After 4 years Cuadrilla Resources dismal track record speaks volumes. Behind their continuing PR effort the company has blundered into a series of planning breaches and technical failures that are listed in detail below. As storm clouds gather over the US fracking industry and the evidence of destruction and harm continues to mount, Cuadrilla’s UK exploits show the hallmarks of the same un-regulateable industry that nobody wants as a neighbour.
Planning breaches and ambiguities reveal the charade that is being played out across the UK. With councils and regulators cash strapped and risk averse (to being sued) the shale gas industry, with no track record in the UK, is making up the rules as it goes along. It has repeatedly been left to residents, community groups and other bodies to hold fracking companies to account.
What may be less expected from an industry that claims to have all the answers, are the technical failures. Every site in Lancashire has suffered technical problems and this is just at the exploratory drilling phase. Listed below are the ones we know about.
What can you do? You can join the thousands of people across the country that are getting organised to defend their communities, their air and their water, from this dirty and destructive industry. Find out what’s going on in your Region.
Cuadrilla’s have new plans for Lancashire, two more sites and eight new wells.
Come to Preston to support the people of Lancashire in their fight to stop this fracking threat on the 23rd June 2015 – The Frack Stops Here 2
Breaches & Fails at Lancashire Sites
- Drilled beyond agreed 90-day time limit
- Drilled beyond cut-off date to protect wintering birds
- Failure to restore site within agreed time
- Drilled a sidetrack to bypass a drilling assembly stuck in the borehole. Planning permission was for a vertical well only
[Planning Ambiguity] [Technical Failure]
- Leased fields for a wildfowl refuge where shooting rights had been let to a gun club
- 2011 seismic events, well deformation and failure to report immediately to DECC
[Technical Failure] [Reprimanded by Minister]
- Failed on four occasions to restore the site by the agreed date
[Planning Breach][Planning Breach][Planning Breach][Planning Breach]
- Gas leak led to suggestions of breach of well integrity
- Problems with disposal of flowback fluid
- Failure to restore the site by agreed time
- Well abandoned after cement bond logs showed a problem and a packer became trapped in the well during testing
- Fracking abandoned to avoid an EIA but Cuadrilla blamed wintering birds
- Failed to restore site by agreed time
- No planning permission in place since 2012
- Drilled a sidetrack to bypass a drilling assembly stuck in the borehole. Planning permission was for a vertical well only
[Planning Ambiguity] [Technical Failure]
Lancashire Other Issues
- Trespass during 2012 seismic testing programme
[Reprimanded by Minister]
Breaches & Fails in Sussex
- Possible breach of noise conditions
- Lorry movements breached hours of working conditions
- Original and revised planning application did not include extent of horizontal well
- Required to obtain a mining waste and radioactive substances permit after legal action by Friends of the Earth
More Detailed Explanations
1) Cuadrilla drilled beyond agreed 90 day time limit
Cuadrilla’s application 08/10/0973, approved Oct 2010 under delegated powers, included Condition 1 which required: “The drilling operations shall be completed within a period of three months from the date of their commencement”
In September 2012, Lancashire County Council’s planning officer, Stuart Perigo, gave evidence in a case at Preston Crown Court (ended Thursday 6th September) that Cuadrilla had drilled beyond the permitted 90-day limit. Guardian article
2) Cuadrilla drilled beyond agreed cut-off date to protect wintering birds
The same application (08/10/0973), included Condition 22 which required: “No site clearance, site preparation or development work shall take place until a method statement detailing the measures to be implemented to mitigate the impacts of the development on ecological interests (overwintering birds) of the Marsh Farm Fields BHS has been submitted to and approved in writing by the County Planning Authority. The method statement shall include provision for seasonal restrictions on site development works and measures to avoid impacts on ground nesting birds”.
