Cuadrilla to apply for more Lancashire fracking sites

image captionFracking was temporarily suspended in the UK

Shale gas company Cuadrilla is to apply for planning consent to carry out more test drilling in Lancashire.

It intends to apply for planning consent to hydraulically fracture and test the shale gas at its existing exploration well at Grange Hill.

Cuadrilla also hopes with its partner Centrica to apply for consent to test drill at up to six new Fylde sites.

Opponents claim water used in the fracking process will be contaminated and could enter domestic supplies.

Francis Egan, Cuadrilla's chief executive, said: "We want to let everyone know what is happening over the next couple of years.

"There is a lot of gas in the ground in Lancashire and we need to drill a few more wells to answer the question that everyone keeps asking which is 'how much gas is there?' That's the purpose of the programme."

A recent survey by the British Geological Survey (BGS) said shale gas resources in Bowland Basin, which stretches under Cheshire, Lancashire, Greater Manchester, Merseyside and Yorkshire, may be double previous estimates.

The BGS report, published for the government, on 27 June estimates there may be 1,300 trillion cubic feet of shale gas present.

Tina Rothery, from anti-fracking group Residents Action on Fylde Fracking, she was "deeply concerned" at the expansion plans.

She said: "There is no way that this can be done safely.

"We have researched this for the last a year and a half and have found no assurance of safety.

She added: "This is a huge risk for financial gain."

The future on the firm's Anna's Road site in St Annes is yet to be decided. A spokesman for the firm said drilling was suspended in September at the site when a tool got stuck.

Birds issue

However, Mr Egan said the problem was restrictions imposed to protect wintering birds.

He said: "There is a well-known wintering bird issue close to the Anna's Road site which restricts the period we can work.

"Pretty much six months of the year there is a restriction on being able to work on the site which limits your operational flexibility somewhat."

He added: "We prefer to start at sites that don't have an issue like that."

The government announced shale gas drilling areas will get £100,000 in "community benefits" and 1% of revenues last month.

Fracking, or hydraulic fracturing, involves the injection of highly pressurised fluids into shale to extract gas.

It was temporarily banned in the UK after it was blamed for two earth tremors in Blackpool in 2011.

A government review has now concluded fracking is safe if adequately monitored.

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