A GAS firm has unveiled new plans for shale gas drilling on the Fylde coast.
Cuadrilla Resources will lodge a planning application next month to extend drilling at its new site in Westby horizontally – taking its pipes up to 1,000 metres away from the site.
Campaigners today said the plans were a “cause for concern”, but the firm insists the technique – already used elsewhere in the UK – will not put residents at risk.
Francis Egan, Cuadrilla’s CEO, said: “This new well is an important part of our ongoing exploration programme and will progress the work we are carrying out to understand whether it will be viable to recover the natural gas.
“I don’t think drilling horizontally will affect people. We have chosen this site (to drill horizontally) because it is reasonably far from urban areas and it’s a good place to do it without causing too much fuss.
“By advancing the exploration programme with this horizontal well we will move closer to unlocking what is potentially a very important energy resource for Lancashire and for the UK.”
Although vertical drilling has already started at the Anna’s Road site, Lancashire County Council will have to grant planning permission before Cuadrilla is able to continue the well horizontally.
While hydraulic fracturing of rock – known as ‘fracking’ – remains suspended while the firm awaits the outcome of a Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) investigation Cuadrilla hopes to be able to frack the horizontal well in the future.
The well would be a mile below ground with its location decided once the vertical well is drilled.
Mr Egan added: “If DECC give the go-ahead it will be subject to certain conditions and we will have to show we can meet those, and then we will want to try and frack the Westby well and see if the gas flows.
“But we will also have to go back to the county council for permission to undertake hydraulic fracturing.”
The firm has described horizontal drilling as an “established technique”, with a similar well already drilled as part of the onshore oil field at Wytch Farm in Dorset.
But Philip Mitchell, chairman of the Blackpool and Fylde Green Party, said: “It’s a cause for concern because drilling horizontally means they will be able to frack more shale along the horizontal line, which means more gas and more toxic produce.”
And Tina Rothery, from Residents Action on Fylde Fracking (RAFF), said the group is “gravely concerned” Cuadrilla is continuing shale gas exploration.
A public meeting about the new well will be held on Tuesday, September 4 between 5pm and 8.30pm in the function room at Pipers Height Caravan Park, on Peel Road.