Friday, 20 June 2014

New Cuadrilla fracking applications: Lancashire now the front line in National Defense against fracking

Map showing locations, extent and approximate direction
of horizontal wells for the proposed
Preston New Road and Roseacre test sites
http://frack-off.org.uk/


Fracking company Cuadrilla Resources have submitted new planning applications for exploration fracking drillpads at Preston New Road (LCC/2014/0096) near Little Plumpton and at Roseacre (plans not yet public), about 5 miles to the northwest.

Lancashire County Council invite the public to comment on them (click here).

Read on for a digest of the applications (they are thousands of pages long).

Frack Free Lancashire Campaign launch
Tomorrow Saturday 21st June between 10am and 4pm, in St John’s Square, Blackpool, the Residents Action on Fylde Fracking campaign group along with fourteen Fylde, Wyre and Preston anti-fracking groups will unite to launch the Frack Free Lancashire Campaign. The campaign will raise awareness to the dangers that shale gas development poses to our communities and to our changing climate and give Lancashire residents the opportunity to oppose Cuadrilla's new planning applications.

Real consultation
This, they believe, is the real public consultation that will reach out to the wider community and let the public know that their voice actually counts. Following the launch each campaign group will be regularly setting up a stall in their town centre to give the public details of how to object to Cuadrilla’s new planning applications that make Lancashire the entry point for commercial fracking in the UK.

Call for an avalanche of objections
They call, in this opening stage, for an avalanche of objections to the following plans and permit applications.
Preston New Road main exploratory fracking application (LCC/2014/0096)
Ancillary Preston New Road seismic monitoring application (LCC/2014/0097)
Permit applications to the Environment Agency - consultation

Cuadrilla formed to open up UK sites for commercial fracking
This would be the first multi-well shale gas site in the UK and the first massive slickwater hydraulic fracturing conducted since Cuadrilla caused a series of earthquakes at its Preese Hall site (now being abandoned) in 2011.

Cuadrilla is under pressure to find extensive frackable shale gas resources to sell on its license to a major corporation with resources to exploit them on a commercial scale by drilling the vast network of thousands of drillpads necessary for commercial shale gas extraction.

Lancashire - the Front Line of National Defense...
The applications seek to open an entry point for commercial fracking in the UK. They make Lancashire the front line of national land defense of the UK against toxic fracking.

... or the weakest link?
Lancashire has enough problems to deal with as it is. That is what makes us a prime target. It is hoped we will be too busy and stressed and individually isolated with making the rent and with other compelling lifestyle choices and afflictions to be able to cooperate together, act and resist them.

A strong knock back needed now
Cuadrilla's collaborators say Lancashire is ignorant and desolate, that exploitation could only improve us, that they are doing us a favour by poisoning our land and water. They offer inducements to key landowners so that others can have their land fracked from underneath without their consent being needed. To stop this requires an organisation strong enough to give Cuadrilla and the corporate global interests it fronts such a knock-back as they will feel even through vast corporate and personal wealth and cohorts of political collaborators and fixers.

The applications
The first application made public (Preston New Road) describes the overall proposal as:

"Construction and operation of a site for drilling up to four exploration wells, hydraulic fracturing of the wells, testing for hydrocarbons, abandonment of the wells and restoration, including provision of an access road and access onto the highway, security fencing, lighting and other uses ancillary to the exploration activities, including the construction of a pipeline and a connection to the gas grid network and associated infrastructure to land to the north of Preston New Road, Little Plumpton"

Cuadrilla's Plans
We are indebted to Frack Off (http://frack-off.org.uk/) for their intensive analysis and breakdown of the application which can be found here with handy reference links to data.  Here are some highlights and you can find more at the Blackpool Gazette website (12 June 2014: 'Revealed - full extent of fracking bid')

Cuadrilla’s plans at Preston New Road involve constructing a 1.55 hectare (3.83 acre) well pad along with an associated access road, ditches, bunds and fencing, and potentially a gas pipeline connection. The total area of the surface works would be 7.34 hectares (18.14 acres). After drilling an initial vertical well through the Bowland Shale to a depth of approximately 11,500 ft, an up to 1.25 mile long horizontal sidetrack would be drilled and fractured. Three additional wells, with horizontal sections, would then be drilled and fractured. This program is planned to take around two years (with one well taking around 100 days, 45 days and 100 days to drill, fracture and flow test). Extended flow testing could last over 3 years.

