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Cuadrilla in talks with United Utilities over shale gas

23 July 2013

UK water company United Utilities is in talks with Cuadrilla Resources over potential exploration of shale gas on its land. The company could let Cuadrilla hydraulically fracture, or frack, for shale gas on some of the 141,000 acres it owns in northwest England, according to the Daily Telegraph.

United Utilities' area of operation in north-west England
United Utilities' area of operation in north-west England

The two companies are "looking at potential opportunities for working together," a spokeswoman for United Utilities told the Telegraph. "The fact that we are a large landowner in the North West means we could possibly help with site selection."

The company is looking at a potential six new sites in the Bowland Basin, a Cuadrilla official told Bloomberg. Part of that search is to identify where the water would come from for its operations, which require about 2.1 million gallons per hydraulically fractured well, he added.

Cuadrilla said the amount of water it is seeking for fracking is less than half of 1 percent of what United Utilities supplies in a day. Using the utility’s supplies would help limit the number of water tankers on the roads.

The collaboration comes shortly after industry body Water UK warned fracking could lead to groundwater contamination and strain water supplies.

Drinking water quality "must be protected at all costs", said policy adviser Jim Marshall. "If [fracking] goes ahead, we want to ensure corners are not cut and standards compromised, leaving us all counting the cost for years to come."

A United Utilities spokeswoman said: "Clearly public health is a top priority, but we are encouraged by the government's support for shale gas exploration because that means it is committed to a robust regulatory regime that will ensure the public water supply is protected." 

In another development, on July 25 protesters blocked the entrance to a shale gas site near Balcombe in West Sussex, stopping deliveries of equipment by site operator Cuadrilla.

In a statement about its Balcombe operation, the energy company said: "Cuadrilla plans to drill and take samples of the underground rock in a vertical well drilled to approximately 3,000 feet, with a possible horizontal leg of 2,500 feet. The delivery over the four days is of the rig and other supporting equipment such as drill collars, steel casing, cementing equipment."

The blockade may delay the planned start of drilling at the site on July 29.

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