Cuadrilla is not abandoning its fracking ambitions in Lancashire and still plans to apply for an extension to its shale gas campaign, the company has said.
The company hopes to apply to Lancashire county council to extend drilling at the Preston New Road site beyond a 30 November cut-off point. Work had been suspended in August after the location recorded its largest ever tremor and Cuadrilla hopes to lodge its appeal once a review of the quake is completed.
A spokesperson for Cuadrilla confirmed that the company has not updated its position on drilling since August, when it indicated it would apply for an extension from November. However, it will await the outcome of technical reviews by the Oil and Gas Authority on the summer quake before doing so.
An extension application would would resume the conflict between Cuadrilla and environmental campaigners who this weekend cheered the removal of fracking equipment from the Lancashire site, and a potential end to fracking in the UK.
Cuadrilla’s extension, if granted, would allow the company to drill for shale until at least 2021. Fracking, also known as hydraulic fracturing, involves pumping water, chemicals and sand underground at high pressure to fracture shale rock and release trapped oil and gas. Would-be frackers have faced an uphill battle in the UK due to protest from environmental groups, and tough regulation which forces work to halt if it causes seismic activity measuring 0.5ML (local magnitude).
Cuadrilla had hoped to submit its application for an 18-month extension in September, but the plan was derailed by the largest tremor recorded at Preston New Road at 2.9ML on the Richter scale. The “microseismic event” was enough to bring fracking to an immediate halt under the government’s safety rules, and has raised doubts over the future of the UK’s shale gas industry.
Anti-fracking campaigners claim that the summer quake could prove an existential threat to the UK’s shale gas industry, after years of rising public opposition and waning political support.
Jamie Peters, a campaigner at Friends of the Earth, said: “The UK’s fracking experiment has been a total failure. It can’t be carried out without triggering earthquakes, and would lead to more climate-wrecking pollution being pumped into our atmosphere.
“It’s time to end the blight and misery this industry has caused to residents in Lancashire by pulling the plug on it for once and for all. The government should focus on developing the UK’s huge renewable power potential, and end its backing for more dirty gas and oil,” he said.