In September 2012, Lancashire County Council’s planning officer, Stuart Perigo, gave evidence in a case at Preston Crown Court (ended Thursday 6th September) that Cuadrilla drilled beyond 30th September 2011 and so breached the planning condition designed to protect wintering birds at a nearby sanctuary. Guardian article
3) Cuadrilla failed to restore the site within 18 months of the start of development
The same application (08/10/0973 included Conditions 1 and 23 which required work and site restoration to be completed in 18 months of start of development. Development started 28th March 2011 so site to be restored by September 2012. But this has not happened.
4) Cuadrilla drilled a sidetrack to the wellbore even though planning permission was for one vertical well (Becconsall 1 & 1z)
A DECC Landwells spreadsheet and a map from the UK Onshore Geophysical Library shows that two wells were spudded at Becconsall, even though permission was granted for only one. Becconsall 1 was spudded 23rd August 2011 and Becconsall 2 was spudded on 13th October 2011. The HSE said: “The Becconshall well is vertical. Becconshall 1z was a side-track drilled to bypass equipment which had become stuck in the original borehole and could not be recovered. It was drilled to the original planned depth. A side-track is a planned deviation from a previously drilled section of the wellbore.”
5) Land set aside by Cuadrilla for over-wintering birds displaced from its Becconsall site had already been let to a local gun club
Link to the full report here…
6) Cuadrilla seismic events, deformation and failure to report immediately to DECC
A report by Green and Styles report for DECC concluded a series of earthquakes in Spring 2011 in Lancashire were caused by fracking at Preese Hall. The first was on 1 April 2011, magnitude 2.3M. Well-bore deformation was discovered on 4th April 2011 when a caliper log run showed that deformation was greater than 0.5 inches over a depth range between 8,480-8640ft. There was another earthquake was on 27th May 2011, magnitude 1.5M. A total of 50 seismic events were detected from 31st March 2011-27th May 2011. Fracking was suspended on 30th May (Source: Independent)
The Guardian reported that the Energy Secretary, Charles Hendry, wrote to Lord Browne, on 11th May 2012: “My department is concerned Cuadrilla failed to recognise the significance of the casing deformation experienced in the earth tremor triggered by fracking operations on 1 April 2011. …. “So much so, that the company did not report it to my officials … as to the possible cause of the tremor and the possibility it might be linked to fracking. In the light of Cuadrilla’s responses to the department’s subsequent inquiries, I have formed the view that this failure discloses weaknesses in Cuadrilla’s performance as a licensee, which need to be addressed.”
7) Cuadrilla failed on four occasions to restore the site by the date set in the conditions
- Application 05/09/0572, approved October 2009, included Conditions 1 and 2 which required work to start no later than 3 years from date of permission (October 2012) and site to be restored within 18 months of start of development. A planners’ report said work started on 16th November 2009 so the site should have been restored by 15th May 2011.
- Application 05/11/0431, approved in January 2013, varied the condition of application 05/09/0572 on time limit for site restoration. Condition 1 of that application required “No works other than those associated with the plugging and abandonment of the borehole and for the restoration of the site shall be carried out on the site and the site shall be restored in accordance with condition 14 of this permission by not later than 31 December 2013”.
- Application 05/13/0800, approved in February 2014, again varied the condition in 05/11/0431 on time limit for site restoration. Condition 1 required: “No works other than those associated with the plugging and abandonment of the borehole and for the restoration of the site shall be carried out on the site. The site shall be restored in accordance with condition 16 of this permission by not later than 31 July 2014.”
- Application 2014/0123, approved September 2014, again varied the condition in 05/11/0431 on time limit for site restoration. Its Condition 1 required “No works other than those associated with the plugging and abandonment of the borehole and for the restoration of the site shall be carried out on the site. The site shall be restored in accordance with condition 15 of this permission by not later than 30th April 2015.”
The site remains unrestored.
8) Well integrity problems
A VICE News report on December 2nd 2014 said emails between Cuadrilla and the Health and Safety Executive, released following a Freedom of Information request, showed a leak of gas within the well. There was no evidence of any leaks outside the production casing and into the surrounding environment. But three engineers told VICE News this amounted to a technical breach of well integrity. Cuadrilla has denied the emails indicate this.
