Fracking could still happen as Cuadrilla told not to close wells in Lancashire

Reprieve for capping fracking wells as Government considers its energy strategy

Fracking could still take place in Lancashire after the UK regulator agreed a reprieve on an order to seal up two wells.

Cuadrilla, the firm behind plans to frack shale gas had been ordered to plugs two wells at Preston New Road by the end of June 2022.

But the North Sea Transition Authority(NSTA) has now extended the deadline to at least June 2023.

The two wells at Caudrilla's Preston New Road site won't be sealed for at least another year

Caudrilla said it is convinced the Bowland shale gas resource, at its site near Preston, "has the potential to be a very significant contributor to UK energy supply and a source of cost-effective fuel for heating homes and businesses."

But Labour's Shadow Climate Secretary has slammed that decision, claiming it came after pressure from government.

Ed Milliband said: "This is an appalling decision by the regulator."This has nothing to do with the energy needs of the country and everything to do with the Conservatives bowing to their backbenchers."The Government itself concluded that fracking is unsafe, and will not help our energy security or cut bills. And fracking is strongly opposed by local communities."It is a sign once again that this government cannot be trusted to make decisions in our national interest on energy security, bills, or the climate crisis."

Francis Egan CEO of Caudrilla welcomes the decision by the UK Regulator

Cuadrilla has welcomed the decision and called for the moratorium on fracking to be lifted.

Francis Egan, CEO of Cuadrilla Resources Ltd, said: “I would like to thank the Prime Minister and the Business Secretary for seeing the light and realising - just in time - how absurd it would have been to force us to pour concrete down Britain’s only two viable shale gas wells in the middle of an energy crisis. 

“But this suspension will have a cul-de-sac ending unless we now reverse the moratorium preventing us from using the wells (and others like them) to get shale gas out of the ground and flowing into British households."

“It is widely acknowledged – including by the Climate Change Committee - that natural gas will continue to play a key role in UK energy supply for many decades to come, even as the country transitions to a Net Zero CO2 economy.  

“If we start using the trillions of cubic feet of British shale gas that sits beneath our feet, we can create tens of thousands of British jobs, millions of pounds in tax revenue for local councils in the North of England and, of course, we can start supplying domestic gas to British consumers which will put downward pressure on soaring prices. 

"We can also reduce and potentially halt the expensive and high CO2  imports of gas from abroad – including from Russia."

Mr Egan added: "It makes no sense to spend billions of pounds annually on importing gas from the Middle East, the US, Russia – we should be deploying this substantial British asset instead.”

There has been a large, vocal campaign against fracking in Lancashire

Opponents of Fracking

There has been a large, vocal campaign in Lancashire opposed to fracking from the very beginning.

The process is linked to earthquakes and there are concerns chemicals could contaminate local groundwater - affecting what comes out of people’s taps.

Opponents also fear an increase in noise and traffic pollution, and the pursuit for a new source of gas - a fossil fuel - is not compatible with efforts to tackle climate change.

Police stand guard at the Lancashire fracking site near Preston

Conflict in Ukraine puts Fracking back on the table

The energy security strategy promised by the Prime Minister has been held up by Cabinet in-fighting but is expected to be published in early April.

One of the issues being considered is the future of fracking and whether the moratorium should remain in place, with Downing Street insisting that the situation in Ukraine meant considering all options to increase energy independence.