Response To Huw Irranca-Davies MP

January 26, 2011


Cuadrilla Resources has issued a response to the Huw Irranca-Davies‟ call for a temporary moratorium on shale gas drilling in the UK.

Mark Miller, Chief Executive, Cuadrilla Resources said:

“Cuadrilla welcome Mr Irranca-Davies‟ view that shale gas “may well have potential for our future energy security and affordability”. We have today contacted his office to seek a meeting where we can understand and allay his concerns about shale gas. We would be delighted to show Mr Irranca-Davies around our sites so that he can witness at first hand the best practice procedures we have in place.”

As a responsible company, Cuadrilla is committed at all times to ensuring that our operations are designed to be totally safe. With around 200 years of cumulative experience, including involvement in the drilling and/or fracture stimulation (“fracing”) of more than 3,000 wells, Cuadrilla‟s management team is implementing industry leading health, safety and environmental risk mitigation practices across all its shale gas activities.

The potential risks associated with shale gas exploration are not unique and are common to all hydrocarbon exploration. Shale gas exploration techniques, including directional drilling and fracing, are conventional and have been used across the wider oil and gas industry (including previously in the UK) for many decades.

Cuadrilla has given a categorical assurance that it is doing everything possible to manage the risk of a health, safety and environmental incident occurring at its operations. We have received full local and national approvals from all the appropriate bodies (including the Department of Energy & Climate Change and the Health & Safety Executive) to explore for natural gas at each of our sites. As well as fulfilling all regulatory requirements, Cuadrilla is implementing industry leading processes, procedures and controls at its projects acquired from many decades of experience.

Fracing is an extremely common practice in the oil and gas industry, particularly in North America. It involves pumping fluid, more than 99% (in Cuadrilla‟s case at least 99.7%) composed of water and sand, under high pressure to open up millimeter sized gaps or cracks in shale rock formations found at depths greater than 5,000 feet – several thousands of feet below shallow water aquifers containing water used by humans, animals and vegetation.

Other than water and sand, the fracing fluid Cuadrilla is using at its sites contains:

  • a friction reducing compound commonly found in contact lenses, cosmetic face creams and in soil sealant at construction sites
  • a biocide used at this very low concentration. This will be used if and only if the domestic water from United Utilities is not pure enough. But if it is sufficiently pure the biocide will not be used
  • a weak hydrochloric acid to help open the perforations to initiate frac fluid injection and again will only be used if needed. This is the same acid that can be used in „drinking‟ water wells to stimulate water production, and in some cases used in swimming pools. Hydrochloric acid is also known as the European food additive E507, commonly used in UK food products.

In Cuadrilla‟s view, shale gas can offer a „triple win‟ for people in the UK: (1) helping to ensure energy security through new domestic energy supplies, (2) lowering the cost and price volatility of energy to consumers and, like all natural gas, (3) reducing greenhouse gas emissions if burned to create electricity instead of burning coal – natural gas-fired power produces around half the carbon emissions of coal-fired power. Thus, natural gas can play an important transitional role in the development of a low-carbon energy system, an ongoing process that will take many decades.

Shale gas exploration and production sites typically occupy a small geographical footprint and their visual impact can easily be minimised and the carbon footprint minimised. Cuadrilla also recognises the potential for an emerging shale gas industry to create new jobs and inject investment into communities. By being a first mover in shale gas, the UK could be at the forefront of a potentially significant new European energy industry, bringing multiple economic benefits for the north-west of England and for UK Plc.

There are no grounds for a moratorium on this proven and long-standing technology. We are confident that no issues will occur in our activity in the north-west of England which would cause any local or national concerns on which to base the introduction of a moratorium on on-shore drilling activity. We welcome the enquiry by the DECC Select Committee, have submitted written evidence to it and look forward to working with the committee over the coming months.