An oil and gas engineer has called for fracking companies to impose regulations on the industry to protect residents on the Fylde coast.
Mike Hill, an independent chartered engineer, spoke to more than 300 people during a meeting at Wrea Green’s Ribby Hall, and urged the controversial industry to regulate their drilling as he fears it could be a “disaster” for the Fylde coast.
Mr Hill says he is not against fracking, but is strongly opposed to companies hydraulically fracturing rock deep underground, and pumping chemicals and water into the shale to extract gas without strict safety rules first being imposed by the Environment Agency and Health and Safety Executive.
He said: “This is not right and we have to these regulations in place for the exploratory phase, not just the production phase.
“It could be great for the UK as a whole. Money to the chancellor, money to local councils, local residents and energy security.
“However, we have to balance that against it being a disaster for tourism.
“It could close Ribby Hall, destroy shops, destroy supermarkets and totally industrialise the Fylde coast.” The meeting, organised by anti-fracking group Defend Lytham, was the first of its kinds since Cuadrilla Resources last month announced plans to apply for permission to explore sites at Roseacre Wood, near Wharles and Preston New Road, near Little Plumpton.
Mr Hill also claimed flaring – whereby a flame burns from the top of the well during the process – needs scrutinising because he fears it could be off-putting for residents and visitors. He added: “For a start off flaring doesn’t look very nice and fracking needs flares. You would be looking at 150 flares, 24 hours a day.
“If you start to take these things into account you are looking at some serious problems for Lancashire and the tourism sector will be looking at some serious job losses if fracking goes ahead.”
Residents at the meeting expressed their concerns about the industry’s alleged lack of regulations.
Claire Small, 35, from Freckleton, said: “I’m very concerned about the regulations because we live in Freckleton and can’t believe places like that are being considered.”
Stephen Metherell, 47, of Wrea Green, added: “He knows his stuff and doesn’t seem to be one side or the other, he just wants it to be as safe as possible. It has got to be regulated and have certain standards to work to.”
Sue Marshall, 47, of Ambleside Road, St Annes, said: “There’s nothing I’ve heard tonight to reassure me because I don’t think there’s anything in fracking which people can benefit from.”
A spokesman for Cuadrilla said: “Claims there are no regulations in place for the industry or that it will result in the loss of jobs are not supported by the facts – and strike us as scaremongering.
“Cuadrilla is committed to safely unlocking Lancashire’s energy, which has the potential to boost gas production, reduce our dependency on expensive and unreliable foreign energy sources and constrain gas prices.”
A spokesman for the Environment Agency added: “We are satisfied we have adequate controls in place for the exploratory phase but as the industry develops, we are keeping this under review. Our future work programme will address the regulatory implications for the commercial production phase.”
A spokeswoman for the Heath and Safety Executive said: “HSE applies long-standing regulations to fracking operations. These include the Wells Design and Construction Regulations 1996 (DCR) which apply to drilling wells both off and onshore and the Borehole Sites & Operations Regs, which cover site safety.”