SHALE gas firm Cuadrilla yesterday said it would suspend fracking operations at one of its three drilling sites, pending an environmental assessment.
Cuadrilla said it will now only start fracking – the process where water and chemicals are pumped into shale rock at high pressure to extract gas – in Lancashire next year, once it has carried out an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA).
The delay poses a potential setback for the development of shale gas in the UK.
Cuadrilla said that the delay was part of a new plan to complete a full environmental impact assessment at every site where it wants to drill going forward.
The firm emphasised however that there were no safety concerns at the site.
“We are determined to spare no effort in meeting our exploration targets in an environmentally and socially sustainable manner,” Cuadrilla said in a statement.
Chief executive Francis Egan said that the assessments could be “lengthy” but should be finished by next year.
He said Cuadrilla’s explorations in Lancashire’s Bowland basin suggested gas with a market value of £136bn was present.
And he added that explorations have already found the 1,200 sq km licence area holds at least 200 trillion cubic feet of gas.
Cuadrilla is now looking for planning consent for drilling, hydraulic fracturing and flow testing to take place.
The government lifted a moratorium on fracking last December.