Environment Agency goes on fracking watch ready for operations to start on the Fylde

Cuadrilla's fracking equipment in place at Preston New Road ready for fracking to take place
Cuadrilla's fracking equipment in place at Preston New Road ready for fracking to take place

The Environment Agency is to step up operations at the Preston New Road fracking site this week as preparations for fracking begin.

The agency, along with the Health and Safety Executive, have had teams at the site last week for inspections, as Cuadrilla puts its fracking equipment in place ready for the first hydraulic fracture of the deep lying shale rock since the 2011 earth tremors.

Steve Molyneux, the EA’s Environment Manager, responsible for the area, said that although they have not taken on any extra staff for the monitoring, they did have a team of experts in place and were able to carry out their duty.

He said Cuadrilla had strict requirements to stick to when it came to potential issues over earth tremors,water, air and noise pollution.

He said: “In terms of the fracking operation there is no possible risk to drinking water fro the operation at Preston New Road, but there are strict conditions in the permit to ensure the fractures created stay within the limits of the Bowland Shale layer.

"Our experts will be on site to look at the placement of the geo-phones in the wells to monitor the micro seismic activity and we will work closely with the Oil and Gas Authority which is responsible for the traffic light system."

That system of green, amber and red statuses depending on the level of seismic activity, is in place to ensure that if tremors get to 0.5ML (similar to the Richter Scale) operations are halted for inspection. That level of tremor should not be noticeable at ground level.

He also said Environment Agency officers would be monitoring waste fluids generated by the process and their disposal.

On possible air pollution and accidental escape of gases from the well he said: “Our experts will be on site to ensure the strict application of the permit conditions and assess air quality during fracking.

“Last week the HSE and ourselves did a joint inspection. We have carried out over the past year air quality monitoring and will use that background data and continue the monitoring throughout the operations.. We will be publishing our results on a public website for people to see.

“Lancashire County Council has set strict noise limits and we will be working with them to in that area.

“We have a team of experts in place, no extra staff, but we are now stepping up our operations now we are moving from the drilling to the fracking phase.”