Was the gas well at Elswick fracked? You bet it was!
We've done a lot of digging around about the Elswick gas well and we've discovered that it was indeed fracked (hydraulically fractured) in the 1990s.
Opponents of fracking will read this and say that comparing fracking at Elswick with the sort of fracking planned at nearby Preston New Road is like comparing a corner grocer's shop with a Tesco superstore when it comes to scale. That may be so, but that doesn't detract from the fact that Tesco is still a grocer's shop and that fracking at Elswick was still fracking.
Elswick well was fracked on 9th and 10th June 1993 by a company called NowsCo. It was apparently a CO2 and gelled water frack and used a total of 187 m3 of fluid injected into the Collyhurst Sandstone. That's apparently a "tight" sandstone and therefore Elswick was what you'd consider "unconventional" not "conventional" which is presumably why this particular type of fracking was needed.
There's no doubt about it that it's a totally different scale, but what anti-frackers everywhere singularly fail to explain when they make this observation is just exactly why that matters. It's still pumping fluid into the surrounding rock at above the "breaking pressure" in order to create a network of fractures that allow trapped gas to flow into a well, all that differs is the volume (see more about fracking here).
As far as we can see, the only real differences are going to relate to wastewater quantities, the duration of the work, and HGV movements.
But there's absolutely nothing to suggest that bigger scale - so-called "High Volume Hydraulic Fracturing" - is in any way going to cause the health and environmental concerns that we so often hear about. Whether its 187 m3 of fluid at Elswick or 765 m3 of fluid in a single frack stage at Preston New Road, it's hard to see how the volume of fracking fluid used could be responsible for reports of nausea, headaches, unexplained rashes and nosebleeds, low birth-weight babies and babies with congenital heart defects that fracking opponents warn will be among the public health consequences.
It might not be identical, but what Elswick shows is that after all the drilling and fracking has been done, what's left behind is virtually indistinguishable in the landscape provided that sites are screened with trees and shrubs. And that means even with 100 shale gas sites spread across the county or even just the Fylde, it won't look anything like the aerial photos we see of the Jonah Gasfield in Wyoming.