Cuadrilla sent back to the drawing board

After admitting causing earthquakes last year, UK fracker Cuadrilla’s plans were dealt a blow last week as the company was told to conduct more seismic testing. The company estimates this will cost an extra £1.5m.

Since a test frack caused an earthquake in 2011, the UK government has been liaising with the US-led fracker about how to prevent similar occurrences.

The results of that liaison were revealed on Thursday when Lancashire residents received a letter informing them of the company’s intention to perform a ‘geophysical survey’ of the area, starting at the end of February 2012. Three open days were also announced in the region.

The company has already carried out extensive seismic work – all drilling/ fracking is preceded by seismic surveys.

The company also announced plans to drill a fourth borehole this Spring. In the same letter the company announced its intention to drill an exploratory borehole at Anna’s Road in Westby. Planning permission for the site was granted in 2010.

Despite voluntarily suspended fracking operations the company has continued to drill boreholes, completing its third at Marsh Farm, Banks in December 2011.

The company’s seismology has often proved inadequate. As Cuadrilla’s earthquake report of November 2011 showed, the company overlooked a 2000 ft vertical fracture below the Lancashire countryside (see p 50 of this pdf). When water was pumped in to the fracture it caused a 2.3 Richter earthquake (see Cuadrilla COO Eric Vaughan giving a presentation on the earthquakes here).

Cuadrilla has drilled three wells in Lancashire, and fracked one. It is as yet unknown when the company will recommence its fracturing operations. In anticipation of re-starting fracking the company has extended its planning permission at the site of last year’s June earthquakes, Presse Hall until 2013.

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