Cuadrilla names two new Lancashire fracking sites

Exclusive: Shale gas explorer Cuadrilla identifies two sites between Blackpool and Preston for fracking, scaling back original plans to frack at seven sites

A Cuadrilla drilling rig in Lancashire.

A Cuadrilla drilling rig in Lancashire. The company says it has “robust safety measures in place” to prevent water contamination. Photo: Cuadrilla
Emily Gosden

By , Energy Editor

Cuadrilla plans to frack for shale gas at two sites near Roseacre and Little Plumpton, between Blackpool and Preston, the Telegraph can disclose.

This is the first time a shale gas explorer will seek permission for fracking since the lifting in December 2012 of an 18-month ban on the controversial practice – imposed after Cuadrilla caused two earth tremors while fracking in 2011.

Proposed fracking sites

Cuadrilla said it intended to “apply for planning permission to drill, hydraulically fracture and test the flow of gas from up to four exploration wells on each of the sites” at Roseacre Wood, near Elswick, and Preston New Road, west of Little Plumpton.

The company will now begin consultation with residents, ahead of submitting its application in coming months.

Drilling could commence around the end of this year, with fracking taking place early in 2015, subject to planning and permitting.

Cuadrilla had previously said it would seek to frack at up to seven sites across Lancashire but has scaled this back to “reduce the potential impact on the local area during exploration”.

Instead, it will drill up to four exploration wells at each of the two new locations. Two sites are about five miles apart, with the Preston New Road to the south of the M55 motorway and Roseacre Wood to the north.

The planned Little Plumpton site is about two miles south of the Preese Hall site where the earth tremors were caused.

Cuadrilla said it would install “seismic arrays” at the sites to monitor for earth tremors during the fracking process.

The company had said in July that it wanted to frack at up to six new sites and also at its existing site at Grange Hill, near Singleton, over the next 18 months to two years. However, it had not begun seeking planning permission for any of the sites.

It will now kick off the process for the new sites by submitting a “scoping report” to Lancashire County Council setting out its plans for environmental impact assessments at the new sites.

The Grange Hill site is now planned to be used as a base to monitor seismic activity during its fracking at the two new locations.

Francis Egan, Cuadrilla chief executive, said: “We’ve been working hard to assess our site options and have undertaken extensive technical and geological analysis.

“As a result of this work, we have decided to focus on just two sites at this time.

“This will allow us to reduce the potential impact on the local area during exploration while still gathering the important information we need to determine how much gas could be recovered. We’re committed to being a good neighbour and to talking with the community at every stage of the process.”

An artist’s impression of the fracking site at Preston New Road

Communities near the sites will be entitled to up to £400,000 in benefits – £100,000 for every shale well that is fracked. They would also be entitled to a 1pc share of revenues if gas is ultimately produced.

However, the benefits have been attacked as inadequate by politicians in the north-west, including the leader of Lancashire County Council, which will be the authority for Cuadrilla’s planning applications.

Cuadrilla attracted huge protests during drilling for oil at Balcombe, West Sussex, last summer, after saying it might seek permission to frack there in future. It has since ruled that out as unnecessary because the rocks are naturally fractured.

Other companies such as IGas, which is drilling at the protest-hit Barton Moss site near Manchester, are so far only drilling to take shale rock samples and have not confirmed whether they intend to frack at the sites.

Cuadrilla and Centrica undertook a joint review of planned drilling sites after the two companies struck a £160m deal last summer, in which the British Gas owner took a 25pc stake in Cuadrilla’s Lancashire exploration licence.

Posted on: February 5, 2014