Cuadrilla Resources

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Cuadrilla Resources is an energy company set up in 2007 and based in Lancashire. It has pioneered the shale gas industry's efforts to kick-start fracking across the UK, employing a raft of heavyweight lobbyists and enjoying easy access to government ministers.

In the first half of 2018 Cuadrilla drilled two horizontal wells into UK shale rock at its Preston New Road (PNR) site in the parish of Westby-with-Plumptons, in the Fylde, Lancashire.

In May the company submitted an application to the Secretary of State for the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy for consent to hydraulically fracture the UK’s first ever horizontal shale gas well at PNR. [1] Cuadrilla received the green light in July, and in October 2018 it began fracking after a seven-year pause.

Cuadrilla currently has eight sites in the Lancashire Bowland shale gas exploration licence area. Only one, so far, is operational.

Background

Cuadrilla is a UK-registered company privately owned by its management team (10%) and two investors, the Australian drilling and engineering company AJ Lucas (45%) and former BP CEO John Browne's Riverstone LLC (45%). It is backed by British Gas.

In 2017 the firm employed 'some 70 staff' in the UK both directly and through contractors, mostly based at the well sites. The main contracting partner in the UK is PR Marriott Drilling Ltd in Chesterfield, which has over 60 years of drilling experience in Britain'. [2]

Cuadrilla reported it made a loss of $17.68 million in 2015, caused in large part by the ongoing delays to get fracking underway at its sites. [3]

History of fracking

'Earth tremors' in Blackpool

Anti-fracking protest at Balcombe in 2013

In November 2011, a damning report commissioned by Cuadrilla revealed the company's own fracking operations at Banks, near Merseyside, were the 'probable' cause of 50 separate earthquake tremors in the Blackpool area from earlier in the year.

The announcement proved controversial for the entire industry, and soon forced the company to stop work after the government implemented a moratorium on fracking while it reviewed the implications of the report. [4] This was later lifted in December 2012, despite mounting public concern. [5]

Cuadrilla's attempt to resume exploration elsewhere in summer 2013 at Balcombe in Sussex were met by strong protests from local residents and campaign groups. In a significant victory for the anti-fracking lobby and local communities, Cuadrilla announced in October 2013 that it would pull out from its site in Blackpool after the continued disruption made production commercially non-viable. [6]

The battle for Lancashire

Protests outside Lancashire County Hall in Preston 2015

In July 2013, Cuadrilla announced it would divest its focus from West Sussex to the Fylde area of Lancashire. [7] The company's lengthy application process to frack in Lancashire was the subject of much protest, and saw a series of government and lobbying initiatives successfully over-ride local democracy.

In February 2014, the company submitted applications to drill and frack eight shale wells at sites in Preston New Road and at nearby Roseacre Wood, [8]however, these were rejected by members of Lancashire County Council's development control committee in June 2015. [9]The company appealed the decision.

Six months after Lancashire council's refusal, Conservative ministers gave themselves new powers to override local council planning decisions. A leaked letter from July 2015, signed Amber Rudd, Greg Clark and Liz Truss revealed the proposals to remove the decision making powers from the council were tabled very shortly after the council refused permission to Cuadrilla, so that the decision could be reversed. [10] A subsequent public inquiry into Cuadrilla's appeal against the rejected planning applications, held in February - March 2016, saw the determination eventually passed onto the government's communities and planning secretary Greg Clark[11] who was later replaced by Sajid Javid in July 2016.

In October 2016 Javid ruled to uphold the appeal, paving the way for shale gas production at Preston New Road from 2017.[12] The application for the Roseacre Wood site is still undetermined. Cuadrilla began construction of the Preston fracking site in January 2017. [13]

In November 2016, it was revealed that the government deliberately delayed the release of a damning report on fracking until after the decisions on Cuadrilla's applications were taken, thereby favouring the company's appeal in 2015. The report cites significant risks to human health, house prices, tourism and farming caused by the shale gas industry. [14] The government previously released a heavily redacted version of the report, which excluded the risk assessment. [15]

Fighting anti-fracking campaigners

Tina Rothery

Cuadrilla has engaged in efforts to disparage and undermine residential groups and green campaigners who oppose fracking, going so far as to launch a series of legal disputes against individuals who have led local protests.

