A fracking firm’s PR has gone into overdrive after more earthquakes

Nothing to see here gif with Cuadrilla fracking logo
Steve Topple

Yet more earthquakes have hit a fracking site in Lancashire. But instead of holding its hands up, the company responsible is churning out spin faster than you can say ‘frack off!’

Fracking: on shaky ground

Fracking company Cuadrilla has been courting controversy for quite a while now. It’s been the subject of countless demos, political criticism and campaigns. But at the centre of the row is the site at Preston New Road in Lancashire.

In July, the government officially gave Cuadrilla the go-ahead to start extracting shale gas. But the decision drew more protests from locals. Then, a judge jailed three activists (whom another judge promptly freed). But after a court casebad weather and protests stopped it, Cuadrilla finally began work on 15 October. This led to more protests.

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Then the earthquakes began.

11 earthquakes in a week?

As The Canary has been following, the British Geological Survey (BGS) recorded 36 tremors near to Preston New Road between 18 October and 4 November. The strongest of these happened on 29 October, with a magnitude of 1.1. The BGS said it was felt in Blackpool. Cuadrilla stopped work several times, because the magnitude of the tremors breached the government’s traffic light warning system.

Cuadrilla stopped its activities for a while. But no sooner had it started again this week yet more earthquakes began. The site had 11 in two days, as of 12pm on Wednesday 12 December. The strongest one yet happened on 11 December, with a magnitude of 1.5. People felt it in Blackpool.

Needless to say, campaigners and locals were up in arms.

Not happy

Cuadrilla had to stop its operations again:

Locals were worried:

And campaigners were furious:

Frantic PR

But during all this, Cuadrilla has been dogmatic. It first denied there were issues. Then, it said it wanted the government to change the traffic light warning system to allow for stronger earthquakes. And now, during a BBC interview, it went out of its way to promote fracking as an energy and jobs miracle:

Who will fall first?

All of this has left people incensed. Claire Stephenson from the group Frack Free Lancashire told The Canary:

Two days of fracking have produced 10 earthquakes; one large enough at 1.5 magnitude to shut down the site for 18 hours.

This earthquake was felt across an area spanning 2.3 km, according to the BGS. The desperate spin of comparing a seismic event with the potential to cause infrastructural damage, to that of dropping a melon, is purely facile.

The real question is what will stop them first? Running out of investment from an already-weary parent company; the ongoing tremors causing concern and resentment within the community or a collapse in government? The bottom line is fracking isn’t a commercial venture in the UK.

So how long can this madness go on for? With earthquakes that keep happening (and get stronger) every time Cuadrilla fracks, surely enough is enough. But with a government that’s in bed with these companies, time may not be up for this dirty industry just yet.

Featured image via The Canary and Cuadrilla – YouTube 

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  • Show Comments
    1. Yes, they’re very small earthquakes, and almost all damaging induced earthquakes are caused by reinjecting wastewater produced during oil and gas production. This involves long-term injection of large volumes of water much deeper than in fracking, which uses short-term injection of small volumes of fluids at shallow depths. There’s always a very slight chance of a larger EQ occurring, but I’m not familiar enough with the area to be able to speculate on what that chance is.

      Even with these tiny EQs, if there are enough of them and they’re causing movement on aligned pre-existing faults, eventually it’ll cause enough movement that it’ll be noticeable. However, this would probably take years-decades, and even then the movement will be small.

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