Plans to frack UK's first horizontal shale gas well submitted
An energy company has applied to the government to carry out fracking at the UK's first horizontal shale gas well.
Cuadrilla said it has submitted the application for its Preston New Road site in Little Plumpton, Lancashire.
It comes days after the government proposed a relaxation in the planning laws which apply to fracking.
The firm's boss Francis Egan said it was looking to receive consent "at the earliest opportunity" after the announcement.
Cuadrilla confirmed it completed drilling its first horizontal exploration well at Preston New Road last month.
The well has been drilled through the Lower Bowland shale at a depth of approximately 2,700m (8,860 ft) below ground and extends laterally 800m (2,620 ft).
Francis Egan, chief executive officer of Cuadrilla, said the government's recent announcement underlined the "national importance of shale gas".
"We are now very close to demonstrating that Lancashire shale gas can be commercially developed in a safe and environmentally responsible manner."
The firm said drilling on a second horizontal shale gas exploration well at the site is due to be complete soon when it will lodge a second fracking application.
It said it expects to start fracking both wells later this year.
Lancashire County Council refused Cuadrilla's application in 2015 but the decision was overturned the following year by the government following an appeal and planning inquiry.
Anti-fracking protests which have been staged daily at the Preston New Road site since January 2017 by opponents who claim the process is harmful to the environment.
Policing the demonstrations is estimated to have cost more than £7m, say Lancashire Police.
A public inquiry resumed last month regarding Cuadrilla's plans to frack at Roseacre Wood which were refused amid concerns over the site's impact on the local area.
The planning inspector will send his recommendations for the government to decide.
What is fracking?
Hydraulic fracturing - or fracking - is a technique designed to recover gas and oil from shale rock.