There have now been ten earthquakes near a UK fracking site in the space of a week. Is the situation now getting out of control?
Preston New Road, near the village of Little Plumpton in Lancashire, is at the centre of a row over fracking. Cuadrilla has permission to drill the site for shale gas, which has pitted it against local people. In July, the government officially gave Cuadrilla the go-ahead to start extracting shale gas. The decision was met by more protests from locals. Then, a judge jailed three activists (who another judge promptly freed). But after a court case, bad weather and protests stopped it, Cuadrilla finally began work on Monday 15 October. This was met with more protests.
Then, the earthquakes began.
Earthquake number seven was a red line
As The Canary previously reported, the British Geological Survey recorded five tremors near to Preston New Road. These were between Thursday 18 and Saturday 20 October. The strongest of these was a magnitude of 0.3. Then, on Tuesday 23 October, there was another one in the afternoon. It had a magnitude of 0.4.
On Wednesday 24 October, yet another earthquake happened. And this one was stronger still, measuring 0.5. This is classed as a red event on the government’s “traffic light” system for seismic activity:
After that, and at the time of publication, another three had happened, one of those measuring 0.4 – bringing the total in the space of a week to ten.
“You should have listened”
Social media reacted angrily to the news of the seventh quake:
And the SEVENTH EARTH TREMOR CAUSED BY #FRACKING has struck!
Measuring 0.5 on the Richter scale, this is a Red warning on the Traffic Light System.
— Lady_Claire (@Lady_ClaireUK) October 24, 2018
And people called out energy minister Claire Perry in particular:
— Mark Townend (@SpeccyTechy) October 24, 2018
— Lady_Claire (@Lady_ClaireUK) October 24, 2018
@claireperrymp Maybe the time is now for you to get out of the playground and into the real world that your fracking friends and their delinquent investors and mps are seeking to unnecessarily impose with dilatory government connivance and collusion upon our nation.
— Russ Morton (@russ_morton) October 24, 2018
Frack Free United also called out the PM:
@claireperrymp @theresa_may Are you sure this is the way to secure our future energy policy? #fracking is just not reliable. A real #cuadrillaquandry or is this #CareerBeforeCommunities Investors will be running a #dailymile .You Should have listened. We have been shouting loudly pic.twitter.com/ypvSOj5toV
— Frack Free United (@frackfreeunited) October 24, 2018
But the tremors near Preston New Road could be a sign of things to come. As The Canary previously reported, academics and even a former top civil servant have warned of the earthquake risk; stating that minor tremors like the ones at Preston New Road could lead to bigger seismic events.
Cuadrilla told The Canary:
Following on from hydraulic fracturing operations today Cuadrilla has detected micro seismic activity of 0.48. This is within operating expectations and the sophisticated system of monitoring in place is working as it should. We understand that the British Geological Survey has rounded this up to a 0.5. Regulators have been advised and we anticipate we will continue work at Preston New Road tomorrow as planned.
As we have said before, local residents should be reassured that the monitoring systems in place are working as they should. These are tiny seismic events that are being detected by our monitors as we fracture the shale rock 2km underground and are many hundreds of orders of magnitude below what is capable of being felt much less cause damage or harm at surface.
An “unacceptable” situation
But a spokesperson for campaign group Frack Free Lancashire hit back. They told The Canary:
The escalating magnitude in tremors caused by fracking in Lancashire is unacceptable.
Local residents are rightly concerned by these events. It’s also of concern that the traffic light system has had to halt operations just a week into them.
The issue is not whether people can feel these events; but whether they could be precursors to other ones.
The well integrity and safety of what happens underground is beyond anyone’s control, following a seismic event. This risky technology employed by an inexperienced operator… is something residents will never support and our strong opposition will continue and increase.
The tremors last week were not good. The sixth one on 23 October was worrying. But now – with a stronger seventh one happening and others following – it is surely time for the government to intervene in Cuadrilla’s work.
None of this bodes well for the UK fracking industry.
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