Dec 20 2012 by Rob Pattinson, Ormskirk Advertiser
THE shale gas well in Banks will be the first site ‘fracked’ after the Government lifted its ban on the controversial drilling technique, the Advertiser can reveal.
Work to exploit the unconventional gas at Banks by Cuadrilla Resources was put on hold 18 months ago after it caused two small earthquakes in Blackpool.
But Energy Secretary Ed Davey said last week that fracking – which uses high-pressure liquid to split rock deep underground and extract gas from within the shale – could resume with new controls in a bid to prevent earth tremors.
Cuadrilla said its exploration so far had shown that there is a belt of gas-filled shale over one mile thick under Lancashire.
And in an interview with the Advertiser, Cuadrilla’s health, safety and environment director Leon Jennings today reveals how Banks will be the first site in Lancashire to be fracked as the firm seeks to further test the potential of the “very significant” shale resources in the county, explains the safeguards the firm has put in place, and details the economic benefits shale gas could bring to the area.
He said: “What this decision means locally is that we will be able to proceed with the exploration programme, and quantify in further detail the gas that may be available and extractable.
“The first well we will frack is Banks, and then the Anna’s Road site in Westby.
“What we are now waiting for is planning and environmental permissions from the Environment Agency and Lancashire County Council to undertake this opportunity.
“We hope that we will be able to start the process within the first six months of next year.”
Campaign groups have expressed a number of concerns, stating economic benefits had been “hugely exaggerated” and citing fears over the environmental impact of the process.
But Mr Jennings moved to reassure those with fears it may end up being a producing site if it proves to be a good well and other tests suggest commercial extraction is viable – but added there would be a “whole series of hoops to jump through” first.
In terms of the economic benefits should tests prove positive though, he said: “We could be looking at 1,700 jobs for the Lancashire area and 5,600 for the UK as a whole. We believe it’s a case of when rather than if it takes off in Europe. If Lancashire is the first mover there’s every chance supply chain and other gas companies would look to set up here, so its not just with direct jobs that the area could gain in terms of economy and investment.”
But campaign groups remain to be convinced that the potential benefits outweigh the negatives of the controversial process.
Following the lifting of the government ban, Eve McNamara, of Ribble Estuary Against Fracking, said: “I am not convinced the full implications of a commercial shale gas industry have been considered and the legacy it will leave. Quoted reserves of 300 trillion cubic feet in the press may sound good to investors and other gas producers but it does not convey the fact that only a portion of this is recoverable.
“The full implication of this industry on shore in densely populated areas has not been considered and while returns may be lucrative for the gas producers in the short run the effect on existing industries like agriculture and tourism and the adverse after effects long term will be far reaching.”