The Staffordshire energy giant at the centre of fierce protests over fracking has withdrawn its plans to extend drilling at a site in West Sussex and vowed not to use the controversial technique during testing.
Cuadrilla, which has its headquarters in Lichfield, said work would be halted on the Balcombe site later this month and that it would make a fresh planning application after further consultation.
The firm had initially sought the extension late last month after protests forced a six-day halt to operations at the Lower Stumble site. But the company’s development manager Chris Hird told West Sussex County Council the firm would no longer seek to have its initial drill permit extended beyond September 28.
A flurry of heightened protests over shale gas extraction saw activists storm Cuadrilla’s Stowe Street offices in Lichfield.
Renewed confrontations in Balcombe on Monday by anti-hydraulic fracturing campaigners led to a fresh standstill. In a letter to the council, Mr Hird said: “Cuadrilla has decided to submit a new planning application for its site at Lower Stumble, Balcombe, which will include revised boundary lines showing the extent of the horizontal well which is to be flow tested,” he said.
“The replacement scheme will define the terms of our proposal and will make clear that we do not intend to hydraulically fracture the well during this testing operation.”
Hydraulic fracturing, known as fracking, is used to extract trapped gas by drilling and injecting fluid into the ground at a high pressure in order to fracture shale rocks.
Opponents say it is linked to causing earthquakes and causes environmental pollution and damage. There is no permission to use fracking in the Midlands but the techniques used to extract coal bed methane pose equally dangerous consequences, it is claimed.
West Midlands Friends of the Earth’s campaigner Chris Crean said: “We’re delighted this flawed application has been withdrawn.”