Fracking firm Cuadrilla’s recent ‘PR stunt’ has gone horribly wrong

Cuadrilla logo and a shocked baby
Support us and go ad-free

Fracking firm Cuadrilla is getting rather prone to bad headlines. But a recent stunt it pulled is quite something.

Fracking: contention in Lancashire

Cuadrilla has been courting controversy for quite a while now. It’s been the subject of countless demos, political criticism and campaigns. But at the centre of the row is the site at Preston New Road in Lancashire.

In July 2018, the government officially gave Cuadrilla the go-ahead to start extracting shale gas. But the decision drew protests from locals. Then, a judge jailed three activists (whom another judge promptly freed). But after a court casebad weather and protests stopped it, Cuadrilla finally began work on 15 October. This led to more protests. Then, in late 2018, dozens of earthquakes occurred near to the site, just as Cuadrilla began to frack. Government regulations meant the company repeatedly had to stop work. This was due to the strength of the tremors.

Then, rumours spread that it was in dire straits, which it denied. But now, evidence has come to light that it may have pulled a PR stunt last year, which is certainly not a good look.

Striking gold?

As independent news site DrillOrDrop reported, in November 2018 Cuadrilla released a short promotional video of gas reportedly burning at the site. It heralded the news as “significant”. Cuadrilla’s CEO Frances Egan said:

this is a good early indication of the gas potential that we have long talked about.

Here’s Cuadrilla’s “significant” gas find, filmed via drone:

Read on...

Support us and go ad-free

But as DrillOrDrop revealed, Cuadrilla did the whole thing using a sleight of hand.

Hang on a minute…

An Environment Agency report showed that gas levels coming out of the Preston New Road site were extremely low. So Cuadrilla added some propane into the mix to make the flare light. You could say Cuadrilla used a ‘bit of magic’ which made the situation seem better than it was.

Campaigners on Twitter were not happy:

As Green Party MEP Keith Taylor summed up:

Nothing to see here!

Cuadrilla told DrillOrDrop:

As you are aware, we are now in the flow testing phase at Preston New Road and will look to publish results in due course. We are very encouraged by what we are seeing but are not providing a daily commentary on testing.

That told DrillOrDrop, then.

“Desperate”

But campaign group Frack Free Lancashire found the whole thing reeking of desperation. A spokesperson told The Canary:

It appears that the shale gas industry is so very desperate to appease investors and shareholders, that their PR machine is once again in full cycle. The magical ‘flare’ video that appeared to show the first flow of fracked gas from the Preston New Road site, made the news across the world. However, when the layers are peeled back, it appears all is not what it seems. With the Environment Agency confirming in a compliance report that the gas flow levels were so weak that they had to be helped along with propane as a support fuel, the fracking industry has exposed how frantic their methods are, to convince the public and beyond of the viability of shale in the UK.

And, ‘that’s magic!’. Using sleight of hand, Cuadrilla created the impression that its gas discovery at Preston New Road was more than it was. Even the late Paul Daniels would have been impressed with that.

Featured image via Simon Law – Flickr and Cuadrilla – YouTube

Support us and go ad-free

Get involved

We need your help to keep speaking the truth

Every story that you have come to us with; each injustice you have asked us to investigate; every campaign we have fought; each of your unheard voices we amplified; we do this for you. We are making a difference on your behalf.

Our fight is your fight. You’ve supported our collective struggle every time you gave us a like; and every time you shared our work across social media. Now we need you to support us with a monthly donation.

We have published nearly 2,000 articles and over 50 films in 2021. And we want to do this and more in 2022 but we don’t have enough money to go on at this pace. So, if you value our work and want us to continue then please join us and be part of The Canary family.

In return, you get:

* Advert free reading experience
* Quarterly group video call with the Editor-in-Chief
* Behind the scenes monthly e-newsletter
* 20% discount in our shop

Almost all of our spending goes to the people who make The Canary’s content. So your contribution directly supports our writers and enables us to continue to do what we do: speaking truth, powered by you. We have weathered many attempts to shut us down and silence our vital opposition to an increasingly fascist government and right-wing mainstream media.

With your help we can continue:

* Holding political and state power to account
* Advocating for the people the system marginalises
* Being a media outlet that upholds the highest standards
* Campaigning on the issues others won’t
* Putting your lives central to everything we do

We are a drop of truth in an ocean of deceit. But we can’t do this without your support. So please, can you help us continue the fight?

The Canary Support us