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UK government orders abandonment of shale fracking sites

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The Oil and Gas Authority (OGA) has told shale gas exploration company Cuadrilla to permanently plug and abandon the UK’s only two shale wells situated in Lancashire.

Environmentalists and local residents who have long campaigned against the controversial practice welcomed the announcement. Meanwhile, Cuadrilla has warned of the impact this could have on soaring gas prices.

The wells at Preston New Road shale exploration site in Lancashire have not been used since 2019, when the government imposed a moratorium on fracking due to concerns over earth tremors. A number of other countries, including France, Germany, Ireland and the Netherlands, have outlawed the practice entirely.

The UK banned fracking following an OGA report that concluded that it was not possible to accurately predict the probability or magnitude of seismic events it may cause. Some 57 tremors were recorded at Cuadrilla’s Preston New Road Site during two months of fracking in 2018, including one measuring 2.9 on the Richter scale the largest ever to be induced by fracking in the UK.

Hydraulic fracturing or fracking is a well development technique for recovering oil and gas from within shale rock. It involves injecting water, chemicals and sand under high pressures into a bedrock to open existing cracks and create new ones. The process provides access to oil and gas trapped deep underground, allowing it to flow to the head of the well.

However, opponents to fracking draw on evidence that it can also cause water contamination, noise and traffic pollution.

Cuadrilla CEO Francis Egan criticised the recent OGA decision in the context of the current gas crisis, saying: ‘At a time when the UK is spending billions of pounds annually importing gas from all corners of the globe, and gas prices for hard-pressed UK households are rocketing, the UK government has chosen this moment to ask us to plug and abandon the only two viable shale gas wells in Britain.’

But analysts and green campaigners point out that fracking in the UK would have minimal impact on fuel prices as new gas resources take years to develop and the gas would be traded globally, meaning it is likely to be sold to the highest bidder abroad.

Cuadrilla’s Preston New Road shale exploration site in Lancashire
Photo: Cuadrilla Resources

News Item details

Journal title: Energy World

Countries: UK -

Subjects: Oil and gas, Unconventionals,

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