In March 2014, Green party MP Caroline Lucas faced trial in the High Court after being arrested for wilful obstruction of a highway outside the Cuadrilla site in Balcombe. [16] She was found not guilty a month later. [17]

In June 2016, Cuadrilla launched a lawsuit against prominent anti-fracking campaigner Tina Rothery for £55,000. Alongside the protest group 'the Nanas', Rothery occupied a field near Blackpool being considered for fracking, which the company had rented from a local farmer. [18] She refused to pay the fee, and was then held in contempt of court. In December 2016 however, she was found not guilty and was spared jail and the fine. [19]

Breaching planning laws to 'avoid protests' in cooperation with police

In July 2017 after a month of anti-fracking protests, lock-ons and 'slow walks' at the Preston New Road site, Cuadrilla's drilling rig was delivered overnight 'to avoid protests', in breach of planning permission. This prompted Lancashire county council to warn Cuadrilla it was considering action against it.

Cuadrilla argued it had opted to deliver outside of its permitted hours to 'minimise' the disruption at the site, and claimed it had done so in consultation with the police.[20]

Injunctions against protestors

In June 2018 Cuadrilla was awarded at the High Court in Manchester an interim injunction covering protest activity against their shale gas exploration operations at the Preston New Road site near Little Plumpton.

At a two-day hearing in early July, campaigners and locals argued that this injunction prevented meaningful protest and was too onorous. However, Judge Pelling QC said the struck the right balance and awarded Cuadrilla and local farmers an extension until June 1, 2020. The Gazette reported that:

The injunction bans blockade of the entrance and nearby road and suppliers’ sites, slow walking in front of delivery trucks or climbing on vehicles and trespass on the site. It does not prevent people standing on the roadside. [21]

Constituencies including Cuadrilla licences

Cuadrilla was awarded eight shale licences across 18 licence blocks by the Oil and Gas Authority under the 14th licensing round in 2015. The constituencies covering these licensed areas include:

Lobbying and spin

Cuadrilla's 'quiet word' with government ministers over waste management regulations

Smith (left), Paterson (centre) and Browne (right)

In March 2014, a Freedom of Information request revealed that former UK environment secretary Owen Paterson convened an 'urgent high-level' meeting for Cuadrilla's former chairman Lord Browne with the chair of the Environment Agency (EA) Lord Smith, and other government executives. The meeting was organised on Browne's behalf in order to challenge waste management regulations that applied to the company's operations, after a series of correspondence that included Cuadrilla's chief executive and former energy minister Michael Fallon.

At Browne's request, Smith offered to fast-track Cuadrilla's consultation for an environmental permit, as well as to intervene in any county council decision that jeopardised Cuadrilla's interests. The meeting also jubilantly discussed the UK's successful lobbying attempts in the EU to defeat attempts to set legally binding environmental regulations for the continent's shale gas industry. [22]

The disclosures, which had been redacted from meeting minutes released by the Environment Agency, showed a conflict of interest, especially given Lord Browne's role as the government's lead non-executive director. Green campaigners subsequently questioned the integrity of the EA.

Sponsoring 'expert' consensus

After stepping down from his EA role Lord Smith went on to head the industry-sponsored Task Force on Shale Gas, a so-called independent body bankrolled by Cuadrilla and other oil and gas firms. [23] The group which received some £650,000 from the fracking firms, claimed it would 'assess the existing evidence, ask for new contributions and lead a national conversation' surrounding fracking, providing 'impartial opinions on the impacts, good and bad, that the exploitation of shale gas will have on the UK'.

In practice, the group has authored a series of reports that have recommended expansion of the shale industry in the UK. Lobbying firm Edelman manages the Task Force's Secretariat. The group has been criticised as yet another cog in the fracking industry's efforts to manufacture 'expert' consensus on the practice of fracking.

