Environmental baseline monitoring in Lancashire

Testing groundwater quality, Blackpool, Lancashire.

BGS, along with partners from the Universities of Manchester, York, Birmingham, Bristol, Royal Holloway (RHUL) and PHE carried out a programme of science-based environmental monitoring in Fylde, Lancashire, an area where in 2018 and 2019 hydraulic fracturing for shale-gas exploration was undertaken by Cuadrilla at its Preston New Road (PNR) site. Our environmental investigations took place from 2015 with most ending in 2020 but with limited monitoring of seismicity and groundwater continuing.

The BGS-led environmental monitoring programme was independent of both the industry and regulators.

The investigation built on pre-existing national monitoring programmes for groundwater and seismicity. Monitoring and investigation involved:

The study represents the first independent, integrated monitoring programme to characterise the environmental baseline in an area subjected to close scrutiny in the development of a UK shale-gas industry.

The need for an effective baseline and independent monitoring

Over the period from February 2015, our baseline environmental monitoring programme continued for us to acquire a robust set of water, air, soil and ground baseline measurements. This provided a vastly improved knowledge base for an area recognised as prospective for shale gas but also of significant public concern.

Should any future gas exploration/development take place in Lancashire or elsewhere in the UK, the data acquired are providing us with a strong evidence base against which to assess any future changes in environmental conditions.

Such baseline characterisation was not undertaken during the early stages of unconventional oil and gas development in parts of North America, where recent scientific study has highlighted that problems with lack of regulation and borehole integrity have led to environmental pollution. The monitoring in Fylde will be of value in providing environmental baseline data and its temporal variation, regardless of whether or not any future shale–gas exploration takes place.

The monitoring we undertook was independent of industry and the regulators to ensure that scientifically robust outputs are evidence-based and impartial.

Information collected from the monitoring programme is summarised on the BGS website and is also supporting peer-reviewed science.


Contact BGS enquiries for further information.