Cuadrilla allowed to delay closure of Lancashire fracking wells as Government considers its energy strategy

Fracking firm Cuadrilla will not have to seal up the UK's only two shale gas wells at the end of June, as previously instructed by regulators.

By Sean Gleaves
Thursday, 31st March 2022, 3:41 pm
Updated Thursday, 31st March 2022, 3:41 pm

Regulators have lifted an order for the controversial wells near Blackpool to be capped with concrete.

But the North Sea Transition Authority (NSTA) said the firm now had until the end of June 2023 to evaluate options for the Preston New Road and Elswick sites.

The move comes ahead of the publication of the Government’s delayed energy strategy, with Boris Johnson under pressure from Tory MPs to end a moratorium on fracking.

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Cuadrilla's fracking equipment at the Preston New Road site.

Cuadrilla chief executive Francis Egan said: “I would like to thank the Prime Minister and the Business Secretary for seeing the light and realising – just in time – how absurd it would have been to force us to pour concrete down Britain’s only two viable shale gas wells in the middle of an energy crisis.”

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He added that the suspension “will have a cul-de-sac ending unless we now reverse the moratorium preventing us from using the wells”.

The NSTA said Cuadrilla applied for consent to keep its wells on March 28.

“The North Sea Transition Authority has looked carefully at this application, alongside recent developments, and agreed to withdraw the requirement to decommission the wells by the end of June,” the regulator said.

“Cuadrilla now have until the end of June next year to evaluate options for the Preston New Road and Elswick sites.

“If no credible re-use plans are in place by then, the North Sea Transition Authority expects to reimpose decommissioning requirements.”

The energy security strategy promised by Mr Johnson has been held up by Cabinet in-fighting but is expected to be published in early April.

One of the issues being considered is the future of fracking and whether the moratorium should remain in place, with Downing Street insisting that the situation in Ukraine meant considering all options to increase energy independence.

A Greenpeace UK spokesperson said: “Trying to restart fracking now would only mean wasting more time when we have little.

“If the UK and Europe want to end their dependence on Russian gas, the quickest way to do that is by insulating homes, installing heat pumps and boosting renewables."

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