The drilling rig that will be used to drill the first two horizontal wells to be drilled into UK shale rock has been delivered to Cuadrilla’s shale gas exploration site at Preston New Road, Lancashire.
Francis Egan, CEO of Cuadrilla, said: “We are very pleased to have taken delivery of the drilling rig to our shale gas exploration site. The drilling of the first horizontal exploration wells into UK shale rock will be an important milestone in unlocking a vital new source of natural gas for the country.
"With the decline of North Sea gas and our ever increasing reliance on gas imports, including shale gas imported from the US, developing an indigenous source of natural gas is critical for UK energy security, our economy, jobs and the environment. We are proud as a Lancashire company to be at the forefront of that effort.”
This year Cuadrilla says it plans to drill two of the four horizontal shale gas exploration wells that it has planning permission for. A pilot well will be drilled which will be approximately 3,500 metres deep.
Samples will be taken from this pilot well at various levels within the shale rock to decide where best to drill the horizontal wells. Then the first two horizontal wells will be drilled at depths of between 2,000m and 3,500m. There is no precedent in the UK on how long the horizontal wells through the shale will take to drill however Cuadrilla currently estimates these will be completed before the end of 2017.
Commenting on the delivery of the shale gas drilling rig to the site, a Lancashire For Shale spokesman said: "Lancashire For Shale congratulates Cuadrilla on achieving this significant milestone in the journey to deliver a new source of natural gas supply for the UK and to ensure that Lancashire in particular benefits from the resultant opportunities, jobs and investment.
"It is time now for the national protesters to accept that shale gas exploration is a reality and necessary for our country’s energy security. They need to move on from their unnecessary protests and lock-ons, which are achieving nothing, except causing dismay and disruption to the local population."
The news comes as campaigners at the Cuadrilla fracking site enter their second day of protest on top of wagons and continue with another lock-on further along Preston New Road.
A spokesman for Frack Free Lancashire said:“It is abundantly clear that community protest has had a major impact on Cuadrilla's attempts at making progress at this site and it will continue to do so.
"As Cuadrilla's work on this site intensifies and its predicted impacts start to be felt, our protest will continue, as is our legal right.”
Police say a contraflow is in place in two places on Preston New Road.