Fracking's future looks bleak as Cuadrilla gives up its drilling licence in Lancashire

The only firm to have carried out horizontal fracking for gas in the UK has given up its Lancashire licence in the face of the Government's moratorium.

Friday, 11th December 2020, 12:30 pm

Cuadrilla Resources, which drilled and fracked two wells at its flagship Preston New Road site near Little Plumpton, has surrendered the licence it was granted for the county. But it said that if the temporary ban on fracking was lifted in future, it may reapply for licences.

The licences were handed out by the Oil and Gas Authority in 2014 to a raft of companies around the country which were interested in hydraulic fracturing - drilling into deep lying rocks and then injecting water and a cocktail of chemicals into shale rock to release natural gas trapped within.

Cuadrilla held the PEDL licence for Lancashire. It has, since 2011, carried out seismic surveys and drilled at several sites between Blackpool and Preston where the Bowland Shale rock exists deep below the surface.

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The Preston New Road fracking site near Little Plumpton off the A583.

The Preese Hall site inn 2012 was the focus of two earth tremors, a 2.3ML and a 1.5ML magnitude, felt across the Fylde coast in 2011 which resulted in the first UK moratorium on fracking which was only relaxed by the Coalition Government in December 2012 with strict guidelines on monitoring and tremors.

Now the Environment Agency has confirmed the company has given back the licence. This means it can no no longer carrying out exploratory drilling or frack in the area. But the agency said the firm still retains the responsibility to deal with run off from the site and the storage of waste drilling muds.

Cuadrilla had fracked the two wells at Preston New Road, but in 2019 a swarm of earth tremors caused by fracking were reported, many above the 0.5ML safety level the Government brought it to protect properties near fracking sites. As a result, a moratorium was imposed on fracking in November 2019 which effectively ended fracking operations.

Cuadrilla then reduced activity at Preston New Road and last month, the firm described itself as “largely non-operational” in its annual financial report.

Claire Stephenson

Planning permission for drilling and fracking at the site has expired and must once again be made before anyone can re-start the fracking project.

Cuadrilla today said: “Cuadrilla surrendered these licences more than six months ago and the Environment Agency are only registering that now. As there is a moratorium on fracking we are not incurring the cost of licences we can’t currently use. We will apply for the relevant licences at this or other sites as and when the moratorium is lifted.“

Environmentalists, who have campaigned against fracking on the grounds that it would release greenhouse gases into he atmosphere, would potentially damage the environment around the sites through water, gas and chemicals leakage and caused earth tremors which could damage local properties, are delighted at the latest development which they say is another nail in the coffin of the industry.

Claire Stephenson from Frack Free Lancashire said: “It is a welcome early Christmas gift to residents, to learn that Cuadrilla are now beginning their much-anticipated leave of Preston New Road.

“We encourage Cuadrilla to issue communication on such matters to the Community Liaison Group so that information can be passed to residents and parish councils in a timely manner.

“We would also urge Cuadrilla to present a timescale for site restoration of Preston New Road, so that long-suffering residents where fracking was forced upon their community, are able to feel closure on a very stressful and imposing chapter of their lives.

“Fracking is an unpleasant and dirty relic that should now be confined to the past where it belongs.”

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