9) Flowback fluid problems
According to an Environment Agency response to a Freedom of Information request, in 2011, Cuadrilla sent more than 8,000 cubic metres of flowback fluid (the volume of 3+ Olympic swimming pools) from hydraulic fracturing at Preese Hall to the United Utilities Daveyhulme Industrial Waste Water treatment facility in Greater Manchester.
An investigation by BBC Inside Out in January 2014, found that radium levels were 90 times the permitted level for drinking water. The flowback fluid contained what was regarded as low level naturally occurring radioactive material (NORM) and at the time, under the regulations, it was classed as industrial effluent, not hazardous waste.
In October 2011, the Environmental Permitting regulations changed to incorporate the Radioactive Substances Regulations. As a result, Daveyhulme could no longer accept flowback fluid without a permit. The fluid was disposed, under licence, into the Manchester Ship Canal. There are reports that the fluid was not adequately treated. At the time, the BBC Inside Out said there were no treatment works equipped to treat flowback fluid in the north west.
A further 120 cubic metres of flowback fluid was used in laboratory and batch scaled trials at a number of industrial waste treatment sites. The Environment Agency said these sites had permits to treat effluents. The trials were designed to “help determine disposal routes should the industry be given permission to continue. After these trials no further flowback remained at the Preese Hall site.
10) Cuadrilla failed to restore the site by the time in the planning condition
Application 05/10/0634, approved November 2010, included Conditions 1 and 2 which required the development to begin no later than 3 years from the date of the permission and the site to be restored within 18 months of the start of the work.
11) Cuadrilla abandoned well after a packer tool becomes trapped
A Cuadrilla statement on 16th November 2012 confirmed that it would discontinue the current well and drill another 10ft away. It said a cement bond log showed the possibility that the cement had not adhered evenly to the casing near the bottom of the well below the aquifer. During tests, a packer became trapped by the pressure and the company said it was not feasible to drill through or around it.
12) Cuadrilla abandoned fracking at Anna’s Road over EIA but blamed wintering birds
On 21st January 2013 a Cuadrilla statement announced plans to frack at Anna’s Road.
On March 14th 2013, Cuadrilla issued a statement saying it was “modifying” its planning application before Lancashire County Council to include an EIA covering drilling, fracking and flow testing and would resubmit later in the year.
On March 16th 2013, the Guardian reported Cuadrilla had halted operations at Anna’s Road because of need for environmental assessment. The paper said the assessment would not be completed before autumn when work would be disrupted anyway by wintering birds.
On 7th October 2013, Cuadrilla announced it would not submit an application for fracking at Anna’s Road. A statement said: “The background to this decision includes technical constraints related to wintering birds.”
On 17th December 2013, a Cuadrilla statement said Anna’s Road would be restored by the end of July 2014.
On 11th December 2013, Lancashire County Council recorded the withdrawal of Cuadrilla’s application for a horizontal borehole for exploration, core sampling but not fracking.
13) Cuadrilla failed to restore the site by the time set in the planning condition
Application 05/10/0091, approved February 2010, including Conditions 1 and 2, which required work to start within 3 years of the permission and the site to be restored within 18 months of commencement
A planning officer’s report from July 2014 said work started on 20th July 2010 and the site should have been restored by 19th January 2012. On 20th December 2011, Cuadrilla submitted another application (05/12/0003) to extend the time period for completing the well testing by fracking and for restoration to May 2014. This application was withdrawn.
14) No planning permission at Grange Hill/Singleton since 2012
See above. On 8th April 2015, Lancashire County Council’s development control committee refused application LCC/2014/0084, for seismic monitoring, pressure testing, abandonment and restoration. The decision has yet to be confirmed but it means there has been no planning permission for the site since the original planning permission expired on 19th January 2012.
