Financial Time October 31st, 2018
The head of the energy company that is seeking to become the first in the UK to start commercial fracking for gas has warned the government that its regulatory system risks “strangling” the nascent industry.
Francis Egan, chief executive of Cuadrilla, called on the government to relax operating rules that have forced the company to halt work several times after it unleashed earth tremors at its fracking site in northern England.
Fracking has revolutionised the US energy industry, and Cuadrilla is hoping to replicate this success in the UK, although it has encountered strong opposition from environmental protesters worried about pollution and earthquakes.
Since it began fracking tests on October 15 at its Little Plumpton site near Blackpool, Cuadrilla has caused 31 tremors, including three that were of sufficient magnitude under its operating rules to require the company to stop work.
Mr Egan said the government needed to move “within weeks” to relax the rules covering Cuadrilla or it may never discover if the UK’s shale gas resources are commercially viable.
“It could be strangled before birth, this thing,” he told the Financial Times.
Hydraulic fracturing — or fracking — involves pumping water, sand and chemicals deep under the ground at high pressure to release gas from rock formations, often in wells that run horizontally rather than vertically.
Under Cuadrilla’s operating licence, the company has signed up to a so-called traffic light system devised by the government that requires it to stop work if activity above 0.5 on the Richter seismic scale — a level imperceptible to humans — is detected.
Over the past two weeks, three tremors measuring more than 0.5 have been recorded — the highest one being 1.1. These three constitute “red lights” that require a halt to operations.
Mr Egan said the government should allow Cuadrilla to maintain operations amid tremors measuring up to 2.0 on the Richter scale — a level he insisted would pose no risk of damage to the surrounding area.
Other countries including Canada and the US allow seismic activity well above 2.0, he added.