Onshore exploration company set to frack UK’s first horizontal shale well

Aerial view of a Cuadrilla shale gas well
Aerial view of a Cuadrilla shale gas well

Energy exploration group Cuadrilla expects to start “fracking” the first horizontal shale well in the UK shortly following years of protests and government reviews into this unconventional way of extracting oil and gas.

The unlisted company said it was awaiting UK government approval to frack the first well at its Lancashire site in northern England before starting work around September. The company has finished drilling a second well at the site.

Fracking involves perforating wells and fracturing rocks by injecting liquids, sands and chemicals to suck in oil and gas.

It has transformed the US energy industry – from where the petro-chems giant INEOS ships two super-tankers full of shall gas a month into Scotland for its Grangemouth refinery – but has not taken off across Europe, where some countries have banned it.

Cuadrilla said it would run flow tests along the two wells, once fracked, for about six months and the wells would be connected to the local gas grid. “Our objective is to demonstrate that natural gas will flow from the shale in commercially viable quantities,” chief executive Francis Egan said. “We look forward to demonstrating that the UK’s huge shale gas resources can be safely.”

The fracking will also help Cuadrilla to assess gas reserves in the Lancashire licence.

The British Geological Survey estimates the much broader Bowland Shale region across northern England to hold some 1,329 trillion cubic feet of gas. But estimates get much smaller after companies drill and appraise the rocks and apply commercial considerations such as the cost of extraction.

Other companies are vying to start fracking onshore in the UK.

Third Energy – which is  95-percent-owned by Barclays Bank –  is waiting for approval from the government to begin test fracking at its Kirby Misperton site in Yorkshire.

And UKOG – through Horse Hills Development Ltd –  is getting ready to appraise wells at its Horse Hill site, near Gatwick Airport.

Proponents of fracking say Britain could bolster its energy security by developing the shale industry just as oil and gas reserves in the North Sea dwindle.

In Scotland, there has been an effective moratorium on shale drilling although the Court of Session court recently ruled that the Scot-Gopt’s policy did not amount to an outright ban.

18 Jul 2018

 

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