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No threat from fracking tremors

Report commissioned by UK firm Cuadrilla

There is little risk of further earthquakes from hydraulic fracturing (fracking) in the UK’s Bowland basin, an independent report commissioned by UK firm Cuadrilla Resources concluded.

Although the report said Cuadrilla’s shale-gas fracking activities most probably did cause two minor tremors earlier this year, near Blackpool, Lancashire, it claims such incidents are unlikely to repeated because of a combination of specific geological factors and water pressure used at the well.

“We unequivocally accept the findings of this independent report and are pleased it concludes that there is no threat to people or property in the local area from our operations,” said Mark Miller, chief executive of Cuadrilla. “We are ready to put in place the early detection system proposed in the report so that we can provide additional confidence and security to the local community.”

The report says a worst-case seismic event would not exceed magnitude 3 on the Richter scale, and that, because of the depth of the well, such a tremor would not cause any surface damage.

“In the Lancashire area of the UK, there have been many mining-induced seismic events at comparatively shallow depths – around 1 km below the surface – that measured up to 3 on the Richter scale,” the report said. “[Cuadrilla’s] Preese Hall-1 well is more than 1.5 km below the earth’s surface, so events of a similar strength are very unlikely to cause any damage at the surface.”

Cuadrilla’s Bowland basin assets could hold as much as 200 trillion cubic feet of shale gas, but halted fracking pending an investigation by the UK Department of Energy and Climate Change on the controversial, shale-gas extraction method. And the UK could have more large shale-gas deposits, with the British Geological Survey expecting a rush of applications for the next round of drilling licences

Frack Off protest

Meanwhile, members of environmental group Frack Off climbed a rig operating at Cuadrilla’s Hesketh Bank site on Tuesday in protest at the firm’s use of fracking. “Conventional fossil fuels have begun to run out and the system is moving towards more extreme forms of energy like fracking, tar sands, and deep-water drilling,” said Frack Off climber Colin Eastman.

“The move towards ‘extreme energy’ is literally scraping the bottom of the barrel, sucking the last, most difficult to reach fossil fuels from the planet at a time when we should be rapidly reducing our consumption altogether and looking for sustainable alternatives.”

Cuadrilla confirmed there were five protesters at Hesketh Bank and that four had attached themselves to equipment. “The police are on site and we are working with them to bring the protest to a peaceful end. Our priority is the safety of both the protesters and our own staff,” the company said.

As well as questions over earthquakes, fracking also involves flooding wells with a mixture of chemicals and water that protesters fear could be a danger to the environment and human health.

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