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Anti-fracking protesters took to the streets on Monday as work began on Britain’s first horizontal shale-gas well after the High Court in London dismissed a last-minute request for an injunction.
Energy firm Cuadrilla said it had started hydraulic fracturing on Monday at its Preston New Road site in Lancashire, northwest England, with workers having to file past around 200 demonstrators.
‘Hydraulic fracturing of both horizontal exploration wells is expected to last three months after which the flow rate of the gas will be tested,’ said a Cuadrilla spokesman.
The project has attracted much controversy and was opposed by local authorities, residents and environmentalists, who launched legal action to block operations.
Fashion designer Vivienne Westwood, a leading environmental campaigner, is planning a protest at the site on Tuesday.
Cuadrilla’s first attempt at fracking seven years ago was ended after it triggered minor earthquakes, putting their plans on hold while more stringent measures were put in place.
But High Court judge Michael Supperstone ruled on Friday that he did ‘not consider that any of the grounds of challenge raise a serious issue to be tried’.
But that did not deter opponents from turning out on Monday.
‘It’s the tip of the iceberg,’ anti-fracking protester Sam Riches, from nearby Lancaster, told AFP.
‘There is so much more if this goes then everywhere is up for grabs, basically about the only place that won’t be being drilled is under the Houses of Parliament,’ she added.
‘I feel, as somebody in my 50s now, that my generation has so badly let down future generations,’ she added.
Cuadrilla has completed two horizontal shale-gas wells – 2,300 metres and 2,100 metres below the surface, at the site.
It will test the flow of natural gas within the wells, with initial results expected in the new year.
‘If commercially recoverable this will displace costly imported gas, with lower emissions, significant economic benefit and better security of energy supply for the UK,’ Francis Egan, CEO of Cuadrilla, said in a statement.
Fracking uses hydraulic pressure to break up underground rock, allowing the flow of previously trapped gas.
Locals and environmentalists argue that fracking damages tourism, contaminates water supplies, hurts wildlife, causes earthquakes and contributes to global climate change.