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UK's Cuadrilla to begin fracking in Northwest England on Saturday

London — UK shale gas explorer Cuadrilla said Friday it would start fracking at its Preston New Road site in Northwest England on Saturday after a legal challenge was thrown out.

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An interim injunction was dismissed Friday morning at the High Court in London, Cuadrilla said.

CEO Francis Egan said the company was "delighted to be starting our hydraulic fracturing operations as planned." The site is about five miles southeast of Blackpool.

The fracking process would take about three months to complete on both horizontal exploration wells, with Cuadrilla testing the gas flow with initial results expected to be released in the new year, the company said.

The British Geological Survey has estimated that the Bowland Shale play holds an estimated 1,329 Tcf (37.6 Tcm) of gas -- the UK currently uses about 80 Bcm/year.

Cuadrilla originally began fracking at the site back in 2011, but operations ceased after small earth tremors were reported in the surrounding area.

The UK government remains supportive of shale gas exploration, with import dependency on the increase as conventional gas production is set to fall after having posted a slight recovery in recent years.

Indeed, the Shale Environmental Regulator Group was launched just last week by the government order to bring several regulators -- Oil & Gas Authority, Health & Safety Executive, Environment Agency -- together as a "virtual body" for shale gas exploration and production.

The opposition Labour party said last year it would ban fracking if it came to power, following on from several Continental European countries having already done so.

--Gary Hornby,

--Edited by Daniel Lalor,