The UK government under recently-appointed Prime Minister Boris Johnson has set out its position on hydraulic fracturing, also known as fracking, and allowed Cuadrilla Resources to resume fracking at its site in Preston New Road, Lancashire, where it has been operating tentatively since 2011.
A Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy spokesperson said: “Shale gas could be an important new domestic energy source reducing the level of gas imports while delivering broad economic benefits, including through the creation of well-paid, quality jobs. It could also support our transition to net zero emissions by 2050.
“We have world-leading regulations that ensure shale gas exploration happens in a safe and environmentally responsible way. The Oil and Gas Authority is currently undertaking a scientific assessment of recent industry data which we will consider once completed.”
Cuadrilla has obtained all the necessary environmental permits and permissions in order to begin fracturing at its second horizontal well at the site. The company expects this to be completed by November 2019, with gas flow results to follow in early 2020.
Cuadrilla projects and operations director Laura Hughes said: “I am delighted to have resumed fracturing our second horizontal well and we look forward to sharing the results once flow testing is completed.
“As we have often said Preston New Road is one of the most monitored oil and gas sites anywhere in the world. We have proven it is a well-run, entirely safe and environmentally responsible operation. We also know there is a reservoir of recoverable high-quality natural gas beneath our feet that the UK needs if we are to reach Net Zero by 2050.”
However, the government’s announcement has not been met with universal acclaim. Local anti-fracking groups have criticised Cuadrilla for its failure rate at its sites.
Campaigning group Frack Free Lancashire said: “Residents have long suspected that Cuadrilla was experiencing some issues with the well. We have little confidence in Cuadrilla’s technical abilities, and this does nothing to allay residents’ very real concerns about future operations.
“It is also troubling that the Environment Agency and the Oil and Gas Authority have only last week granted final permissions to frack well 2, despite Cuadrilla’s inability to successfully frack and seal this first well.”
Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn added: “Instead of bending the knee to a few corporations who profit from extracting fossil fuels from the ground, we need to change course now.
“It’s the next generation and the world’s poorest who will pay the price if this Conservative government continues to put the interests of a few polluters ahead of people.”
The Green Party has also condemned the move, with Northwest MEP Gina Dowding saying: “I stand wholly with the community in Lancashire against this polluting industry and call for a ban on fracking.”
Fracking in the UK
Fracking has been explored by the UK since 2011 and has yet to be as fully exploited as it is in the US. Cuadrilla carried out the first fracking at the Preston New Road site, however, a series of mini earthquakes took place in the area soon after, curtailing the process.
Former Prime Minister David Cameron was a prominent supporter of fracking and shale gas, arguing it would lead to increased energy independence for the UK.