Cuadrilla Resources Ltd. said Tuesday it has been granted the first consent by the UK government to perform hydraulic fracturing (fracking) for an onshore horizontal natural gas well, with operations to begin by September.
The UK-based company said it had received final consent from the UK's Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy (BEIS) for a shale gas exploration well at its Preston New Road site in Lancashire, a county in northwest England. Cuadrilla said it was currently in the process of applying for a second fracking permit from BEIS for a second exploration well at the same site.
"This is a testament to, and underpinned by, our strong track record of running a world class shale gas exploration site at Preston New Road, in compliance with robust health, safety, environmental and planning regulations," said CEO Francis Egan. He said a second permitted well would "make a major contribution to reducing the UK’s gas imports and improving our environment and economy."
Cuadrilla drilled the first well at Preston New Road in April, while the second was drilled earlier this month. The first targeted the Lower Bowland Shale and was drilled to a depth of 2,300 meters (7,546 feet) with an 800-meter (2,625-foot) lateral. The second targeted the Upper Bowland Shale at a depth of 2,100 meters (6,890 feet) with a 750-meter (2,461-foot) lateral. The company plans to run initial flow tests at both wells for about six months.
Cuadrilla's drilling plans suffered a setback after the local government in Lancashire denied an application in June 2015 to drill eight test wells -- four at Preston New Road and another at Roseacre Wood. But one month later, the UK government announced plans to "fast-track" applications to develop the country's onshore resources. By year's end it had awarded 159 onshore licenses for oil and gas drilling, of which Cuadrilla had received 16.
The UK government overruled Lancashire's decision to deny Cuadrilla's four permits at Preston New Road in October 2016, but it declined to overrule the decision on the four wells at Roseacre Wood. London proposed relaxing planning rules for onshore unconventional oil and gas development in May.