Cuadrilla Resources Ltd. plans to apply for local permission to drill eight test wells at two new sites in northwest England’s Lancashire County, but it will not seek permission to conduct hydraulic fracturing (fracking) at an existing test well there, the company said Tuesday.

The company, which is based in Lichfield, Staffordshire County, said it will apply for planning permission to drill, frack and test the flow of gas from eight exploration wells in the Borough of Fylde.

Four wells will be drilled at a site called Roseacre Wood, while the remaining four wells will be drilled at Preston New Road, in the parish of Westby-with-Plumptons.

The wells will target the UK’s Bowland-Hodder Shale. Last summer, the British Geological Survey said there was a 50% chance the formation holds 1,329 Tcf of natural gas. It also released high and low estimates for the play, at 2,281 Tcf and 822 Tcf, respectively (see Shale Daily, June 28, 2013).

Cuadrilla said it will also submit separate applications to install two seismic arrays to monitor the fracking process. The company also said it has the hired the engineering firm Arup Group Ltd. to prepare an environmental impact assessment for both of the new exploration sites.

“We’ve been working hard to assess our site options and have undertaken extensive technical and geological analysis,” said Cuadrilla CEO Francis Egan. “As a result of this work, we have decided to focus on just two sites at this time. This will allow us to reduce the potential impact on the local area during exploration while still gathering the important information we need to determine how much gas could be recovered.”

Cuadrilla said it was close to submitting environmental assessments for the new sites to the Lancashire County Council as well.

According to Cuadrilla, the new exploration sites are part of its strategy “to understand the full potential of Lancashire’s shale gas resources.” The company added that it “has started to speak to residents and community representatives living near to the two new sites” and plans to conduct extensive public consultation.

“We’re committed to being a good neighbor and to talking with the community at every stage of the process,” Egan said.

Cuadrilla said it had decided not to apply for permission to frack a well drilled at its Grange Hill site near the village of Singleton, which is also in the Borough of Fylde, and would instead use the well as a base for a seismic monitor to complement the seismic arrays being installed at the new drilling sites. The company drilled the well to a target depth of 10,700 feet in 2011.

“This complies with the recommendations made by the Royal Society and The Royal Academy of Engineering for the monitoring of background seismicity,” Cuadrilla said.

The company drilled a well at its Preese Hall site, near the village of Weeton, to a depth of 9,200 feet in August 2010. During fracking operations in 2011, two seismic tremors measuring 2.3 and 1.5 on the Richter Scale were detected on April 1 and May 27. The company voluntarily paused fracking operations at the site and later published a report acknowledging that its activities there had caused the quakes (see Shale Daily, Nov. 4, 2011). Cuadrilla said in December 2013 that it would return the Preese Hall site to its former condition.

Cuadrilla currently only has one well, Elswick-1, that has been hydraulically fractured. The well, located near the village of Elswick, generates 1 MW of electricity. It was completed and fracked by a previous owner, Independent Energy Resources Ltd., in 1993. Cuadrilla purchased the well from Warwick Energy Ltd. in 2010.

According to Cuadrilla’s website, the company has three other drilling sites — for a total of eight, including the two new sites — in Lancashire. Cuadrilla holds a license to explore for shale gas in West Sussex County, located in southern England. Last September, the company said it would submit a new planning application to cover flow testing for a conventional horizontal oil exploration well at the site, which was the scene of anti-fracking protests one month earlier (see Shale Daily, Sept. 5, 2013; Aug. 20, 2013).

The British government enacted a moratorium on fracking after the tremors at Preese Hall, but lifted it in December 2012 after the introduction of new risk controls (see Shale Daily, Dec. 17, 2012).