April 3 (UPI) -- The first-ever hydraulic fracturing effort in the United Kingdom is set for the third quarter following well completion in Lancashire, Cuadrilla Resources said.
Cuadrilla said Tuesday it completed the first-ever horizontal shale natural gas well at its exploration site at Preston New Road in Lancashire.
The British government estimates shale basins in the country may hold more than 1.3 quadrillion cubic feet of natural gas, a level the government said could help an economy as natural gas imports are on pace to increase from about 45 percent of demand to 76 percent by 2030.
Shale natural gas development is in its infancy in the country, though the British government moved to fast-track the permit process. Cuadrilla said there is no benchmark yet for drilling into shale basins.
Francis Egan, the company's CEO, said that finishing the first horizontal well in the country is a step toward getting gas flowing to British homes.
"From the data we have amassed so far we are optimistic that, after fracturing the shale rock, natural gas will flow into this horizontal well in commercially viable quantities demonstrating that the U.K.'s huge shale gas resources can be safely produced and contribute to improving the U.K.'s energy security," he said in a statement.
Cuadrilla was the target of widespread protests from opponents of hydraulic fracturing, though the British government has sided in favor of oil and gas companies. The government in 2016 published a 600-page ruling that said shale natural gas work in the country was a national interest.
Ken Cronin, the chief executive at trade group U.K. Onshore Oil and Gas, said in a statement to UPI that Caudrilla's effort was pumping cash into the local economy to the tune of nearly $10 million.
"When we produce our own homegrown gas onshore we will be able to reduce our dependence on costly imports, support our manufacturing industries, create a new source of tax revenue while creating local jobs and investing in local communities," he said.
Hydraulic fracturing has been used for decades, though improved techniques like horizontal drilling have led to considerable production gains for oil and natural gas in the United States. Cuadrilla said it would apply "in the very near future" for the permits necessary to use fracking at its site in Lancashire.
"We plan to be in a position to hydraulically fracture both horizontal wells one and two in the third quarter of this year," the company stated.