The fat lady is on stage

.. and she is already singing.

Today Cuadrilla announced that they are demobilising the fracking equipment at their site at Preston New Road as they will not be able to restart fracking before their existing planning permission runs out at the end of November 2019.

Before they can frack again they would need to have a hydraulic fracture plan with mitigation procedures for seismic activity agreed by the Oil and Gas Authority, and they would need to apply for and receive new planning permission from Lancashire County Council.

Given that there is no published or agreed seismic mitigation procedure to replace the failed traffic light system it is hard to see how the O&GA could agree a new HFP, and, given that fracking provoked a 2.9Ml quake which literally woke the Fylde up on the morning of 26th August 2019, Lancashire’s planners would seem to have good grounds for rejecting any future applications from Cuadrilla in this area.

Cuadrilla maintain that they are continuing operations at the site by initiating a flow test, but as they have only fracked 7 out of their planned 47 stages and only injected 8% of the proppant permitted, it seems highly unlikely that they would be able to produce any figures that will keep their investors happy. These investors were already showing a high degree of dissatisfaction even before today’s news

It seems that Cuadrilla have managed to maintain their 100% failure rate over the last 8 years, with sites at Singleton, Preese Hall, Annas Road and Becconsall all having shut down with no commercial flow of gas. While there has been a limited flow of gas at PNR it seems that they can’t extract even small quantities without provoking a level of seismic activity which is unacceptable both socially and politically.

Their performance at Preston New Road is all the more alarming because not only did they promise that they could guarantee not to cause earthquakes, they proceeded to do so multiple times on two different wells!

So where does that leave the UK fracking industry?

Clearly, fracking is now a political hot potato. As far as we know there is no fracking company with planning permission in place and raring to go.

Aurora near Halsall is the only fracking application pending but it seems unlikely that it will be decided this year because highways officers want more information. It could obviously go the same way as Roseacre where refusal on traffic grounds put paid to Cuadrilla’s ambitions for that site.

Third Energy has permission in Yorkshire but has said it is concentrating on conventional extraction and, as far as we know, has not passed the required financial resilience test.

We believe both Ineos and Igas have permissions in place for drilling but not fracking.

For an industry which claimed in 2013 that it was only 2-3 years away from commercial production progress has been glacially slow, and as climate change concerns have gathered pace it seems to have been overtaken by events.

It remains to be seen whether the government’s fast cooling attachment to fracking will be rekindled once the Brexit traincrash has been cleared up. Indeed it remains to be seen whether this government will even still be in place next week and, with every other party that has a realistic chance of power being against fracking, it is starting to look like end for an industry that few support and many feel has no place in the UK or anywhere else.

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