Fracking plans go under microscope

Fracking at Anna's Road, Westby Sept 2012
Fracking at Anna's Road, Westby Sept 2012
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COMMUNITY leaders have vowed to look closely at every planning application for new fracking sites in Lancashire.

And members of the county council have called for regular on-site inspections and “considerable sanctions” should any breaches take place, to ensure the safety for residents.

Their call follows the news Energy Secretary Ed Davey has allowed the exploration of hydraulic fracturing to extract natural gas supplies to resume after it was stopped in May 2011 following two earth tremors blamed on the process.

Fracking uses high-pressure liquid to split deep-lying shale rock and extract the gas.

Explaining his decision, Energy Secretary Ed Davey said: “The overwhelming evidence from the studies is that we can manage any seismic activity, discover it early, and manage it so that fracking can take place safely.”

But County Coun Michael Green said it was essential a planning application for any site is agreed locally before given the go-ahead.

He added: “We are adamant planning decisions should continue to be taken locally, to ensure there is accountability to our residents. The county council has a statutory role in determining individual planning applications related to shale gas operations.

“Any decisions will take account of all representations received on planning grounds, which would include guidance from those agencies responsible for determining the safety of the fracking process and any environmental impacts.”

Shale gas company Cuadrilla Resources, claims it could supply a quarter of the UK’s gas needs and is now hoping to start fracking shale gas - firing water and chemicals deep underground to break up rock and release gas – by March.

The company has four exploration sites – three on the Fylde at Westby, Singleton and Weeton, and one at Banks near Southport.

Mr Davey said Cuadrilla’s activities can go ahead with a monitoring system in place which includes a “traffic light control” regime. This would mean that once seismic activity reached a level of 0.5 fracking would stop.

Leon Jennings health, safety and environment director for Cuadrilla added: “We hope that in the first half of next year we will be evaluating the wells we have already.

“We will start with the site in Banks and then at Anna’s Road and get the data.”

He said that latest surveys showed there was around 200 trillion cubic metres of shale gas locked in the underground rock layers of the area but exploration would show how much of that was extractable.

He added tests showed shale was much deeper in Lancashire than in the US where fracking is ongoing. In the US, the shale depth was measured in hundreds of feet, but here it was thousands of feet across.