By Ruth Hayhurst at DrillorDrop.
The shale gas firm, Cuadrilla has confirmed that drilling began today at its site at near Blackpool.
The Preston New Road site at Little Plumpton will see the first horizontal shale gas exploration wells in the UK.
A spokesperson for the company said drilling began early this afternoon but was unable to give a precise time.
Drilling will continue 24-hours a day and the company has estimated it will be completed before the end of the year. Fracking is expected to take place early next year.
Cuadrilla’s spokesperson said the company would drill the pilot well vertically to about 3,500m. Samples would then be taken from the shale rocks. Based on analysis of the samples, Cuadrilla wold then decide where to drill the first two horizontal wells, which would be at depths of 2,000-3,500m.
An opponent of drilling described the news as “a sad day for Lancashire and democracy”. Lancashire County Council refused planning permission for the site but its decision was overturned after a public inquiry by the Communities Secretary, Sajid Javid. A case at the Court of Appeal will be heard at the end of this month.
A spokesperson from Preston New Road Action Group said: “Preston New Road Action Group are bitterly disappointed that Cuadrilla have reportedly commenced drilling at the Preston New Road site, despite a legal challenge still being in progress.
“They seem to have a total disregard for the local community, despite on many occasions saying they wish to be good neighbours.
“Once drilling commences the local community is subjected to 24×7 drilling with the impacts that it is likely to have on their lives. As the rig was delivered during the night they have already breached planning conditions which does not bode well for the future.”
Friends of the Earth called on the Business Secretary, Greg Clark, not to give final consent for fracking at the site. The organisation said “It’s not too late for the government to admit it has got it wrong on fracking.”
Helen Rimmer, Friends of the Earth North West campaigner, said: “The start of drilling means that local people will be subject to 24 hour noise, 7 days a week, from a fracking project that they don’t even want.
“Fracking is bad news for the local community, bad news for our environment and is the wrong solution to our energy needs.
“But it’s not too late for the government to admit that it has got it wrong on fracking and put an end to this risky industry before it starts. Now is the time for Greg Clark to show he’s serious about climate change and say no to fracking before it begins.”
In a statement released this afternoon, Cuadrilla said: “There is no precedent in the UK on how long the horizontal wells through the shale will take to drill however Cuadrilla currently estimates these will be completed before the end of 2017.”
The site has planning permission to drill and hydraulically fracture a total of four wells.
Today’s news coincided with an announcement by the company that it was releasing the first community benefit payment of £100,000.
Cuadrilla’s chief executive, Francis Egan, said in a statement: “Today is an important milestone for the energy industry in the UK as well as the community in Lancashire.
“In addition to the jobs created, and the nearly £3million of investment that Lancashire has received to date as a result of our shale gas exploration, the local community will now also directly benefit.
“Following on from this Community Benefit Fund payment a consultation will now start with the community to decide how best to distribute the payment to good causes in the area. We are very proud to be the first British onshore shale gas operator to make this happen.”
Cuadrilla said local residents would be surveyed by MES (Membership Engagement Services), an independent research, engagement and communications company, hon what the money should be spent on. The Community Benefit Fund will be managed by the Community Foundation for Lancashire.
Local residents will also be consulted on whether they wish the funds for the other three wells. If they are also drilled, the fund will pay out another £300,000, the company said.
This article was originally published on DrillorDrop.
Photo: Frack Free Creators – Knitting Nanas of Lancashire