Fracking suspended after series of tremors

Fracking at Cuadrilla’s Preston New Road operation near Blackpool has been suspended after a series of tremors over the weekend – including the largest one ever recorded at the site.

The British Geological Survey said a tremor yesterday morning had a magnitude of 2.9ML. It was felt by people in the area.

The Oil and Gas Authority (OGA) said fracking operations would remain suspended while it gathered data from this and other recent seismic events.

It said it would then “consider carefully whether or not the hydraulic fracturing operations, mitigations and assumptions set out in the operator’s Hydraulic Fracture Plan continue to be appropriate to manage the risk of induced seismicity at the Preston New Road site.”

Yesterday morning’s incident followed another on Saturday night recorded at 2.1ML. A further tremor last night measured 1.0ML on the Richter scale. Cuadrilla has confirmed it was not carrying out fracking operations at the time of the incidents.

The company paused operations at the site last week after an earlier micro seismic event measuring 1.55ML was detected just days after it started fracking its second well on the site.

Cuadrilla had to repeatedly stop operations at Preston New Road last year under regulation systems which immediately suspend work for 18 hours if seismic activity of magnitude 0.5 or above is detected.

We are working with the team of regulators who intensely monitor our activity at Preston New Road to investigate the event.

However, the OGA said the current suspension would potentially remain in place longer while it assessed the situation.

Speaking about last night’s latest incident, a Cuadrilla spokeswoman said: “The event measured 1.0ML on the Richter scale and had very limited ground motion associated with it.”

She said: “Cuadrilla was not hydraulically fracturing at the time and hydraulic fracturing has not been carried out over the weekend.

“This event lasted for a couple of seconds and the average ground motion was 0.1mm per second. Being of a low magnitude and with very low ground motion it is unlikely to have been widely felt.

“Operations at Preston New Road remain suspended. The well integrity has been verified and remains unaffected.”

Speaking about the earlier 2.9ML tremor the company spokeswoman said: “We appreciate this this has caused concern for local people and by way of reassurance it is worth noting that this event lasted for around a second and the average ground motion recorded was 5mm per second. This is about a third of that permitted for construction projects.

“We are working with the team of regulators who intensely monitor our activity at Preston New Road to investigate the event and will provide more updates in due course.”

Following a 2.3 magnitude tremor in 2011 at Cuadrilla’s Preese Hall site, also near Blackpool and no longer in operation, the government launched a review of fracking and seismic events and fracking was suspended in the UK for seven years.

Cuadrilla’s chief executive, Francis Egan, told the BBC he “sincerely hoped” fracking would not be halted this time and said the company now measured “surface ground motion vibration” which allowed it to put any seismic activity “into context”.

Samantha Wheeler, who lives five miles away from the site in in Lytham St Anne’s, told the BBC her “wardrobe shook and her bed moved” when she felt yesterday’s quake.

Jamie Peters, campaigner at Friends of the Earth, said: “It’s obvious that fracking can’t be done without triggering earthquakes.

“Even small vibrations at ground level can be the sign of far more damaging impacts deep underground. 

“Fracking just isn’t part of the future if the government is serious about avoiding climate breakdown, in fact it defies belief that the oil and gas industry think they are part of a response to climate change. It’s time to ban climate-wrecking fracking and back renewable energy and green jobs instead.”

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