Sponsorship and advertising in schools and sports clubs

November 2017 Cuadrilla magazine distributed to local residents: Source: Claire Stephenson on Twitter
A key prong of Cuadrilla's strategy to win over local communities in the areas where it operates has been by sponsoring schools and local sports activities. Most recently this has included controversial sponsorship of the 2017 'Gazette Education Awards, specifically the category award for 'top headteacher' on the Fylde coast according to a magazine distributed to local residents (see righthand image) and the local press. [24]

Cuadrilla's own website sports a glossy image of young teens in school uniforms with Cuadrilla boss Francis Egan handing them trophies as part of their prize for the 'Young Engineers Competition' in Lancashire. The firm has sponsored these £12,000 awards for the past five years: the aim, it says, is 'to improve STEM facilities within schools and 'foster the engineers of the future'. Cuadrilla argues that: 'Creating new skills and jobs is one of our top priorities as we aim to meet the challenge of supplying cost-effective, secure and safe energy for the future.

The website also details its sports donations:

We are also delighted to be sponsoring the AFC Fylde Community Foundation’s ‘Train Like A Pro’ football development programme for 240 young people in Lancashire opportunity to experience what it’s like to be a professional athlete, while gaining vital life skills. The programme works with 12 local partners to select young people from across Blackpool, Fylde and Wyre to take part in the initiative, which has been designed to provide equal and inclusive access to sports and enrichment programmes to children from disadvantaged backgrounds. [25]

The Train like a Pro programme was gifted £5000 according to Cuadrilla's community donations list; the AFC Fylde Club was also given wider sponsorship of £17,600 in 2016. [26]

Attendee at energy minister's May 2018 shale gas roundtable

Energy minister Claire Perry hosted a May 2018 roundtable with the fracking industry just hours before she gave evidence to a committee of MPs on the Conservative government's proposed changes to relax the rules on shale gas development in the UK.

A 'reconstructed' attendee list was released under the freedom of information act to North Yorkshire resident Jonathan Bales following an internal review of the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy's initial almost completely redacted FOI response. [27]

Oil and gas companies at the roundtable included:

Other industries and organisations: Chemical Industries Association chemical company SABIC, Coalfield Regeneration Trust, Engineering Employers’ Federation, GMB. [28]

Key lobbying firms and consultants

"Meet the Frackers: a Spinwatch lobbying tour"
Since 2011, Cuadrilla has employed a raft of lobbying, PR and planning consultants to help it persuade politicians and local communities to accept its shale gas explorations. Learn more about the key players by watching our latest video.

PPS

Lobbyists and planning consultants PPS started working with Cuadrilla in early 2011, representing both its Cuadrilla Bowland Ltd and Cuadrilla Balcombe Ltd subsidiaries. In the early years Paul Kelly and Nick Sutcliffe were communications consultants and directors at PPS; Sutcliffe was also a local politician for Guildford District Council.

In 2012 PPS produced a brochure for Cuadrilla, titled Summer 2012 Exploring For Natural Gas: Cuadrilla Resources is exploring for natural gas in Lancashire which the Advertising Standards Authority found contained misleading and exaggerated claims that breached CAP code. [29] This was despite PPS' proclaimed communication strategy that since 2011 it 'has focused on making Cuadrilla and its operations as transparent as possible so that the government, media and opinion-formers could gain trust in the company’s corporate governance and technology'.

Hanover Communications

Cuadrilla has used this influential lobbying agency led by Charles Lewington since March 2013. [30] In February 2014 Lewington was spotted socialising with the climate sceptic Tory environment secretary Owen Paterson and former energy minister Charles Hendry at the Intercontinental Hotel bar in Park Lane, London. [31]

The official UK government registrar for lobbying shows Hanover as having recorded ministerial contact for Cuadrilla as a client for all quarters since April 2015 to the quarter ending March 2017. [32]

Westbourne Communications

Westbourne, run by Conservative peer Lord James Bethell, has worked on the Cuadrilla account since late 2013. [33]

In June 2015, Westbourne was forced to deny it had set up a pro-fracking 'astroturf' group on behalf of Cuadrilla. Press releases featured in the mainstream media showed eight students holding a 'Students for Shale' banner on the steps of Lancashire Country Council, ahead of the councils' debate on whether to allow fracking in the region.

The Morning Star criticised these pro-shale geology students for having vested interests in fracking given they were hoping to get jobs in the industry. One student also attended Blackpool and Fylde College, a designated national training centre for the onshore gas sector since 2014, supported by Cuadrilla and partner energy giant Centrica.

