Surrey earthquake: 3.0 magnitude tremor wakes residents near Gatwick Airport

Epicentre is close to locations used for oil and gas exploration - but scientists say recent flurry of prospecting is not linked

Tom Batchelor
Wednesday 27 February 2019 11:14
How Fracking works

An earthquake with a magnitude of 3.0 struck Surrey overnight.

The tremor was felt at 3.42am in Newdigate, Surrey, less than 10 miles from Gatwick Airport, according to the British Geological Survey (BGS).

The movement is the strongest of four tremors felt in Newdigate in the last fortnight and follows a “swarm” of earthquakes reported locally last summer.

The epicentre of the tremor is close to locations used for oil and gas exploration including the Horse Hill and Brockham Well sites.

Fracking activists and residents were quick to make the link between the earthquake epicentres and the close proximity of drilling operations.

Frack Free Surrey said it was "time to reopen the inquiry into the link with drilling at Horse Hill".

"Never in a million years did I think I’d be experiencing such a big earthquake in Horley," wrote Surrey resident Adrienne Horne. "Oil drilling coincidence? Felt another last week."

However the BGS said it was unlikely that the tremor was linked to nearby oil and gas works, citing a report published last year that failed to conclude the recent spate of movements were man-made.

Dr Richard Luckett, a seismologist at the BGS, told The Independent: "By far and away the most likely explanation is that these are just a continuation of the tremors last year.

"Once you’ve had an earthquake on a fault line having more earthquakes on the same fault is very likely. It really is quite normal."

Surrey experienced its first tremor in 50 years last April, with four more recorded in as many months.

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Sensors were installed in the area after the 2018 quakes, which recorded the epicentres as tightly clustered in a roughly two mile by two mile zone between the villages of Newdigate and Charlwood.

Those tremors struck at a distance of approximately five miles from the Brockham oil field, but BGS said at the time they were "unlikely to have been induced".

Following a period of quiet the BGS recorded a 2.0 magnitude tremor on 19 February, and 2.4 and 0.2 quakes on 14 February.

Residents in the area were woken by Wednesday morning's incident.

James King, councillor for South Park and Woodhatch, tweeted at 3.43am: "Was that an earthquake in Reigate just now?"

Another Twitter user asked: "Was that an earthquake that just woke me up in Horley?"

Gatwick Airport in West Sussex confirmed they had felt the tremors overnight, but airport operations had not been affected.

A spokesman said: "The team overnight felt the effect in the airport (and) ... the terminals."

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