Back in January, I said 2018 would prove to be a breakthrough year for shale gas in Lancashire and so it has proven.
Cuadrilla has completed drilling the first two horizontal wells targeting shale rock anywhere in the UK, obtained final consent to hydraulically fracture them both from the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (under new rules introduced in 2015) and, in October this year, actually commenced ‘fracking’ the first of them.
It’s taken a long time to reach this point when you consider that Cuadrilla first announced its plans to explore for shale gas at the Preston New Road site back in February 2014, and that its last foray into fracking in Lancashire before that was in 2011.
Much has changed along the way.
Cuadrilla has certainly changed, having acquired new people and talent.
Regulation has been strengthened, including with the imposition of the Traffic Light System of earthquake controls that we’ve all seen in action recently, where Cuadrilla has been very transparently reporting the microseismic activity it has been detecting deep underground – but not felt at the surface – and pausing whenever tremors of just 0.5 ML (local magnitude) on the Richter scale are observed. For context, at the depths they are occurring, a 0.5 ML event produces surface vibration equivalent to mixed traffic passing on a busy road according to researchers at the University of Liverpool.
Crucially, public opinion has shown signs of changing too. After years of hearing the arguments for and against in the abstract, Lancastrians have now had the chance to see it for themselves and increasingly seem to be concluding that it’s not as bad as they’d been led to fear; the threatened harms haven’t materialised and people can now see they were always far-fetched. That’s not to say there aren’t risks, but it’s clear the risks have been well understood and are being properly managed.
Not only that, but people can see that Cuadrilla has been sticking to its promises of openly reporting its environmental monitoring results and putting Lancashire first: contracts worth over £11.5 m have been awarded to Lancashire businesses to date, more than 60 jobs have been created and over £200,000 of community benefits have been shared with good causes and local residents.
It’s definitely a driving factor in the growth we’ve seen in support for shale among the Lancashire business community and beyond. They’re proud of our county, they want to see it succeed, and they can now see how a safely-run and successful shale gas industry could one day contribute to that success.
These were certainly the key themes that emerged at our recent event, which saw over 130 local residents and business people gathered at AFC Fylde to toast Cuadrilla’s recent progress. People told us they are pleased to see Cuadrilla proceeding cautiously, and with care; that it’s living-up to its early commitments to Lancashire; and that they believe a Lancashire shale gas industry has much to offer.
Next year will doubtless bring even more progress and, I have no doubt, even bigger growth in support for shale as a result.
Do you support shale gas in Lancashire? If so, sign this petition and tell your County Councillor to vote against the motion calling for fracking to be suspended that will be debated at the next Full Council meeting on 13th December 2018