Westbourne account director, Maurice Cousins, denied deliberately using Lancashire geology students to try to show positive public support for fracking. He said: 'I do not understand what the issue is. We are transparent and not misleading. The students are within their rights to their opinions'. Cousins also accused the newspaper of 'harassing' students.[34]

Westbourne also ran the North West Energy Task Force (NWETF), a ‘local’ lobby group set up by Centrica and Cuadrilla to push the business case for fracking in Lancashire. Emails released by Defra under freedom of information rules reveal that in May 2014 an unnamed Westbourne staffer wrote to Guy Robinson, a special adviser to the then environment secretary Owen Paterson, to request a meeting on ‘shale gas and farming’. The lobbyist, whose name is redacted but mentions NWETF is a client, was ‘working on a research paper exploring the potential benefits of shale gas developments to farmers’. He/she wanted ‘to discuss some of the findings’ over ‘some lunch or a brief coffee’ ahead of a launch event. [35]

Cuadrilla is also a core sponsor of a new pro-shale group Lancashire for Shale, accused by local campaigners as another front group and shill for the industry. Its steering group includes most of the steering group listed on the now mothballed NWETF.

Bell Pottinger Public Affairs

Bell Pottinger provided public affairs advice to Cuadrilla from May 2013 until February 2014. During this time one of its PR executives, Mark Linder, was also responsible for Cuadrilla's corporate development. [36] In August 2013 at the height of the Balcombe protests, anti-fracking protestors made national headlines by supergluing themselves to Bell Pottinger's London headquarters. [37]BPPA appears to have lost the account after February 2014, although continues to lobby on behalf of Cuadrilla part-owner Centrica, whose account it has handled for several years.

The ongoing relationship with Centrica prompted anti-fracking campaigners to target Bell's London offices once again in April 2017, where a group dressed in animal masks occupied the firm's lobby to 'expose' what they call the agency's "continual support for fracking" as part of a two-week action aimed at companies involved in the fracking supply chain. Reclaim the Power activist Ash Hewitson told PR Week companies like Bell Pottinger were 'crucial' for the fracking industry. 'Through their partnership with Cuadrilla and Centrica, they work to further the fracking agenda and suppress the stories of resistance and opposition on the ground,' he said. The group They threw leaves, spread manure and sprayed 'squid ink' on the windows. [38]

Lexington Communications

Lexington has listed Cuadrilla as a client since September-November 2015 and appears on the APPC Register as recently as 31 May 2017. [39] The agency handles the energy company's 'Community Liaison Grou' and 'community information line'. IGas, another major fracking firm, has also been a registered client with Lexington. [40]

Portland Communications

Cuadrilla was a registered client with Portland from March-May 2015 until June-August 2016.

People

Active (as of January 2017)

Francis Egan, Cuadrilla CEO

Former

  • Mark Miller - Director and VP, appointed in December 2012 and resigned in February 2013. From the USA, he founded and ran Eastern Reservoir Service until 2005.
  • Lord Browne - Chairman, resigned in March 2015. Managing partner of Riverstone Holdings, the venture capital firm that backs it. Now chairman of L1 Energy, an oil and gas firm backed by Russian billionaire Mikhail Fridman.
  • Peter Turner - Company secretary & director, appointed January 2008 and resigned February 2013. Managed its exploration activities in mainland Europe. Turner is a former academic who headed the Petroleum Geosciences Unit at the University of Birmingham. He holds a B.Sc, a PhD and an honory D.Sc in Geology and has written over 150 publications and books. Europe, North Africa, the Middle East and the Americas.
  • Anthony Carruthers - Commercial director, appointed in April 2012 and resigned in August 2015. Previously commercial manager East Africa for Tullow Oil from September 2010 – March 2012. Now a director of Forty Green Energy Ltd.[44]
  • Dennis Carlton - Director, appointed in March 2009 and resigned in February 2013. From the USA, he founded and ran Evergreen Resources until 2004. He led the successful development of coal bed methane in Colorado; his exploits appear in Gasland.
  • Eric Vaughan - Chief operations officer, appointed in June 2008 and resigned in August 2015. Previously chief technology Officer and 'head of well development' 2015.
  • Leon Jennings - health, safety and environment director Cuadrilla
  • Andrew Price - Director, appointed in April 2010 and resigned in September 2015.
  • Allan Campbell - Director, appointed in February 2010 and resigned in February 2014.
  • Anthony Kelly - Director, appointed in February 2010 and resigned in February 2014.
  • Hubert Ashton - Director, appointed in February 2008 and resigned December of the same year.
  • Philip Tonkin - Director, appointed in February 2010 and resigned in January 2012.
  • Christopher Cornelius - Director, appointed in February 2010 and resigned in November 2010.
  • Haroun Van Hovell Tot Westerflier - Director, appointed in February 2010 and resigned in December 2014. Current managing director of Riverstone Holdings. [45]
  • Gregory Beard - Director, appointed in February 2010 and resigned in May of the same year.
  • 'ALDEX Ltd' - Company Secretary, appointed in February 2009 and resigned in December 2012.

