A crane has been installed today at Cuadrilla’s shale gas site at Preston New Road in Lancashire.


Crane installed at Cuadrilla’s Preston New Road shale gas site in Lancashire, 7 March 2022. Photo: Chris Holliiday

Local reports also said lorries had gone onto the site, where two wells are due to be plugged and abandoned.

A letter from Cuadrilla sent late last night to a resident living close to the site said:

“I am writing to let you know, that Cuadrilla plans to begin moving equipment onto the Preston New Road site from Monday 7th March to start work on plugging the two gas exploration wells with cement and removing the valves and surface pipework from the wells and from the site. This work, in industry terminology referred to as “plugging and abandoning” the wells, follows-on from formal notification issued by the Oil and Gas Authority (OGA) in relation to the plugging and abandoning of both wells.”

“Our well plug & abandonment works, which includes the mobilisation and demobilisation of the rig and associated equipment, will be undertaken in accordance with our planning permission.

“The works will be completed in line with all applicable Regulatory and HSE requirements. It is anticipated that it will take approximately 5 weeks from rig set-up to complete the work on both wells.”

Opponents of the site have welcomed the abandonment of the wells.

Frack Free Lancashire said it was:

“pleased to see that work has finally commenced to plug and abandon the fracking wells at Cuadrilla’s Preston New Road site, following the OGA’s formal instruction to do so. We hope that work will be carried out swiftly and without further distress to local residents, who have already endured this insidious industry for far too long, against local democracy and consent.

“We will never get back the time, energy and emotional investment spent battling against the fracking industry and their dirty PR campaign, but we are looking forward to a future where clean and green energy is prioritised over dirty fossil fuels.”

Under its planning permission, Preston New Road is due to be restored to farmland by April 2023. The company has said restoration would take about 12 months.

Susan Holliday, of Preston New Road Action Group, said:

“Cuadrilla have a poor track record of timely site restoration so we will be looking to Lancashire County Council to ensure Cuadrilla meets its obligations at PNR.”

Plugging and abandonment at Preston New Road was announced last month by Cuadrilla’s owner, the Australian mining group, AJ Lucas.

Yesterday, several newspaper reported the work would start on Tuesday 15 March 2022.

Preston New Road has been largely mothballed since August 2019, when fracking caused an earthquake measuring 2.9 on the local magnitude scale.

In November 2019, a moratorium was extended across England because of the uncertainty about fracking-induced seismic activity. The moratorium remains in force.

Last week, the Preston New Road wells were the subject of a parliamentary question from the Conservative MP, Steve Baker. He asked what steps the government would take to prevent plugging and abandoning the wells at Preston New Road.

The energy minister, Greg Hands, replied:

“Gas wells need to be safely decommissioned at the end of their useful life. The Oil and Gas Authority is acting within its statutory remit to require the operator of these wells to decommission them.”

Yesterday, Mr Baker was quoted by the Daily Mail and the Sun saying:

“The minister’s suggestion that these wells are at the end of their useful life is outrageous.. they are ready to produce shale gas so that we can create British jobs and tax revenues, energy security and a faster route to Net Zero.

“The only thing that is causing a problem here is… the state mandating that we pour concrete down Britain’s only shale gas wells at the height of an energy crisis.”