LONDON, Feb 4 (Reuters) - Britain's shale gas-driller Cuadrilla Resources plans to hydraulically fracture up to eight wells at exploration sites in Lancashire, northwest England, to determine their full production potential.
Its statement is likely to spark opposition from environmental protesters who had hindered the firm's drilling plans in the village of Balcombe, south England.
Cuadrilla's latest exploration programe marks a return to its prize assets in the Bowland shale, a long belt of gas-bearing rock over one kilometre thick at its Fylde sites in Lancashire.
The company will first apply for permission to drill, hydralically fracture and test the flow of gas from up to four exploration wells each at Fylde's Roseacre Wood and Preston New Road, it said.
"This will allow us to reduce the potential impact on the local area during exploration while still gathering the important information we need to determine how much gas could be recovered," Chief Executive Francis Egan said in a statement.
The rocks of the Bowland shale area are estimated to hold around 1,300 trillion cubic feet of gas, a vast potential reserve that proponents say could lead Britain to energy independence, create jobs and cut bills.
Britain, Europe's largest gas consumer, hopes to follow the United States into energy independence by exploiting shale gas. Its gas imports have already surpassed falling domestic North Sea production, leaving it dependent on foreign suppliers.
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