Other

Law firms

Peachy & Co LLP was appointed to act for Cuadrilla in the UK from July 2008, as the firm has no in-house legal resource in the UK. This role has involved acting for the oil and gas firm:

  • in December 2011 on Cuadrilla's acquisition of a significant equity participation in a Hungarian O&G project, including successfully fracking a test well. Peachey's website reported that 'Further equity interests will be acquired following further seismic work and the drilling of a further exploratory well during 2012'.
  • in October 2012 with negotiations with the UK Government to recommence its hydraulic fracking operations in the UK.

In June 2013 Peachey & Co acted for the Australian stock exchange quoted company A J Lucas Group Ltd in the sale of part of its interest in the Bowland shale gas exploration licence area to Centrica plc. A J Lucas is a major shareholder in Cuadrilla Resources which is the co-owner on the licence.

In March 2013 The Lawyer magazine reported that former Slaughter and May lawyer Hubert Ashton, now a partner at Peachey, admitted that the past few months of exploratory digging, questions in the House and earthquakes have been “interesting”. [46]

Auditors and bankers

Affiliations

Contact details

  • Website
http://www.cuadrillaresources.com/
  • Address:
Cuadrilla Resources Ltd
Cuadrilla House, Unit 6 Sceptre Court
Sceptre Way, Bamber Bridge
Preston
PR5 6AW

Resources

See: Fracking lobbying firms See: Fracking Spads

Articles

Videos

Public information series:

