Shale gas firm Cuadrilla has expressed frustration that it was only able to frack a tiny section of its gas well near Blackpool because of the UK’s rules on minor earthquakes, suggesting it will only be able to resume fracking if the regulations are relaxed.
The company became the first to frack in the UK for years when it started operations last October at its Preston New Road site, but was repeatedly forced to pause work because of the seismicity rules.
In a statement on Wednesday the company revealed that less than 5% of the well had been fracked, or just two of the 41 so-called fracking stages along the well.
The rules had “severely constrained” the volume of sand that could be injected along with chemicals and water to fracture the shale rock and release the gas within. It used less than 14% of the sand, which helps to keep the fractures open, than it had intended to.
However, Cuadrilla said fracking had confirmed a “rich reservoir” of gas, flowing at a peak of 200,000 cubic feet per day. From that data, the company has estimated a flow of 3-8m cubic feet per day if it was able to frack the entire length of the well.
Along with fellow fracking firm Ineos, Cuadrilla has called on the government and its regulator, the Oil and Gas Authority (OGA), to carry out a review of the earthquake rules, known as the “traffic light system”.
Cuadrilla said any decisions on further fracking of the well, and a second well that it has drilled but not yet fracked, would be subject to the outcome of any such review.
Geologists advising the OGA have said the limits could be safely lifted but they were not aware of any review. The energy minister, Claire Perry, has said she has no plans for a review and it would be a “foolish politician” who relaxed the regulations.
Francis Egan, Cuadrilla’s chief executive, said: “Cuadrilla and its investors remain committed to this opportunity … All we ask now is that we are treated fairly, with comparable seismic and ground vibration levels to similar industries in Lancashire and elsewhere in the UK.”