Horizontal Drilling Comes To The UK, But Fracking Must Wait For Green Light

  • Date: 06/04/18
  • Ian Lewis, Petroleum Economist

Pioneering driller Cuadrilla is optimistic over shale gas well prospects

Cuadrilla Resources says it has moved closer towards launching the UK’s first major fracking project by drilling the country’s first ever horizontal shale gas well at its Preston New Road site in Lancashire, north-west England.

The company, which says it has permission to drill four wells in all on the site, has drilled its first horizontal well through the Lower Bowland shale at a depth of some 2,700 metres below ground. The excavation extends laterally for some 800 metres through the prospective shale gas reservoir.

“From the data we have amassed so far, we are optimistic that, after fracturing the shale rock, natural gas will flow into this horizontal well in commercially viable quantities,” said Francis Egan, Cuadrilla’s chief executive.

The company said it plans to apply to the government for consent to fracture the first horizontal well “in the very near future”.

“We plan to be in a position to hydraulically fracture both horizontal wells one and two in Q3 this year,” it said, adding that gas could be flowing into the local grid by 2019.

There is improved confidence among UK shale gas companies that the tide may be turning in their favour, despite vociferous opposition to lifting the fracking ban which has prompted thus-far unsuccessful legal challenges. Planning permission for the Preston New Road site was refused by the local council in 2015, but that decision was overturned by the government in 2016.

While ministers have yet to give final approval for fracking, the UK’s Conservative government has said it favours the development of a shale gas industry to provide added energy security in the face of declining gas production from the country’s North Sea reserves.

Cuadrilla also hopes to develop another site in Lancashire, known as Roseacre Wood. A new planning inquiry dealing mainly with road access issues only is due to start on 10 April, it said. Other small firms are also hoping to drill in England if fracking gets approval.

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