Notes

  1. Cuadrilla Resources, Cuadrilla website, Preston New Road, last accessed 8 June 2018
  2. LinkedIn | Cuadrilla Resources, LinkedIn, accessed 25 January 2017.
  3. Emily Gosden, Losses mount at Cuadrilla as it counts the cost of fracking delays, The Telegraph, 29 October 2016, accessed 7 November 2016.
  4. Tom Bawden, Exclusive: Fracking company - we caused 50 tremors in Blackpool – but we're not going to stop, Independent, 3 November 2011, accessed 12 October 2016.
  5. Gas fracking: Ministers approve shale gas extraction, BBC News, 13 December 2012, accessed 13 October 2016.
  6. Jonathan Brown, Fracking company Cuadrilla pulls out of shale gas site in Lancashire, Independent, 4 October 2013, accessed 13 October 2016.
  7. Terry McCallister, Cuadrilla announces major fracking expansion in UK, The Guardian, Friday 5 July 2013 18.14 BST
  8. Fiona Harvey and Adam Vaughan, Cuadrilla announces two new Lancashire fracking sites, The Guardian, 4 February 2014, accessed 23 November 2016.
  9. Roseacre Wood fracking bid rejected by Lancashire councillors, BBC News, 25 June 2015, accessed 19 September 2016
  10. Christopher Hope, Ministers plot to foil anti-frackers, The Telegraph, 30 January 2016, accessed 13 September 2016
  11. Frances Perraudin, Lancashire council's fracking refusal was 'democracy in action', The Guardian, 9 February 2016, accessed 13 September 2016
  12. Adam Vaughan, Fracking in UK given go-ahead as Lancashire council rejection overturned, The Guardian, 6 October 2016, accessed 6 October 2016.
  13. Adam Vaughan, Cuadrilla starts work on Lancashire fracking site, The Guardian, 5 January 2017, accessed 26 January 2017.
  14. Government 'delayed fracking report' until after vote, Greenpeace claims, BBC News, 25 November 2016, accessed 30 November 2016.
  15. Draft Shale Gas Rural Economy Impacts paper, GOV.uk, 1 July 2015, accessed 19 September 2016
  16. Haroon Siddique, Green MP Caroline Lucas goes on trial over Sussex fracking protests, The Guardian, 24 March 2014, accessed 28 September 2016.
  17. Caroline Davies, Caroline Lucas cleared of anti-fracking protest charges, The Guardian, 17 April 2014, accessed 26 January 2017.
  18. Nazia Parveen, Anti-fracking activist refuses to pay £55,000 legal bill in Cuadrilla dispute, The Guardian, 24 June 2016, accessed 26 January 2017.
  19. Frances Perraudin, Anti-fracking activist spared jail after refusing to pay court £55,000, The Guardian, 9 December 2016, accessed 12 December 2016.
  20. Adam Vaughan, Fracking drilling rig brought on site overnight 'to avoid protests', The Guardian, 27 July 2017 17.14 BST, accessed 25 August 2017
  21. Tim Gavell, [Judge grants fracking firm injunction to 2020], The Gazette, 11 July 2018, accessed 13 July 2018
  22. Damian Carrington, UK defeats European bid for fracking regulations, The Guardian, 14 January 2014, accessed 26 January 2017.
  23. Damian Carrington, Former Environment Agency head to lead industry-funded fracking task force, theguardian.com, 21 October 2014 13.51 BST, accessed same day
  24. [The Education Awards are back!]- Blackpool Gazette, accessed 7 November 2017
  25. Cuadrilla, Donations, Cuadrilla website,undated, accessed 7 November 2017
  26. Cuadrilla donations and sponsorship, accessed 7 November 2017
  27. What do they Know?, Shale Gas Round Table: internal review of Freedom of Information request to Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, 24 July 2018
  28. Ruth Hayhurst, What government told the shale gas industry about success, regulation, jobs and support, Drill or Drop, 22 October 2018, accessed same day.
  29. Advertising Standards Authority, ASA Adjudication on Cuadrilla Resources Ltd, Rulings, 24 April 2013, acc 27 March 2014
  30. APPC Register, March 2013-May 2013 quarter
  31. Lobbyists are unconvincing over the minister for fracking, Socialist Worker, The Troublemaker, 4 Feb 2014, acc 24 June 2014
  32. Office of the Registrar for Consultant Lobbyists, UK.gov, last accessed 28 June 2017
  33. APPC Register, quarter December 2013-February 2014
  34. Lamiat Sabin and Solomon Hughes Shady shale lobbyists accused of setting up sham grassroots group supporting drilling Morning Star, 24 June 2015, accessed 25 June 2015.
  35. Melissa Jones and Andy Rowell, Access all areas: Westminster's (vast) fracking lobby exposed, 29 April 2015.
  36. Tom Bawden, Cuadrilla PR man admits George Osborne's shale gas revolution won’t cut energy bills, 20 August 2013
  37. ref News articles here
  38. Robert Smith , A group of anti-fracking protesters dressed in animal masks, PR Week, 10 April 2017, accessed 21 August 2017
  39. APPC Register for 1st March 2017 - 31st May 2017
  40. Watch Spinwatch's lowdown on fracking lobbyists, 'Meet the Frackers', produced January 2017.
  41. Matt Lambert, LinkedIn, accessed 9 February 2016
  42. Huw Clarke, Shale UK 2014, accessed 4 September 2014
  43. Jacqui Reid, Linked In, accessed 26 January 2017.
  44. Tony Carruthers, LinkedIn profile, accessed 9 Feb 2016
  45. CUADRILLA RESOURCES HOLDINGS LIMITED 07147040, Companycheck, accessed 27 March 2014.
  46. Matt Byrne, Analysis on Bracewell & Giuliani and the shale gas market: The fracking truth, The Lawyer, 4 March 2013
  47. Register of All-Party Groups (As at 7 June 2013), parliament.co.uk