Gas plans could mean jobs boost

Picture by Gabriel Szabo/Guzelian'Cuadrilla Resources' shale gas drilling operation near Preston, Lancashire, seen across a field of cabbages.''Cuadrilla Resources, which is test drilling for shale gas in Lancashire is due to reveal today (21 September 2011) whether any reserves buried below ground can be developed.'In March Cuadrilla began testing for gas at Banks using an extraction technique known as "fracking".'The controversial process was suspended in June after two earth tremors on the Fylde coast.'Cuadrilla will announce an estimate of how much gas is in place in the region later.
Picture by Gabriel Szabo/Guzelian'Cuadrilla Resources' shale gas drilling operation near Preston, Lancashire, seen across a field of cabbages.''Cuadrilla Resources, which is test drilling for shale gas in Lancashire is due to reveal today (21 September 2011) whether any reserves buried below ground can be developed.'In March Cuadrilla began testing for gas at Banks using an extraction technique known as "fracking".'The controversial process was suspended in June after two earth tremors on the Fylde coast.'Cuadrilla will announce an estimate of how much gas is in place in the region later.

THIS could be the shape of things to come over a wide area of the Fylde Coast, Wyre and Bowland, bringing hundreds of jobs and millions of pounds into the north Lancashire economy.

If it gets off the ground - or rather under the ground - the shale gas revolution could prompt one of the biggest jobs boosts ever in the district, as well as local controversy because of fears it could prompt geological instability.

Shale gas drilling company Cuadrilla Resources has revealed it wants to expand its operations, in a move that could bring 1,700 jobs to the area.

Company boss Mark Miller said he believes shale gas could have the same impact on the area as North Sea oil had on Aberdeen in the 1970s.

Local councils could benefit too, Cuadrilla claims, with £120m forecast to be paid to them over 30 years as part of a £6bn boost to the UK economy.

It is the first time Cuadrilla – which set up the UK’s first shale gas drilling rigs in two South Fylde villages – has revealed its exploratory drilling has reaped rewards, with the company announcing there is 200 trillion cubic feet of gas in their area.

The company already has a licence to explore a huge area - Blackpool and Fleetwood in the west, Goosnargh and parts of Chipping and Longridge to the east, Southport to the south and Preesall and Pilling to the north.

Cuadrilla don’t yet know how much of that they can access, but the discovery has given the company confidence to reveal a masterplan.

Mr Miller said: “The most positive thing is this is a new industry from the private sector.

“This is going to create highly skilled jobs – that’s the biggest news and what it really brings to the community.

“This is not short-term, it is long-term and will build a real talent base of people.

Currently Cuadrilla has sites in Singleton and Weeton, and has a licence to begin drilling in Westby.

It is also responsible for an existing gas site in Elswick, but has not confirmed which areas could be home to more permanent commercial sites.

A Caudrilla spokesman told the Courier/News the company would then need planning permission from the county council for any such activity.

He added: “Nothing is planned. There are no specific sites known about, which does not mean to say there won’t be.”

The news of the company’s hopes came despite fracking – the drilling process – remaining suspended while earthquakes on the Fylde Coast earlier this year are investigated.

Cuadrilla will confirm next summer whether it does want to drill commercially in parts of Lancashire, and, subject to securing Department of Energy and Climate Change approval and planning permission, hopes to start work in 2013.

The company anticipates it will have 10 drill rigs with 40 “pads” – sites which will each have 10 wells on them – which will be developed over nine years before producing gas for between 30 and 50 years.

Across the UK 5,600 jobs will be created.

Mr Miller added: “(The amount of gas) is a large number and it has our interest to the point where we can start to think about what it will look like going forward and developing.

“It’s possible we may use some of the sites already in place for development pads and if not those it will be ones like those.”

Mr Miller re-iterated fracking was safe – and the sites will be barely noticeable.

He added: “What we really want to get across is they will be really hard to see from the air and will blend well into the countryside – when you’re walking your dog or driving past you won’t see them.

“It’s safe, the way we do things is fundamentally different to the way things are done in America.

“When people go on the internet and see alarming pictures that doesn’t apply here – we do things differently and the regulatory process is different.”

But not everyone is happy about Cuadrilla’s announcement.

Phil Thornhill, from the Campaign Against Climate Change, said: “We want to stop this before it expands.

“We think any jobs should be in renewable energy.”