UK energy company Cuadrilla has begun work on its controversial shale gas site in Lancashire it was announced on 5 January.
The fracking firm started building an entrance and access road at its Preston New Road site near Little Plumpton early Thursday morning following permission to start being given by the local council on Wednesday.
It is expected the construction work, which also includes a well pad, will take about three months to be completed before drilling can start according to Cuadrilla. Should everything move smoothly for the company, the UK will see its first fracking operations since 2011 start in the spring.
The news comes after planning approval for the site was granted in October 2016 by Communities Secretary, Sajid Javid, overturning Lancashire County Council’s decision to block Cuadrilla’s applications. The decision on Cuadrilla’s other site, at Roseacre Wood, was deferred with no news yet on whether the council’s rejection will be overturned by government.
***BREAKING: Police advise LCC & Fylde Councils gave permission last night for work to start on A583 this am, Cuadrilla’s vehicles there now
— Frack Free Ryedale (@F_F_Ryedale) January 5, 2017
However, as the Guardian has reported, locals were not informed of the operations beginning according to local anti-fracking residents group Preston New Road Action Group.
Group member Claire Stephenson said: “If this is Cuadrilla’s delivery of their ‘community engagement’ standards, they have failed in the first instance. Local residents were not even informed of their plans.”
As Cuadrilla’s year-end fillings state, throughout its operations “communication and engagement with the local community will remain a priority”.
Cuadrilla failed to respond to request for comment in time regarding this issue and its general process of notifying communities of its activities.
The company’s new years’ push to get started has also been labelled “premature” by Greenpeace UK campaigner Hannah Martin. The fracking firm’s operations have begun despite two legal challenges recently submitted against the government’s decision to approve the Preston New Road drilling site. A date has yet to be set for these hearings.
Martin added: “With support for fracking at an all-time low, we expect resistance to fracking will continue until the government moves away from this dirty technology and backs renewable and smart technologies instead.”
Cuadrilla currently holds planning permission for four wells at the Preston New Road site (with an additional four wells at Roseacre Wood pending). It’s first phase, however, will involve Cuadrilla testing a pilot well 3,500 metres deep with two horizontal wells.
The company hopes that this exploratory drilling will then allow it to determine whether or not the site is viable for larger-scale fracking. As Francis Egan, Cuadrilla’s chief executive, said in a statement: “Twelve months from now we hope this work will prove the economic viability of this indigenous shale gas resource in Lancashire.”
This is likely to be the start of more widespread fracking in the UK. At the end of last year a judge upheld Third Energy’s planning permission to frack at its site in North Yorkshire and this week reports have emerged of plans by Ineos to conduct seismic testing near Sherwood Forest in Nottinghamshire in search of shale gas reserves.
Photo: Justin Woolford via Flickr | CC 2.0