PNR Fracking Tests Cut Short As Cuadrilla Assesses Options
Cuadrilla Resources is in the process withdrawing large quantities of fracking equipment from its Preston New Road site in Lancashire, in order to save on rental fees while it tries to come up new strategy. Significant ongoing activity at the site will likely continue, but it does not seem it is in a position to continue hydraulic fracturing operations when every attempt causes earthquakes which force it to pause. As its previous test at Preese Hall in 2011 suggested, it seems hydraulic fracturing in the UK will directly induce earthquakes. Cuadrilla has now spent 2 years, and tens of millions, drilling two wells and conducting some limited fracturing tests on one of them. Its original timeline called for drilling and fracturing 4 wells in that time.
The exact details of what Cuadrilla has done remains a secret, but we do know the fracking operations on PNR-1z were interrupted multiple times, and included one pause of more than a month. It is difficult to see how it possible that more than a dozen frac stages could have been completed, compared to Cuadrilla’s plan of up to 41. Similarly the initial stages were slow stepping up in size, with the first 149.9 cubic metres and the second 296.7 cubic metres (see this Environment Agency report for details). Shortly after that the earthquakes began, and so it is quite possible that Cuadrilla never even got as far as pumping the 765 cubic metre stages which it was originally planning.
Hydraulic fracturing for production requires blasting through dozens of full size stages along a horizontal well, at rates of 5 or more stages a day, before getting the expensive fracking crew on to the next well. It is no wonder that Cuadrilla (and Ineos) have started lobbying to remove any restriction on the size of earthquakes they can cause. Fracking cannot be clean, safe and measured, and at the same time profitable. US fracking companies are having a hard enough time making any money despite all the carnage they are causing. Scrapping the bottom of the barrel is always going to be dangerous and expensive, and the earthquake issue is just the most difficult to ignore of a vast number of impacts which fracking brings. We are getting to the point where these realities are becoming harder and harder for the industry to hide.
Previous Fracking Earthquakes
In the US and Canada large numbers of earthquakes have been caused by fracking, both directly and indirectly. In the US most quakes have been caused by re-injection of the vast quantities of fracking waste produced by this toxic process. In the most extreme case Oklamhoma has become the most earthquake prone state in the US due to facking waste injection wells, with significant damage as a result. In Canada however a large number of earthquakes have been caused by the hydraulic fracturing process itself, particularly in the Montney Shale in British Columbia.
In both cases not all the earthquakes have been small. The largest fracking quakes in Oklahoma have been a magnitude 5.6 main near Pawnee in 2016 and a magnitude 5.6 near Prague, Oklahoma in 2011, where two people suffered minor injuries, 14 homes had various levels of damage, and part of a university building collapsed. The largest earthquake ever triggered by hydraulic fracturing in British Columbia occurred during a fracking-triggered swarm of 676 earthquakes between 2014 and 2015, and was triggered by the fracking activities of Progress Energy, registering 4.6 magnitude.
The Preston New Road site is Cuadrilla’s flagship fracking test project, where they have planning permission (from central government) to drill and hydraulically fracture 4 shale gas wells. This would involve more than 20,000 vehicle movements in and out of the PNR site, as fracking trucks bring equipment and materials and dispose of waste, to and from support sites across the country. Take a look at our factsheet and find out what support sites could be near you.
Cuadrilla’s speculative business model means that they need good results from these test to get more investment, but that includes not just what they find under ground but the level of resistance they encounter. That is where communities across the country come in – by making Cuadrilla’s fracking plans as difficult, slow and expensive as possible!
Check out our factsheet about Cuadrilla’s plans, your community may be threatened with impacts (e.g. fracking waste being dumped or transported through your community) even if you live hundreds of miles from Lancashire.