15) Cuadrilla drilled a sidetrack to the wellbore, which was not mentioned in the planning permission
Application 05/10/0091, approved February 2010, was for a vertical well. A DECC Landwells spreadsheet and UK Onshore Geophysical Library map shows that Grange Hill 1 was spudded on 15th January 2011 and Grange Hill 1Z on 15th April 2011. A reply to an FOI request to the Health and Safety Executive (27th January 2015) confirmed that Cuadrilla drilled the sidetrack to bypass a drilling assembly stuck in the original borehole which could not be recovered.
16) General seismic testing, Lancashire
A Guardian report in August 2013 said that Cuadrilla’s contractors repeatedly trespassed on private land during geological surveys from April-June 2012. The paper said Cuadrilla had paid out to at least one homeowner to settle legal action over trespassing. Mark Mills, who lives near Lytham St Annes, said Cuadrilla operatives repeatedly trespassed into his large garden in May to lay cables and drive in dozens of sensors to make seismic recordings. After the first cables were laid, he said: “I told an operator don’t go back on my land and he said, ‘I won’t.’ But lo and behold, the next day they had been in again and put a big red mark on the ground.” Mills said the operators’ maps, which he copied, showed the mark was to be the site of a detonation. “It was right near a gas main and my septic tank,” he said.
The Guardian also reported that the issue was raised at a meeting between senior Cuadrilla staff and the then Energy Minister, Charles Hendry on 2nd July 2012. Hendry is said to have expressed concern over “recent reports of intrusion into developed areas for the seismic testing over the Jubilee weekend” and said “these incidents only served to strengthen what was now becoming a national campaign”.
In April 2013, the Advertising Standards Authority upheld six of 18 complaints against Cuadrilla Resources for its brochure Summer 2012 Exploring For Natural Gas. The pressure group, Refracktion, claimed the document was misleading, exaggerated and unsubstantiated. The ASA ordered that the brochure must not appear again in its complained-of form.
18) Cuadrilla may have breached noise conditions
Application WSCC/027/10/BA, approved under delegated powers in April 2010, set a condition on noise levels. A Daily Telegraph report (8th September 2013) said a noise monitoring report commissioned by Cuadrilla showed that sound levels during drilling peaked 20% higher than allowed. West Sussex County Council said it was not clear whether there had been a breach of condition. Cuadrilla denied it had breached the rules. But it halted drilling to install further sound-proofing after noise levels neared the maximum.
19) Cuadrilla lorry movements breached hours of working condition
The officers’ report for the same application required: “ Unless otherwise agreed in advance and in writing by the County Planning Authority, construction, drilling rig mobilisation and restoration phases of the development work at the site shall only be undertaken between the hours of 0730 and 1830 Mondays to Fridays and 0800 to 1300 on Saturdays. No work shall occur on Sundays, Bank Holidays and Public Holidays. This condition does not relate to operations necessary for the 24hrs drilling operation.
A Sussex Police statement said Sussex Police said it would not compromise public safety by “sticking rigidly to the time constraints in place” when supervising the demobilisation of the site. The police said: “This may mean that at times Cuadrilla are operating outside of their planning permission, for which we would take responsibility”.
20) Cuadrilla planning applications fail to include horizontal drilling in site boundary
A Friends of the Earth Press release and Cuadrilla statement confirmed that In September 2013, Cuadrilla withdrew an application (WSCC/063/13/BA) to extend permission for its exploratory drilling programme. The company conceded that the application did not include the extent of the horizontal well. The application approved in 2010 (WSCC/027/10/BA) also covered only the surface drilling site. The company submitted a completely new application, which was approved in May 2014.
21) Cuadrilla required to apply for waste permits before drilling
A Friends of the Earth press release on 17th June 2013 confirmed that Cuadrilla must obtain a mining waste and radioactive substances permit before it could drill at Balcombe. The organisation’s legal team wrote to the Environment Agency pointing to the need for a permit under the Environmental Permitting Regulations 2010.
This timeline was created by Drill Or Drop and Frack Off with the assistance of Lancashire Community Groups.