Volunteers at Leyland’s British Commercial Vehicle Museum could find themselves at the centre of a huge fracking row after discovering shale gas below their car park.
The practice of drilling for gas has prompted mass protest across Lancashire as there are fears it can cause small earthquakes and pollution problems.
But fracking can also reap profits for landowners, and trustees at the King Street museum are excited about what the find means for the charity.
Rick Roberton explained: “We’ve always suffered with insufficient heating at the museum, so we were trying to think of cheaper ways to heat the building.
“We turned to geothermal energy engineers J.P. Whitter Water Wells to investigate the possibility of drawing naturally heated water from beneath the earth’s surface, which could hopefully be circulated throughout the building on a closed ring system and provide heat when required.
“But drilling on site brought some truly amazing results.
“We did find some geothermally heated water at a depth of just 20m but then further drilling to 30m passed through shales retaining gas.
“We certainly didn’t expect to find that. Quite frankly, I’m speechless.
“We have made contact with the appropriate authorities and we’re awaiting their responses as to how this could affect us. In the meantime though, we’d like to welcome visitors to come and gaze down into the big hole today, April 1 – it is quite safe as the gas supply has been securely capped.”
Small samples have now been sent off for testing to see if sufficient quantities of gas exist to justify commercial extraction by fracking.
Rick said it might even be possible that the gas could be used as fuel for some of the historic vehicles housed in the museum.
Councillor for the area, Derek Forrest, has also expressed his shock at the discovery, saying: “You hear about this type of thing in more rural areas, but I never expected it in Leyland.
“We might end up with lots of people creating man-made wells in their back gardens now, trying to cash in on the fortune.”