Small earthquake in Blackpool, major shock for UK's energy policy

Controversial shale gas drilling halted pending investigation into possible connection with tremors

The controversial new drilling operation for natural shale gas in Lancashire has been suspended following a second earthquake in the area that may have been triggered by the process. The earthquake last Friday near Blackpool occurred at the same time that the energy company Cuadrilla Resources was injecting fluids under high pressure deep underground to deliberately blast apart the gas-bearing rock – a process known as "fracking", brought to Britain from the US, where it has been highly contentious.

Click HERE to view graphic (69k jpg)

Earthquake experts from the British Geological Survey said that the 1.5 magnitude quake last week was similar to a 2.3 earthquake in April in the same area and that both may be linked to the experimental fracking for shale gas at Preese Hall on the Fylde coast.

Bans on commercial fracking are already in place in France as well as in New York and Pennsylvania states, where people living close to fracking sites have been filmed setting fire to tap water contaminated with methane gas.

"It seems quite likely that they are related," said Brian Baptie of the British Geological Survey (BGS). "We had a couple of instruments close to the site and they show that both events were close to the site and at a shallow depth.

"The timing of these two events in conjunction with the ongoing fracking at the site suggests that they may be related." He added: "It is well-established that drilling like this can trigger small earthquakes."

The process involves pumping millions of gallons of water, mixed with rock-dissolving chemicals, into the earth to unsettle rocks and release the gas trapped there.

Cuadrilla said that it may be many weeks before it resumes fracking operations at its site near Blackpool because the incidents warrant further investigation with the help of outside experts.

"We've suspended drilling because there was an incident that the BGS recorded. We were aware of it because we have our own monitoring equipment on the site," said Paul Kelly of Cuadrilla last night.

"We are now compiling a report with the BGS and Keele University. It was entirely our decision to suspend operations. We see it as an appropriate and responsible thing to do."

Dr Baptie said: "Our analysis places the epicentre of the [latest] event to within 2km of the Preese Hall site.

"Data from two temporary instruments close to the drill site, installed after the magnitude 2.3 earthquake on 1 April, indicate that the event occurred at a depth of approximately 2km. The recorded wave forms are very similar to those from the magnitude 2.3 event [in April], which suggests that the two events share a similar location and mechanism."

Neither of the earthquakes caused any structural damage, although they could be felt by people living near by because they occurred at a relatively shallow depth, Dr Baptie said. He pointed out that the earthquakes "are pretty insignificant even by UK standards" and "they don't usually cause any damage to property".

The 2.3 magnitude earthquake in April is about 12 billion times smaller than the recent earthquake in Japan that created a huge tsunami, and is roughly equivalent to exploding about a ton of TNT deep underground, Dr Baptie said.

A report last month by the Energy and Climate Change Committee of the House of Commons found that there was no evidence that the technique of fracking was unsafe. The committee's chairman, Tim Yeo, dismissed fears as "hot air", insisting there was no danger to underground drinking supplies – which he said was the chief cause of concern amongst critics. He said there was no case for a moratorium despite growing concerns overseas.

The BGS said about the previous Blackpool earthquake: "Any process that injects pressurised water into rocks at depth will cause the rock to fracture and possibly produce earthquakes. It is well known that injection of water or other fluids during oil extraction and geothermal engineering, such as shale gas, processes can result in earthquake activity. Typically, the earthquakes are too small to be felt; however, there are a number of examples of larger earthquakes occurring."

PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
Architect Frank Gehry is regarded by many as the most important architect of the modern era
arts + entsGehry has declared that 98 per cent of modern architecture is "s**t"
Sport
Luis Suarez and Lionel Messi during Barcelona training in August
footballPete Jenson co-ghost wrote Suarez’s autobiography and reveals how desperate he's been to return
Money
Welcome to tinsel town: retailers such as Selfridges will be Santa's little helpers this Christmas, working hard to persuade shoppers to stock up on gifts
news
Arts and Entertainment
Soul singer Sam Smith cleared up at the Mobo awards this week
newsSam Smith’s Mobo triumph is just the latest example of a trend
News
Laurence Easeman and Russell Brand
people
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Sport
Fans of Dulwich Hamlet FC at their ground Champion Hill
footballFans are rejecting the £2,000 season tickets, officious stewarding, and airline-stadium sponsorship
News
Shami Chakrabarti
people
Arts and Entertainment
Benedict Cumberbatch has refused to deny his involvement in the upcoming new Star Wars film
filmBenedict Cumberbatch reignites Star Wars 7 rumours
Sport
football
News
news
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Maths Teacher

£110 - £200 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: Secondary Maths Teacher for spe...

Business Analyst - Surrey - Permanent - Up to £50k DOE

£40000 - £50000 Per Annum Excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...

***ASP.NET Developer - Cheshire - £35k - Permanent***

£30000 - £35000 Per Annum Excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...

***Solutions Architect*** - Brighton - £40k - Permanent

£35000 - £40000 Per Annum Excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...

Day In a Page

Wilko Johnson, now the bad news: musician splits with manager after police investigate assault claims

Wilko Johnson, now the bad news

Former Dr Feelgood splits with manager after police investigate assault claims
Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands ahead of the US midterm elections

Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands

The Senator for Colorado is for gay rights, for abortion rights – and in the Republicans’ sights as they threaten to take control of the Senate next month
New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

Evidence found of contact between Easter Islanders and South America
Cerys Matthews reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of Dylan Thomas

Cerys Matthews on Dylan Thomas

The singer reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of the famous Welsh poet
DIY is not fun and we've finally realised this as a nation

Homebase closures: 'DIY is not fun'

Homebase has announced the closure of one in four of its stores. Nick Harding, who never did know his awl from his elbow, is glad to see the back of DIY
The Battle of the Five Armies: Air New Zealand releases new Hobbit-inspired in-flight video

Air New Zealand's wizard in-flight video

The airline has released a new Hobbit-inspired clip dubbed "The most epic safety video ever made"
Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month - but can you stomach the sweetness?

Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month

The combination of cinnamon, clove, nutmeg (and no actual pumpkin), now flavours everything from lattes to cream cheese in the US
11 best sonic skincare brushes

11 best sonic skincare brushes

Forget the flannel - take skincare to the next level by using your favourite cleanser with a sonic facial brush
Paul Scholes column: I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Phil Jones and Marcos Rojo

Paul Scholes column

I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Jones and Rojo
Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

While other sports are stalked by corruption, we are an easy target for the critics
Jamie Roberts exclusive interview: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

Jamie Roberts: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

Wales centre says he’s not coming home but is looking to establish himself at Racing Métro
How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?

A crime that reveals London's dark heart

How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?
Meet 'Porridge' and 'Vampire': Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker

Lost in translation: Western monikers

Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker. Simon Usborne, who met a 'Porridge' and a 'Vampire' while in China, can see the problem
Handy hacks that make life easier: New book reveals how to rid your inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone

Handy hacks that make life easier

New book reveals how to rid your email inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone with a loo-roll
KidZania lets children try their hands at being a firefighter, doctor or factory worker for the day

KidZania: It's a small world

The new 'educational entertainment experience' in London's Shepherd's Bush will allow children to try out the jobs that are usually undertaken by adults, including firefighter, doctor or factory worker