Plans for the second site at Roseacre are not yet public. It is likely to be similar.

A frac job underway on a Marcellus Shale pad
In Laceyville, Pennsylvania
Water usage - Exploration rate
Cuadrilla envisage using between 5.9 and 8.9 million gallons of water to hydraulically fracture each well, depending on the number of frac stages used (between 30 to 45). A frac stage involves isolating a small section of the well, forcing in fluid into it, before moving on to the next section. However, the planning documents suggest Cuadrilla was originally considering using 60 frac stages which could require 12 million gallons, but scaled back its plans to reduce its massive water requirements. Drilling the 4 wells would use an additional 1.9 million gallons for drilling mud etc.

Water usage - Commercial production rate
However this is not a commercial production rate. It is more like the inch taken before the mile. Work on actual production wells can often reach 5 or more frac stages per day, requiring a much higher rate of water use.

If scaled to thousands of wells on hundreds of pads, which is what commercial production means, when each pad’s peak water usage would be equivalent to a town of 20,000 people, the water supplies of 6.6 million people in this area's United Utilities 'Integrated Resource Zone'  would be under threat. The local water mains system (where local residents already complain of low pressure) is also an issue. Cuadrilla will be hoping to develop the Preston New Road and Roseacre sites simultaneously, potentially doubling the amount of water required. Water supply for just this exploration phase already seems tight.

Waste Disposal
Cuadrilla estimate that 5.61 million gallon of radioactive waste (frac fluid which flows back contaminated with Radium-226, Radium-228 and Lead-210) will be produced during the initial flow testing phase for all 4 wells combined. However, given that elsewhere they state they expect 40 percent of their frac fluid (i.e. 9.44 – 14.24 million gallons) to flowback during this period there appears to be a significant discrepancy in their numbers (which recycling can’t explain). They claim there will be an additional 7.71 million gallons of radioactive waste during the extended flow phase.

No mention is made of other toxic materials, such as heavy metals and aromatic hydrocarbons, which may also be leached out of the target shale formation. Likewise no mention is made of where these materials (radioactive or otherwise) will eventually end up. Most of them (radioactive isotopes or heavy metals) cannot be treated out of existence and will accumulate wherever they are dumped. Mixing them into municipal sewage or re-injecting it underground, the two solutions most used in the US, have both proved extremely problematic. Once they reach their final destination, wherever that is, they will start to build up there.

More toxic waste dumps to come
Frack-Off note that Cuadrilla has identified existing waste facilities in the north of England, which they claim can 'treat' (ie store and wait....) the radioactive flowback fluid. However  65% of the capacity of the identified waste facilities would be taken up by the waste produced by just the Preston New Road site. The two sites combined would overwhelm existing capacity. In the light of this, it becomes clear why in the US the industry is desperately stuffing waste down old oil wells (causing more earthquakes) or dumping it with sewage into rivers. They have no choice, given the massive volumes involved.

Transport
Trucks lining up to supply
a Marcellus Shale Fracking Operation (USA)
The Preston New Road site appears to have been chosen to provide a best case scenario in terms of transport as it has direct access off an A-road which connects to the M55.  However, since production involves drilling out fracking sites on a grid across the shale bed, like hair implants across a head, with little choice in their location, few would have such good connections to the road network. Cuadrilla’s plans require over 20,000 vehicle movements during the life of the site, peaking at up to 100 vehicle movements per day. A large proportion of these will be HGVs.

Cuadrilla’s exploration work program is spread over a longer period, compared to production  drilling, to give a less intrusive impression in these critical early stages. Drilling a shale gas well in the US usually takes 30 days or less rather than the 100 days Cuadrilla is planning, while hydraulic fracturing often takes less than 2 weeks rather than the planned 45 days. Commercial constrains would require similar work rates for production in the UK, increasing the maximum rate of vehicle movements by up to a factor of 3.

