Cuadrilla has said today that it expects to start hydraulically fracturing the shale rock around the first of its two horizontal shale gas exploration wells at its Preston New Road site in Lancashire in the next week.
It said the fracking process at Preston New Road will take three months to complete for both exploration wells.
The fracturing of the shale rock, over 2km deep in the earth using water sand and chemicals, will release the natural gas in the shale to flow up the wellbore to the surface.
It will be the first UK horizontal well ever fracked and the first gas fracking in the UK since the earth tremors centred near Blackpool which occurred after the fracking at Cuadrilla's Preese Hall site.
Cuadrilla said the flow rate of the gas will be tested over six months with initial results expected in the first quarter of next year.
Francis Egan, chief executive of Cuadrilla, said:“The start of hydraulic fracturing is the final milestone in the journey to assessing the flow rates of natural gas from our Lancashire shale exploration wells.
"On completion of hydraulic fracturing and commencement of gas flow, we expect to have, in the first quarter of next year, an initial assessment of how much natural gas is likely to be recoverable from these first Lancashire shale wells.
"This will allow us to make an assessment of the commercial viability and future of this exploration site. Lancashire has benefited to date from over £11m of investment generated by
our exploration operations.
"This investment will grow very significantly if we move from exploration into commercial production.
"We are confident the flow rates will demonstrate Lancashire can play a major and leading role in safely providing a new source of natural gas for the UK. This cannot come a moment too soon as we currently rely on imports for over 50 per cent of the gas that we all need to heat our homes and offices and generate electricity.
"Producing natural gas from shale will generate investment and new jobs and provide an environmentally preferable alternative to importing gas over long distances by ship or pipeline or to burning coal to generate electricity.”