Cuadrilla Cock up will Cost Company Millions

Cuadrilla preparing their fourth Lancashire borehole. This has now been abandoned and a fifth borehole will be drilled a few metres away. Cuadrilla have now had problems with 50% of their wells.

Last Friday UK fracker Cuadrilla abandoned its fourth Lancashire well due to a technical cock-up.

The company plans to drill a fifth well adjacent to the abandoned one, but the mistake will cost the company several million pounds.

During recent drilling of the fourth well  – at Anna’s Road, Lancashire – Cuadrilla lost a test instrument 2000 ft below the surface. The instrument jammed inside the wellbore and proved immovable.

This is an expensive error. During a trial earlier this year Cuadrilla Executive Eric Vaughan told a judge the company spends £30,000 per half day on drilling. Over the 28 days it’s taken to drill Anna’s Road this means the company will have spent £1,680,000. And that’s not including setup and design costs prior to drilling itself. The total price for cocking up the well at Anna’s Road is likely to run into over £2m.

Yet the financial cost is not really the point. Anna’s Road is the fourth borehole that Cuadrilla have drilled and two have those have failed: the first causing an earthquake in 2011, the second now abandoned.

Cuadrilla have bragged they have enough gas to require in excess of 6000 wells. At the company’s current failure rate, that’s 3000 wells with one problem or another.

Not only that: the broken test equipment at the bottom of the well was investigating a cement failure, which happens, according to well services company Schumberger, in 6% of new wells, and in 50% of wells within 15 years (see p2 of link)

This is not a question of lack of experience. The man in charge of the drilling is Cuadrilla COO Eric Vaughan. He claims 30 years of drilling experience, mostly in North America. Yet his fourth in Lancashire has gone astray. Which begs the question: how many US wells have you cocked up in the United States, Eric?

Cuadrilla like the drillers in the US are working hard to promote the idea that shale gas is the fossil fuel of tomorrow. However the reality on the ground is that the gas may not be as easy and cheap to extract from shale formations deep underground as the companies are saying. There is increasing evidence that the industry is faltering. The shale industry may well be on track for its own Enron moment.

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