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Cuadrilla scraps plan to frack at Balcombe site

Cuadrilla Shale Gas Drilling in U.K.

Cuadrilla’s test drill site in Balcombe, England. Photograph: Leon Neal/AFP/Getty Images


Powered by article titled “Cuadrilla scraps plan to frack at Balcombe site” was written by Fiona Harvey, environment correspondent, for on Thursday 23rd January 2014 20.00 UTC

Cuadrilla is to scrap plans to use controversial fracking technology near the village of Balcombe in Sussex – but only because the rocks at its site already contain natural fractures.

Balcombe was the site of weeks of protest last summer, as Cuadrilla – the UK’s fracking pioneer – moved in to drill an exploratory well to see whether oil could be produced from the site. At the height of the protests, thousands of people joined in the march on the site, and the direct actions taken included protesters blocking the road and chaining themselves to barriers. There were dozens of arrests, including that of the Brighton Green MP, Caroline Lucas.

Cuadrilla had made it clear from the start of its operations that its first plan would be to drill a vertical well at the site to see if oil could be extracted that way, and that if that proved difficult a horizontal well would also be drilled. Fracking would only be used if both those methods proved ineffective, the company said.

Protest Against Fracking in U.K.

A protester holding a sign sits in front of the police line, guarding Cuadrilla’s site in Balcombe. Photograph: Bogdan Maran/EPA

On Thursday, the company wrote to residents of Balcombe and released a statement saying that it was applying for an extension to its planning permission for an exploratory well, but added: “The analysis of the samples we obtained from the exploration well confirmed that the target rock underneath Lower Stumble is naturally fractured. The presence of these natural fractures and the nature of the rock means that we do not intend to hydraulically fracture the exploration well at Lower Stumble now or in the future.”

Green campaigners said the scrapping of the fracking plans did not erase the problem, and said new fossil fuels would increase the threat from climate change. Friends of the Earth’s South East campaigner Brenda Pollack said: “While residents will undoubtedly be relieved that Cuadrilla has ruled out fracking at its Balcombe site, the community still faces the prospect of significant industrial activity on its doorstep. Local people will want more information about Cuadrilla’s plans and the potential impacts on their community and environment.”

Cuadrilla Shale Gas Drilling Site in U.K.

A site at Westby near Lytham on the Fylde coast in Lancashire where Cuadrilla plans to explore for shale gas. Photograph: Christopher Thomond for The Guardian

She said: “The threat of fracking elsewhere in Sussex has not disappeared, with applications for drilling in Fernhurst and Wisborough Green by Celtique Energy. With mounting evidence of the threat climate change poses to our environment and economy, we should be developing clean energy solutions, not more dirty fossil fuels.”

Vanessa Vine of Frack-Free Sussex, who lives four miles from the site, told the Guardian many people were still highly concerned, and that the difficulty of defining fracking meant that some of the technologies that are still likely to be used at the site amounted to fracking by other terms.


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