The first shale gas has been extracted by Cuadrilla from its site in northwest England after it began fracking operations there just over two weeks ago.
Cuadrilla said the gas flows were small but – coming at such an early stage of the project – were evidence of the potential of the site.
Fracking in the region has attracted controversy after a series of underground tremors were detected.
‘This is a good early indication of the gas potential that we have long talked about,’ Cuadrilla Chief Executive Francis Egan said in an emailed statement.
Fracking, or hydraulically fracturing, involves extracting gas from rocks by breaking them up with water and chemicals at high pressure.
The practice – which started at the Preston New Road site in Little Plumpton on October 15 – has been halted and restarted twice since then, after small earth tremors were detected.
Britain’s regulatory system calls for any fracking to be paused if any tremor of magnitude 0.5 or above is detected.
Cuadrilla said it plans to fully test flow rates from the current two exploration wells towards the end of 2018 and into the New Year to determine whether full-scale gas extraction would be viable.
Fracking is opposed by environmentalists and green groups who say extracting more fossil fuel is at odds with Britain’s commitment to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
But Britain’s government is supportive of the industry and is keen to reduce the country’s reliance on imports of natural gas, which is used to heat around 80 percent of Britain’s homes.
The British Geological Survey estimates shale gas resources in northern England alone could contain 1,300 trillion cubic feet (tcf) of gas, 10 per cent of which could meet the country’s demand for almost 40 years.
Cuadrilla which is 47.4 percent owned by Australia’s AJ Lucas and 45.2 per cent owned by a fund managed by Riverstone, first extracted shale gas in England near the coastal town of Blackpool in the northwest in 2011, but it was stopped after causing a 2.3 magnitude earth tremor.
It said then that the quake was caused by an unusual combination of geological features, but it led to an 18-month nationwide ban on fracking while further research was carried out and a new regulatory system was implemented.
Fracking at the site was halted again on Monday after an underground tremor was detected, the seventh to be detected recently at the site in Preston New Road, Little Plumpton.
A spokesman for the firm said work had stopped as a micro-seismic event measuring 1.1 magnitude was detected at about 11.30am.
The tremor was the largest recorded at the site since fracking began again on October 15.