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The only firm to frack for shale gas in Britain could be offered a year-long reprieve for two of its wells.
Cuadrilla was told by the Oil and Gas Authority (OGA) last month to permanently seal the wells drilled near Blackpool by June 30.
But yesterday the regulator wrote to Cuadrilla asking them to confirm if they want an extension.
It is the second time the OGA has approached the energy company regarding an extension, but Cuadrilla has so far declined – urging the Government to reverse the order instead.
A moratorium on fracking – where liquid is pumped underground to fracture shale rock – was announced in 2019, but there have been calls for a U-turn amid soaring energy prices and the war in Ukraine.
Formed in the UK in 2007, Cuadrilla is a privately owned British exploration and production company focused on discovering and recovering natural resources, primarily natural gas, from shale rock
The Cuadrilla fracking site at Preston New Road in Blackpool, Lancashire
A spokesman for the regulator said last night: ‘The OGA has informed Cuadrilla that it would consider a request to extend the Plug and Abandon notice on the Preston New Road wells, and the parties are now considering the objectives of a one year extension and the arrangements for eventual abandonment.’
Fracking, or hydraulic fracturing, is a process in which liquid is pumped deep underground at high pressure to fracture shale rock and release gas or oil trapped within it.
It has been mired in controversy since 2011 after it caused two minor earthquakes in Lancashire, prompting a temporary ban on fracking in the UK.
That was later lifted, but in 2019 the Government announced a moratorium on shale gas extraction – a few months after a tremor measuring 2.9 on the Richter scale was recorded at the Preston New Road site.
Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng last week said he agreed with Boris Johnson that it ‘didn’t necessarily make any sense’ to concrete over the wells in Lancashire as planned.
Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng last week said he agreed with Boris Johnson that it ‘didn’t necessarily make any sense’ to concrete over the wells in Lancashire as planned
And yesterday Tory MP Lee Anderson urged the Government to clarify whether Cuadrilla still needs to carry out the abandonment process of their wells.
Asking an urgent question in the Commons, Mr Anderson said: ‘This House was assured last week that both the Business Department and Number 10 agree that these wells should not be filled.
‘However, Government rhetoric is not being matched by action on the ground, and Cuadrilla, the company that owns the wells have spent the last six days trying to get hold of anyone at BEIS (Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy) or the Oil and Gas Authority to receive confirmation that they no longer need to carry out this abandonment process.
‘But they are being ignored. Officials are dragging their heels and now with just days to go, Cuadrilla are still legally obliged to plug the wells by June 30 and the OGA keeps confirming this.’
Business Minister Greg Hands said the Government has ‘always been clear that the development of shale gas in the UK must be safe and cause minimal disruption and damage to those living and working nearby sites’.
Source: Daily Mail