Cuadrilla Delays Shale Gas Testing at U.K. Site Until Next Year

Cuadrilla Resources Ltd., the driller leading efforts to develop U.K. shale fields, delayed testing at a site in northwest England until 2014 to undertake an environmental assessment.

From now on, Cuadrilla will complete a full environmental impact assessment at every site where it wants to drill, use hydraulic fracturing and test flows, the Lichfield, England-based company said today in an e-mailed statement. The driller said in January it planned to fracture and test a well at Anna’s Road near Blackpool this year.

“We recognize that within the complex U.K. regulatory framework governing planning this process can prove lengthy,” it said in the statement. “We are determined to spare no effort in meeting our exploration targets in an environmentally and socially sustainable manner.”

The delay is a potential setback for the development of shale production in the U.K. after the government lifted a moratorium on hydraulic fracturing, known as fracking, in December. Cuadrilla, part-owned by private equity firm Riverstone Holdings LLC, says its licenses hold as much 200 trillion cubic feet of gas, more than Iraq’s total reserves. Fracking was halted in the U.K. after Cuadrilla started earth tremors in 2011.

Cuadrilla will continue exploratory testing at its Banks site in Lancashire this year, the company said. It plans to add temporary exploration sites this year and next to assess flow rates from the shale, according to today’s statement.

Cuadrilla is in advanced talks to sell a stake, AJ Lucas Group Ltd. of Australia, its other shareholder, said last month. Total SA and Royal Dutch Shell Plc may invest in shale gas in the U.K., company executives have said.

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