The UK’s only two shale gas wells are to be abandoned after the industry regulator ordered them to be sealed.The Lancashire wells have not been used since 2019 after test drilling was suspended due to earth tremors and the government halted shale gas extraction in England.
The Oil and Gas Authority (OGA) ordered that they now be plugged with concrete. The site’s owners, energy firm Cuadrilla, said the decision was “ridiculous” amid rising gas prices. The wells at Preston New Road were the first to frack horizontally onshore in the UK – a process which releases gas from shale rock.
The process has been controversial and test drilling has been hit by many delays and protests, including one which lasted just short of 100 hours.
After an earthquake with a magnitude of 2.9 was recorded near to the site in August 2019, it was concluded by the OGA it was not possible to predict the size of tremors caused by the practice. The following November, the government halted fracking and exploration with immediate effect.
Cuadrilla’s chief executive Francis Egan said the OGA order “had not been properly thought through” amid an “energy crisis”. “It will be incredibly costly and difficult to rectify this mistake,” he said. “What is more ridiculous is that leaving our own shale gas in the ground will make reducing global emissions even harder.
“Shale gas from the North of England has the potential to meet the UK’s energy needs for decades to come, yet ministers have chosen now, at the height of an energy crisis, to take us to this point.”