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Gas project halted after earthquake

A company is working with the British Geological Survey to see if there is a link between a “shale” gas drilling project and a small earthquake in Lancashire.

Cuadrilla has halted work at its site near Blackpool after the 1.5 magnitude quake last Friday. The project sees the company inject high-pressured bursts of water underground to fracture rock in a process called “fracking”.

The British Geological Survey (BGS) said the epicentre of the earthquake was within 2km of the site.

It follows a 2.3 magnitude earthquake at the beginning of last month, which also occurred near to the drilling site at Preese Hall.

The BGS said it could not say conclusively if the first earthquake, on April 1, was linked to the fracking for shale gas but the organisation’s website stated: “Any process that injects pressurised water into rocks at depth will cause the rock to fracture and possibly produce earthquakes.

“It is well known that injection of water or other fluids during the oil extraction and geothermal engineering, such as shale gas, processes can result in earthquake activity.”

Today, BGS head of seismology Brian Baptie said the survey recorded the magnitude 1.5 earthquake shortly after midnight on Friday.

He said: “Data from two temporary instruments close to the drill site, installed after the magnitude 2.3 earthquake on April 1, indicate that the event occurred at a depth of approximately 2km.

“The recorded waveforms are very similar to those from the magnitude 2.3 event last month, which suggests that the two events share a similar location and mechanism.”

The shale gas exploration scheme near Blackpool has involved drilling a well 2.7km down into the earth, and then using fracking to stimulate the rock around the well - a process which began in March.

A spokeswoman for Cuadrilla said the fracking had been halted while the company and the British Geological Survey examined the data from the quake.

Readers' comments (3)

  • What are the alternatives?
    Buying gas/oil in a competitive market from possible politically unstable countries.
    Coal Deep mines generally closed in UK, see above for purchase
    Nuclear A vociferous group object
    Wind No power if no wind, and need to have 'conventional 'back up.
    Wave More research needed also no waves no power.
    Tidal More research needed but defined power availability.
    The fact an earthquake happens indicates that there was stress stored in the ground. The relatively low impact effect of injection may have triggered the quake but the quake may have happened naturally within a geologically relatively short time.
    Lets keep investing and researching for our future

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  • I agree that research into new ways of getting fuel and energy have to be looked into and no door should be left closed.
    As Martin stated above renewables need back up, presently nuclear and the wider the methods of energy generation the better.
    I disagree with the no wind no power statement. It's a bit too simplistic. If you have wind turbines all over the UK your guaranteed to have wind generation. Somewhere between Orkney and Cornwall, theres going to be 3m/s of wind or more. Just look at this months weather for the UK.

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  • These earth tremors (calling them earthquakes is surely overegging their magnitude) appear to be of the same magnitude as minor examples of mining activity, and blasting. The North West has perhaps forgotten these, with the Lancashire coalfields becoming defunct, but areas in the West Midlands, over pits, still remember the effects - a wobble in the Staffordshire shepherdesses on the mantel shelf!

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