All this is without transporting water to the site by road. If the local water supply system was overwhelmed by the demand, which seems almost certain at the production phase, either dedicated pipelines would have to be built to bring the water from further afield or it would necessary to transport it by road. Supplying just one, 5 stage per day, frac job would require in excess of 200 extra HGV movements per day and add thousands more HGV movements to the total number of vehicle movements. Connectiing large numbers of dispersed sites to the gas network will present additional problems.

Water and Waste Storage on site
Cuadrilla’s plans involve storing the water for hydraulic fracturing in 20 steel tanks, each holding 40,000 gallons (800,000 gallons in total. This could handle the needs of one (or a few) frac stages but could not supply a modern production frac job, with 60 or more frac stages and rates in excess of 5 stages per day. issues. Commercial production would require greater volumes of water on site, or nearby.

Ancillary application
An ancillary application (LCC/2014/0097) deals with constructing a seismic monitoring array comprising 90 buried, and surface monitors within 2.5 miles of the site. The County Council invites your comments here.

Environmental hazard permit applications
Cuadrilla have also submitted an application to the Environment Agency for a set of permits: EPR/AB3101MW/A001 (Mining Waste), EPR/KB3395DE/A001 (Radioactive Substances Activity) and EPR/BB3093RH/A001 (Groundwater Activity). These permits cover the management of mining waste (drill cuttings and drilling mud), the flaring of gas, the storage and disposal of radioactive waste (primarily radium contaminated flowback fluid) and the discharge of pollutants which could affect groundwater (injection of chemicals during hydraulic fracturing). The Environment Agency invites your comments here.

A nation betrayed... 
Executives and chairmen of the fracking companies and the energy corporations who will exploit their licenses are embedded in the core of our UK government, winning UK shale gas and oil exploration licenses, gaining tax exemptions and rushing through exeptional legislation to smooth their way and maximise their shareholders' profits. They are in our Houses of Parliament, at the heart of the Cabinet, in local and regional Enterprise Partnerships, in 'advisory' bodies and regional funding forums, lobbying for fracking while pretending to represent public interests. They continue to recruit in the corridors of local and national government and its army of consultants and committees.

...answers with a mighty roar
The Frack-Free Lancashire Campaign asks, to begin with, for a mighty avalanche of objections against the planning applications to the County Council and the permit applications to the Environment Agency.

You can object online to these by following the following links and expressing your views:

Preston New Road main exploratory fracking application (LCC/2014/0096)
Ancillary Preston New Road seismic monitoring application (LCC/2014/0097)
Permit applications to the Environment Agency - consultation

You can join the Frack-Free Lancashire Campaign at:
https://www.facebook.com/groups/frackfreelancashire/

What have our Parliamentary election candidates said?
Green Party candidate Gina Dowding has expressed her party's commitment to put an end to fracking  and backs the Green Party report on sustainable energy and employment: “Energy in the North West - Bringing about a low-carbon, affordable energy future”.

Labour Candidate Cat Smith has not been sufficiently vocal on the subject for us to be certain of her opinions, but we are hope it won't be long in coming. Meanwhile Tom Greatrex MP, Labour’s Shadow Energy Minister, said of the 2012 report on Fracking in Lancashire by the Royal Academy of Engineering and Royal Society:

Before shale gas extraction can go ahead, important conditions that have been set by this report and by the Labour Party must be established, met and monitored”.

Conservative Lancaster & Fleetwood MP Eric Ollerenshaw (when not tilting at windmills) has expressed his defiance thus:

"I will be pressing the Secretary of State for Energy and the Chancellor of the Exchequer for a community compensation scheme both for individual landowners and the wider community.

"I will be keeping in close touch with DECC, the Environment Agency and the Health and Safety Executive, as well as the energy companies drilling in Lancashire, to ensure that concerns and risks continue to be properly assessed an acted upon.”


2 comments:

Roseacre Awareness Group said...

Can you please update with details of the Roseacre Wood application and the fact that it is the middle of the countryside and accessed by narrow country lanes used by hundreds of cyclists, walkers and riders.
LCC website link is http://planningregister.lancashire.gov.uk/PlanAppDisp.aspx?recno=6591

Thanks.

Chris Satori said...

Thank you, details can be found at our mere recent news item (4 July) at http://virtual-lancaster.blogspot.co.uk/2014/07/over-5000-objections-to-cuadrillas.html. Please keep us posted!