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Earth tremors shut down UK fracking operation

27 August 2019

Cuadrilla Resources has halted operations at its Preston New Road fracking site in Lancashire after a series of seismic events. The shutdown comes less than a week after Cuadrilla started fracking its second well on the site after abandoning the first well following multiple shutdowns due to tremors.

Preston New Road site - Image: Cuadrilla Resources
Preston New Road site - Image: Cuadrilla Resources

An earth tremor recorded on August 26 at the UK’s only active fracking site measured 2.9 on the Richter scale, according to the British Geological Survey (BGS). 

The tremor lasted 10 to 15 seconds and was felt across a number of nearby communities in the area, including Blackpool itself.

It is the fourth “micro seismic event” at the site in just 11 days and follows a 2.1-magnitude tremor on August 25, 1.05 on August 24 and 1.55 on August 22.

The BGS said the seismic event epicentre was at a depth of 2km below the Preston New Road site.

Pausing work for 18 hours is the routine response for any tremor over 0.5. This series of tremors has been triggered after the energy firm started fracking a new well on the site after closing down the first following another string of tremors.

“We can confirm that no hydraulic fracturing was being carried out at the time and no hydraulic fracturing has been carried out over the weekend. We are investigating the event alongside the regulators who monitor Preston New Road.”

While some local residents may have felt the movement, it was not strong enough to have caused any damage to property, the company said.

Cuadrilla has blamed the earthquake rules for stifling the UK’s nascent shale industry. It has called for a government review of the rules, and extra time to drill after its current fracking licence expires in November.

“Minor movements of this level are to be expected and are way below anything that can cause harm or damage to anyone or their property,” the spokesman said.

Ministers have said that they are considering a review of the system after lending support to Cuadrilla’s campaign.

A UK government spokesman said: “Shale gas could be an important new domestic energy source, reducing the level of gas imports while delivering broad economic benefits, including through the creation of well-paid, quality jobs.”

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