Latest News: 27th February, 2019
Comprehensive environmental data which includes hundreds of thousands of separate air quality readings taken continuously for more than a year has been published by shale gas exploration operator Cuadrilla today.
The company, which operates the UK’s most advanced shale gas exploration site in Preston New Road (PNR), near Blackpool, Lancashire, has posted the data on its website as part of its commitment to transparency and in line with its Environmental Management and Monitoring Plan (EMMP). This is in addition to a range of monitoring data already uploaded to Cuadrilla’s e-portal each month.
Independent specialists have been undertaking continuous air monitoring including recording methane and nitrogen dioxide levels continuously since the beginning of 2018. Independent monitoring was also carried out from February 2016 to January 2018 to establish a ‘baseline’ of levels occurring in the area.
There are hundreds of thousands of readings in total from each stage of the process including the drilling of the two wells and the hydraulic fracturing operations subsequently carried out between mid-October and mid-December 2018. Over the period the results show:
The continuous monitoring site forms part of a wide range of monitoring activity which is carried out at Preston New Road by Cuadrilla, as required by a range of regulators such as Lancashire County Council, the Environment Agency, Health and Safety Executive and Oil and Gas Authority. It was described by Lancashire County Council in December 2018 as “highly detailed and professional monitoring” which has made Preston New Road the most “monitored site in Europe”.
Nick Mace, environmental manager at Cuadrilla, said: “We are very proud of the extensive monitoring programme and the resulting data set being published today. It has worked exceptionally well and the data set is probably the most comprehensive ever gathered at a shale gas exploration site. It shows how seriously we take our environmental responsibilities at Cuadrilla.
“The absolute level of methane emissions over the 12 month reporting period is reassuringly tiny. While there were four instances of somewhat higher methane levels detected at Preston New Road, let me put these into context to reassure people. The instances were short in duration, very low in absolute volume and naturally occurring background methane at this level was also detected before the site existed, so it is not uncommon to see short term spikes in data.
“In addition, there are no health consequences whatsoever from very short term emissions of methane at these low concentrations.”
The on-site air quality monitoring is mirrored by the British Geological Survey (BGS) from a separate base about 450m from site designed to provide academic analysis and public reassurance.