Onshore fracking given go ahead in UK

Article by Amanda Doyle

CUADRILLA has been granted permission to begin fracking in the UK’s first onshore horizontal shale gas well.

Energy and clean growth minister Claire Perry announced on 24 July that she has granted permission for Cuadrilla to drill shale rock around 2.3 km below the Preston New Road site in Lancashire. This is the first time that a company has been granted permission for onshore fracking in the UK. Fracking is expected to begin in late August or early September.

"Shale gas has the potential to be a new domestic energy source, further enhancing our energy security and helping us with our continued transition to a lower-carbon economy," said Perry. "It also has the capacity to deliver substantial economic benefits, both nationally and locally, as well as through the creation of well-paid, high-quality jobs. We already have an excellent, long-standing reputation for safe oil and gas exploration. Our world-class regulations will ensure that shale exploration will maintain robust environmental standards and meet the expectations of local communities."

The UK’s Infrastructure and Projects Authority had been asked to carry out an independent assessment into the financial health of the fracking project, and concluded that Cuadrilla has “an adequate level of financial resilience to undertake the project."

Francis Egan, CEO of Cuadrilla, said: "We are very pleased to be the first operator in the UK to have been awarded final consent to hydraulically fracture the UK's first onshore horizontal shale exploration well. We now look forward to submitting a fracture consent application to BEIS for our second exploration well and moving on to fracture the shale rock and flow the natural gas which we believe will make a major contribution to reducing the UK's gas imports and improving our environment and economy."

According to environmental campaigning group Friends of the Earth, the green light has been given despite a legal challenge about regulation at the site still being considered in the High Court.

Liz Hutchins, director of Friends of the Earth, said:

“It’s taken the industry seven long years to just get to this point. In those same seven years, renewable energy has gone from providing a tenth of our electricity to supplying a third of it. There is no need to force fracking on this community in Lancashire when the alternatives are so clear. The government backed the wrong horse. Renewables have cleared the finishing line and have taken the cup while fracking is limping along on the first stretch. They have also had to really push the boundaries of planning law by trying to change regulations to go all out for fracking, and they’ve put everything into resuscitating this nearly dead-on-its-feet industry.”

Co-leader of the Green Party, Jonathan Bartley, said on Twitter:

“This announcement has been snuck out on the last day of Parliament. In the middle of a global heatwave the government is kickstarting a new fossil fuel industry. It should hang its head in shame.”

Article by Amanda Doyle

Staff Reporter, The Chemical Engineer

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