The shale gas industry on the Fylde was given a £100m shot it the arm today as British Gas owner Centrica bought into Cuadrilla’s exploration efforts.
It means the joint venture will have more cash to search out new sites where gas trapped underground can be extracted by fracking for commercial use.
Francis Egan, Cuadrilla’s chief executive welcomed the move as a significant step forward. He said: “We are delighted. Centrica are the largest gas supplier in the UK so its great news for Cuadrilla, great news for Lancashire and great news for the UK. We have a really exciting gas resource here.
“It has been several months of hard work to tie up the contracts, a lot of people have been working on it. It’s a vote of confidence for us and for shale gas in the UK.”
He said the cash would boost their efforts: “It will enhance the exploration programme we will be doing new exploration wells, about six or so, at single sites but we will have more details about those in the coming weeks.
“We will continue to be working closely with the local communities on those.
“Centrica will bring to the Cuadrilla operated joint venture deep experience of all aspects of natural gas exploration, extraction and transportation. You only have to look off shore at Morecambe Bay for example.
“Cuadrilla will continue to lead the effort, however. It is typical in the oil and gas industry to operate in joint ventures, even major companies such as BP and Shell do this.
“Natural gas from UK shale can create thousands of jobs, generate significant tax revenues, reduce our ever increasing reliance on imported coal and gas and make a positive contribution to the country’s balance of payments.”
Asked if he thought that Centrica’s involvement would help alleviate residents’ fears about damage to the environment from fracking, Mr Egan said: “I think this reinforces the fact that gas from shale rock is no different to gas from offshore, from the North Sea.”
Centrica has paid £40m in cash and is committed to fund £60m of expenditure on the Bowland joint venture. It will pay a further £60m as operational milestones are reached.