Fracking halted in Lancashire after largest earthquake so far

Event comes shortly after operations at Cuadrilla site started up for first time since October

Josh Gabbatiss
Science Correspondent
Tuesday 11 December 2018 14:52
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Bird's eye view footage of Cuadrilla-run Preston New Road fracking site in Lancashire

The largest earth tremor so far has been recorded at Cuadrilla’s fracking site near Blackpool, forcing the company to pause operations.

A minor earthquake of 1.5 magnitude struck late on Tuesday morning following a series of far smaller tremors, and after fossil fuel exploration had stopped for the day.

Recurring seismic events throughout October meant fracking at the new site in Lancashire had to be repeatedly put on hold.

Most events could not be felt, although locals did report feeling the most recent 1.5 tremor.

Cuadrilla has insisted that these quakes are not a major concern, and compared the latest one to “dropping a melon”.

However, any tremor measuring 0.5 or above means fracking must legally be put on hold while tests are carried out.

A spokesperson from Cuadrilla said: “A series of micro seismic events in Blackpool have been recorded on the British Geological Survey website this morning following hydraulic fracturing at our shale gas exploration site in Preston New Road, Lancashire.”

“The largest recorded was 1.5ML (local magnitude) at about 11.20am. This occurred after hydraulic fracturing had finished for the day. According to recent research by the University of Liverpool the impact would be like dropping a melon. A series of smaller micro seismic events occurred during hydraulic fracturing, beginning at about 9.40am.

“Cuadrilla will pause and continue to monitor micro seismicity for at least the next 18 hours, in line with the traffic light system regulations. Well integrity has been checked and verified.”

The company began pumping again this week after spending November working through their “wider hydraulic fracturing plan”, including conducting tests and analysis at the site.

Environmental groups have passionately opposed the Lancashire site, which marks the first time fracking has taken place in the UK for seven years.

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“Within a day of Cuadrilla restarting fracking in Lancashire, there has already been another earthquake which means they’ve had to down tools,” said Friends of the Earth campaigner Tony Bosworth.

“It appears that they cannot frack without triggering tremors. And instead of acknowledging that fracking needs to end, Cuadrilla are instead urging for regulations around earthquakes to be relaxed.

“We’ve always said that fracking poses risks for our climate and environment. After today’s quake, and with the effects of climate breakdown already happening around us, isn’t it time to put a stop to fracking once and for all?”

While the most recent event was the largest recorded since fracking restarted, it is not as large as the two quakes that triggered a moratorium on the technique in 2011, one of which measured 2.3.

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