SHALE gas company Cuadrilla is to put fracking on hold on the Fylde while a full environmental impact assessment is completed.
The company said the analysis of the data it has gathered from Lancashire’s Bowland Basin has confirmed its assessment the 1,200 square km licence area holds at least 200 trillion cubic feet of gas.
As a result, the company has decided to increase its exploration programme by adding a handful of temporary exploratory sites this year and in 2014 to assess how much of this gas it can recover for use in heating homes and businesses.
But it said it will discuss each proposal in detail with local communities and other stakeholders before starting.
Francis Egan, Cuadrilla’s chief executive, said fracking and drilling at its Anna’s Road site in Westby would stop until the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) was complete.
He said: “Maybe our competitors will give us a bit of grief for setting the bar so high, but we decided to do this to put people’s minds at rest and if this is what it takes, we are happy to do it.
“Cuadrilla proposes to broaden and deepen the scope of both community consultation and environment risk assessment by completing a full EIA for each exploration well site where we seek planning consent for drilling, hydraulic fracturing and flow testing.
“We recognise within the complex UK regulatory framework governing planning, this process can prove lengthy but we are determined to spare no effort in meeting our exploration targets in an environmentally and socially sustainable manner.”
Fracking is the process of injecting liquid deep underground to fracture shale rock and release gas contained in it.
Mr Egan added: “At our existing exploration well site at Anna’s Road, we will modify the application to include an EIA covering the proposed drilling, hydraulic fracturing and flow testing programme and submit this later in the year.
“Subject to necessary approvals, we intend returning to the site and completing work in 2014.”
Philip Mitchell from Blackpool’s Green Party said: “It is a welcome pause in the operation but it is unacceptable the company should carry out the environmental impact assessment itself.
“It should be done under the control of the Environment Agency or an independent consultant not paid for by Cuadrilla.”