* Up to eight wells to be fracked in northwest England
* Cuadrilla re-focuses on prize assets
* Company to apply for permission to drill, frack first
By Oleg Vukmanovic
LONDON, Feb 4 Britain's shale gas-driller
Cuadrilla Resources plans to hydraulically fracture up to eight
wells at exploration sites in Lancashire, northwest England, to
determine their full production potential.
Its statement is likely to spark opposition from
environmental protesters who had hindered the firm's drilling
plans in the village of Balcombe, south England.
Cuadrilla's latest exploration programe marks a return to
its prize assets in the Bowland shale, a long belt of
gas-bearing rock over one kilometre thick at its Fylde sites in
The company will first apply for permission to drill,
hydralically fracture and test the flow of gas from up to four
exploration wells each at Fylde's Roseacre Wood and Preston New
Road, it said.
"This will allow us to reduce the potential impact on the
local area during exploration while still gathering the
important information we need to determine how much gas could be
recovered," Chief Executive Francis Egan said in a statement.
The rocks of the Bowland shale area are estimated to hold
around 1,300 trillion cubic feet of gas, a vast potential
reserve that proponents say could lead Britain to energy
independence, create jobs and cut bills.
Britain, Europe's largest gas consumer, hopes to follow the
United States into energy independence by exploiting shale gas.
Its gas imports have already surpassed falling domestic North
Sea production, leaving it dependent on foreign suppliers.
While the volume of gas locked up in its rocks is vast,
Cuadrilla and other shale drillers need to test the
recoverability of gas from the Bowland basin before they can
understand its commercial potential.
Typically only 10-15 percent of shale gas trapped in rocks
Shale gas is ordinary natural gas trapped in dense rock
formations. The process of fracking, in which water and
chemicals are pumped deep underground to break open the rocks,
has led to fears it could cause earthquakes and contaminate
Shale gas has helped transform the U.S. energy market,
lowering gas and coal prices, and offers Britain a means of
switching to less polluting energy while bolstering its falling
natural gas production.
Three companies are leading the charge to develop Britain's
shale gas resources: Australia's Dart Energy which is
partnered with GDF Suez, London-listed IGas Energy
and Cuadrilla, a privately owned business partnered
with British utility Centrica.
France's Total also bought a 40 percent interest in two
licences in the so-called Gainsborough Trough area of northern
England for up to $48 million last month.
Britain will launch its latest licensing round to allow
companies to explore for shale gas in early summer.