First shale gas produced at controversial fracking site in Lancashire

The first natural gas flow has been produced at the earthquake-hit fracking site in Lancashire.

Energy firm Cuadrilla announced there was ‘the potential of future gas recovery’ at the site, where operations restarted two weeks ago.

The news comes after dozens of earthquakes that have stopped work on several occasions.

‘This is a good early indication of the gas potential that we have long talked about,’ Cuadrilla Chief Executive Francis Egan said.

File photo dated 05/10/18 of a worker at the Cuadrilla fracking site in Preston New Road, Little Plumpton, Lancashire. Cuadrilla has confirmed it will continue fracking at the site despite a further tremor being detected underground. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Issue date: Wednesday October 24, 2018. See PA story ENVIRONMENT Fracking. Photo credit should read: Danny Lawson/PA Wire

Cuadrilla announced they have got gas from their Preston New Road site (Picture: PA)

The news from the Preston New Road site comes amid the controversial return to fracking in the UK by the group.

Campaigners lost an 11th hour High Court challenge and the firm started again on October 16th.

Two days later, earthquakes started and since then there have been 33 quakes, including three that reached levels where drilling operations had to stop.

On Monday, the quake reached 1.1 on the Richter Scale in what was described as a ‘microseismic event’ which was felt by residents.

Fracking, or Hydraulic Fracturing, involves pumping vast quantities of water and chemicals into unstable rock to release combustible gas.

Drilling for shale gas is still at an exploratory phase.

A fracking protester is hurled to the floor by police as she attempts to stop a large HGV lorry bound for the Cuadrilla fracking site on Preston New Road in Blackpool this morning (TUES) - 16th September 2018

A fracking protester is hurled to the floor by police as she attempted to stop a large HGV lorry bound for the Cuadrilla fracking site (Picture: PA)

However, reserves of shale gas have been identified across large swathes of the UK, particularly in northern England.

More than 100 licences have been awarded by the government, allowing firms to pursue a range of oil and gas exploration activities in certain areas.

A government-appointed panel said there could be more tremors as a result of fracking, but they would be too small to do structural damage above ground.

The UK operates a traffic light system, which calls for any fracking to be paused if any tremor of magnitude 0.5 or above is detected.

Cuadrilla said it plans to fully test flow rates from the current two exploration wells towards the end of 2018 and into the New Year to determine whether full-scale gas extraction would be viable.

Fashion designer Dame Vivienne Westwood (4th L) campaigns with fellow anti-fracking protesters gathering near the entrance to the Preston New Road drill site where energy firm Cuadrilla Resources have commenced fracking (hydraulic fracturing) operations to extract shale gas, near the village of Little Plumpton, near Blackpool, north west England on October 16, 2018. - Anti-fracking protesters took to the streets again on Tuesday as work continued on Britain's first horizontal shale-gas well after the High Court in London dismissed a last-minute request for an injunction. (Photo by OLI SCARFF / AFP)OLI SCARFF/AFP/Getty Images

The Preston New Road site has been the focus of much anger by environmental groups and local protesters (Picture: PA)

Fracking is opposed by environmentalists and green groups who say extracting more fossil fuel is at odds with Britain’s commitment to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

But Britain’s government is supportive of the industry and is keen to reduce the country’s reliance on imports of natural gas, which is used to heat around 80 percent of Britain’s homes.

When Theresa May came to power, she announced householders living near shale wells would enjoy a ‘frackpot’ payout of up to £10,000 each.

The British Geological Survey estimates shale gas resources in northern England alone could contain 1,300 trillion cubic feet (tcf) of gas, 10 percent of which could meet the country’s demand for almost 40 years.

Cuadrilla which is 47.4 percent owned by Australia’s AJ Lucas and 45.2 percent owned by a fund managed by Riverstone, first extracted shale gas in England near the coastal town of Blackpool in the northwest in 2011.

However it was stopped for seven years after causing a 2.3 magnitude earth tremor.

The Cuadrilla fracking site in Preston New Road, Little Plumpton, Lancashire where operations are expected to start next week. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Friday October 5, 2018. Preston New Road is the UK's first horizontal shale gas well. See PA story ENVIRONMENT Fracking . Photo credit should read: Danny Lawson/PA Wire

The first gas has been produced by Caudrilla at the site in Lancashire (Picture: PA)

During that time, an angry debate raged over the practice with local residents and environmental campaigners fighting against Cuadrilla’s plan to restart their Lancashire operations.

Lancashire County Council had also been opposed to the plan but the government forced permission through.

Last month, Cuadrilla fought off an 11th hour legal challenge brought by a retired Lancashire businessman, Bob Bennett and fracking restarted within days.

Earlier this week, the energy firm called on the government to relax the traffic light regulatory system to allow it to stop having to halt work when an earthquake reaches 0.5 magnitude.

Mr Egan said the rules meant the government risked ‘strangling’ the industry before it was even born.

However so far the government has refused.