well integrity.”
Cuadrilla’s chief executive Francis Egan said:
“We’ve been working hard to take on board feedback received during our extensive consultation with local residents, community groups and broader stakeholders, and I am very grateful to those people who gave us their comments. Where it has been reasonably practical to do so, we have amended our plans to incorporate feedback and suggestions, which is reflected in the materials that have gone live today.”
Examples of changes Cuadrilla has made as a result of its four months of extensive consultation with locals includes:
A 20% reduction in the use of mains water during hydraulic fracturing has been achieved through a revision to our hydraulic fracturing plan and the reuse of fracturing fluid.
A reduction in the number of HGV movements has been achieved through the reduction in the amount of flowback fluid that would need to be transported off site by tankers.
A reduction in the hours that our fracturing pumps would operate of over 50% meaning that pumps will only be used during day time hours (07.00-19.00hr). Any weekend fracturing operations will only be conducted from 07.00 to 13.00 on Saturdays.
A 30% reduction in the height of the flare stack (15m to 10m) and covered lighting to prevent light spillage and so reduce visual impact.
Arup has also prepared an Environmental Risk Assessment for the site which is the first one to be completed for an onshore shale gas exploration project in the UK under the guidance of the Department of Energy and Climate Change.
Cuadrilla has also submitted a planning application proposing to install a network of monitoring stations within a 4km radius of the Preston New Road site, which would be used to monitor seismicity before, during and after operations. It is anticipated that Lancashire County Council will make a decision on both applications within a 16 week determination period.
Cuadrilla will submit a separate planning application for its second proposed shale gas exploration site at Roseacre Wood next week.