Fracking company Cuadrilla says it has identified shale gas of the “highest quality” at its controversial operation in Lancashire, UK.

The firm has been conducting analysis of natural gas collected at its Preston New Road exploration and drilling site — specifically its second horizontal well (PNR2), 7,500 feet beneath the surface.

The Upper Bowland shale deposit is estimated to contain around 1,300 trillion cubic feet of natural gas, according to the British Geological Survey.

Cuadrilla says test flow analysis of the gas locked away inside has been “very encouraging”, and that it is potentially suitable for immediate integration into UK gas networks.

In August, all fracking operations at the Preston site were suspended after a series of earthquakes – the largest measuring 2.9 on the Richter Scale – were caused by the activity.

The firm has since apologised for the incident, and has restricted its operations to flow testing at the site, which has been underway since mid-October.


Cuadrilla claims UK is sitting on a ‘huge’ high-quality shale gas resource

Cuadrilla CEO Francis Egan said: “We have previously taken and analysed gas samples from our Preese Hall site as well as the first horizontal well at Preston New Road, both of which showed high-quality natural gas rich in methane.

“The gas samples taken from the PNR2 well are, however, even better than earlier well samples.

“They demonstrate a natural gas resource in the Upper Bowland shale that is virtually free from impurities and has a high calorific value (heating value) containing approximately 89% methane, 6% ethane and 2% propane.

“Once separated out at surface from any accompanying water this gas could, we believe, flow directly into the UK’s extensive onshore gas transportation network without requiring additional treatment or processing.”

Ongoing testing will continue, according to the chief executive, who claimed the results collected so far indicate the UK is “sitting on a huge natural gas resource of the highest quality”.


Preston New Road project has been the target of anti-fracking protests

The Cuadrilla project in the northern English county of Lancashire has become the poster-child for anti-fracking sentiment in the UK, with many local residents and environmental groups opposed to its shale gas exploration activities.

Last week, a report from the UK government’s own spending watchdog revealed an estimated £13.4m ($17.4m) has been spent on policing fracking sites around the country amid public protests – the most prominent of which have been at Caudrilla’s Preston New Road.

But the company’s chief executive remained bullish on the potential for natural gas in the UK, saying it would play a significant role in helping the country meet its net-zero targets for 2050.

He added: “Given the continued requirement for significant volumes of natural gas in the UK out to 2050 and beyond, highlighted by the recent Committee of Climate Change Net Zero report, the case for using high-quality locally-sourced natural gas supply over expensive, increasingly distant, potentially insecure and higher CO2-emitting imports remains stronger than ever.”

In August, the company announced it would apply to Lancashire County Council for permission to extend its fracking operations at Preston New Road beyond its current November 2019 deadline until 2021 – although currently activity remains suspended while the UK’s Oil & Gas Authority investigates the earth tremors.