The Bowland shale basin has the potential to transform Britain’s security of energy supply. “The resource is so big that if it works it will be a 40 to 50-year play.”
Cuadrilla Resources, the company Egan heads, has invested £100m in a different kind of UK transformation, and last week it got the go-ahead from the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, Sajid Javid, to test horizontal hydraulic fracturing for shale gas in Lancashire.
Now, Cuadrilla’s chief executive is buzzing with trademark enthusiasm. “We’ve gone from football to fracking,” he laughs. “I’m very pleased. It’s a very important decision, the right decision.
“This could be an absolute game-changer – one of the biggest gas resources in Europe. If it flows out at a high rate, the UK is sitting on an enormous gas reserve that could heat our houses and cook our food for decades to come.
“The crazy thing is that Ineos has been importing US-fracked gas to Aberdeen. The UK is by far the European leader in oil and gas, yet we’ve been sitting here doing nothing about fracking and convincing ourselves that we can’t do it because it’s too difficult or dangerous. It’s neither.”
On its own, Cuadrilla’s licence in Lancashire has the potential to transform Britain’s security of energy supply. The biggest onshore drilling licence ever granted in the UK, it covers 680 square miles of the Bowland shale basin in Lancashire and is owned in a joint venture with British Gas’s parent, Centrica, and the Australian engineering group AJ Lucas.
Cuadrilla, which is owned by the American private equity group Riverstone and Kerogen Capital, Lucas’s Hong Kong-based majority owner, currently employs 25 people at its head office in Bamber Bridge, Lancashire, and in London. But it says Javid’s decision will see the creation of 200 to 400 jobs in the testing phase.
Work to construct the first test site should start by the end of this year, with exploratory drilling in the first half of 2017 and fracking and testing in the second half of next year.
Egan says the testing will inject at least £20m into the local economy over the next 18 months. If it goes into full-scale production, it will benefit to the tune of “at least a couple of hundred million pounds” at each of the two test sites. “The resource is so big that if it works it will be a 40 to 50-year play,” he says.
Other companies, including Ineos, Total, Third Energy, which won permission in May to test-frack vertically in North Yorkshire, and iGas, which last week had a decision on its bid to drill shale gas wells in Nottinghamshire deferred until November, also have fracking interests in the UK.