Campaigners call for fracking moratorium in former mining areas after new report reveals shale gas plans overlooked key geological data

peter styles 2

Professor Peter Styles. Photo: Talk Fracking

Fracking companies have failed to use all available geological data when applying for planning permission, according to a report launched at Westminster this afternoon.

The study, by a former Downing Street adviser, shows that historic coal mining data has been overlooked or ignored.

It calls on planning committees to consider detailed maps of faults when deciding applications.

Anti-fracking campaigners have called for a moratorium on fracking in mining areas and a public investigation.

The report’s author is Professor Peter Styles, a former President of the Geological Society of London and Head of Geology at Keele University. He established the link between fracking at Cuadrilla’s Preese Hall well and the Blackpool earthquakes of 2011. He also advised David Cameron on seismic regulation of fracking.

He concluded:

“It is critical that this high resolution, carefully mapped data set should be included in any planning process for unconventional oil and gas activities.”

In an interview with DrillOrDrop last month, he warned of the risks of fracking near geological faults in former coal mining areas. The said the operation could trigger earthquakes and should not take place without assessment of all available geological data.

He recommended a gap of 850m – described as a respect distance – between fracking wells and known faults.

His report, launched this afternoon to MPs and peers at the Houses of Parliament, overlaid historic mining data from South Yorkshire and North East Derbyshire, where Ineos proposes to drill for shale gas, onto maps from the British Geological Survey (BGS), which show only major fault lines.

180522 S YOrkshire shale sites Peter Styles

Geological map with faults (black) from BGS and faults (highlighted white) from underground mine maps. Historic induced seismic events are shown with white and red dots and fall on the small mapped faults as well as the large ones and sometimes within a few kilometres of the proposed boreholes at Marsh Lane, Harthill and Woodsetts.  Source: Professor Peter Styles

Professor Styles said:

“I have looked at a number of these applications and they, probably as they have been advised, have used BGS geological maps and existing seismic reflection data of early vintage (BP acquired mostly) to formulate their planning applications.

“BGS surface fault maps are excellent but are limited as to the scale of faulting they show.”

He said surface seismic surveying equipment used by the shale gas industry cannot detect smaller faults that might give rise to seismic events that would stop shale gas operations.

But he said there was detailed geological information, particularly on faulting, had been compiled in mining areas.

“When these detailed mine mapping data is plotted together with locations of historic and relatively recent seismic events it is clear that they lie close to or on these smaller faults in many instances.

“These small but potentially active faults which are capable of generating seismic events which would exceed the Traffic Light Thresholds can be seen to occur much closer to proposed borehole sites than the 850m respect distance proposed.”

He concluded:

“In many areas proposed shale gas activities lie beneath historic coal mine workings which have already experienced subsidence and sometimes fault rejuvenation.”

Ministers “careful not to single out particular report”

perry and raab

Claire Perry and Dominic Raab at last night’s select committee. Source: Parliament TV

The conclusions of Professor Styles’ report were put to ministers at a select committee hearing on fracking planning guidance last night. DrillOrDrop report

Asked whether planning committees should consider the report, the Energy Minister, Claire Perry, replied:

“Of course there should always be scientific debate but we should be very careful not to single out any particular report and prejudice any individual application on that basis because we have had the world’s best scientists review this industry for many years.”

Asked again, Mrs Perry said local authorities should take account of the ”overwhelming  bulk of academic and on the ground evidence”.

Moratorium calls


Photo: Talk Fracking

The Liberal Democrat peer, Lynne Featherstone (right), who hosted this afternoon’s event, said this aftyernoon:

“This report asks some serious questions of the government and the fracking industry.

“Ministers must take heed and listen to the growing weight of evidence on fracking and, at the bare minimum, implement a moratorium on fracking in coal mining areas and review fracking across the UK.”

Photo: Talk Fracking

The campaigner, Joe Corre, (left) whose Talk Fracking organisation promoted the report, said:

“Professor Peter Styles report shows beyond any doubt that our Regulations are a farce.

“The fracking industry, with the help of their government friends, are about to stampede all over this beautiful country and they haven’t even bothered to consider the highly accurate and available data from our coal mining history.

“The North of England, in particular, is riddled with old mine workings and fault lines already severely weakened by coal extraction, right beneath where they intend to frack.

“I hope finally, that with this report the government starts to act responsibly and exercise their duty of care. A moratorium should be put in place immediately and a full public investigation into all the available evidence on fracking should be carried out as Scotland and our neighbours have done.”

Fracking and Historic Coal Mining: Their relationship and should they coincide?



27 replies »

  1. The government were happy to take this gentleman’s advice before but will they accept it now, when it doesn’t suit their obsession to plough ahead with fracking? They repeatedly harp back to the Royal Society/Academy report of 2012, the EY report and the Public Health England report ie somewhat dated reports that suit their agenda. It will be interesting to see how they deal with this new information because being forewarned by a respected expert, one they have accepted advice from before means that if there were to be any problems with seismicity, particularly in former mining areas, this could be judged legally negligent.

    • Kat, I think this statement answers your point – ‘ because we have had the world’s best scientists review this industry for many years.’ – vague and offsetting.

      So actually, to which scientists are you referring to Claire Perry?

      • Quite. The majority of the O&G scientific expertise (re. fracking) is dedicated to how you extract maximum yields from the shale at hand. It has taken other scientists to expose the risks and the emissions. They’re still playing catch up with regulations in the US. Meanwhile to suggest England is ahead in the laws and regulations dept is absurd.

        Now they want to fast track permitted development and no doubt subvert the 12 months of prior groundwater monitoring (per site) … I.e. the only way in which aggrieved claimants would be able to scientifically prove ground contamination had taken place after completion and fracking.

        It will probably take a guinea pig situation (another one) to expose the problems, or faults – literally.

        • When Eric pulled the lever last time he caused 50 seismic events; if you don’t pull hard enough, no gas; pull hard enough and the ground literally shakes.

          Am off to teach the world to sing as actions speak louder than words; will be back if they get to frack; have a ringside seat booked.

          Don’t waste too much time on the call centre.
          See yeh later folks 🙂

          • Cheers Sherwulfe, have fun! If you get a chance watch The Bentley Effect, it was released on DVD on 12th May on their website;


            Links to live stream or download The Bentley Effect online on Vimeo or order the all regions dvd direct.
            If anyone had any doubts that this pernicious Fossil fuel industry railroading democracy attempt can be stopped dead in its tracks, then watch the movie and realise that this poisonous industry is just as vulnerable to peaceful protest and direct action here as in Australia, and the industries Achilles heels reside in local and central government.

            • Well it seems the EA want to limit peoples useage of water, or water will become scarce within 10 years.
              This coincides with the Alps and the Himalayas saying that permafrost ice is melting and moraine and boulders are causing avalanches and rock slides . Water to irrigate crops and grapes and feed rivers is becoming erratic and unpredictable.
              Global warming, conveniently relabelled climate change bites it seems?
              So what does this mean for the onshore fracking industry where millions of gallons of fresh water are required depleting local supplies and the resultant millions of gallons of toxic radioactive waste water that will have to be disposed of is still a paranoid secret, never to be mentioned
              This industry must be the first target for water use restrictions, say a four bedroom home equivalent per well?
              Let’s see some of this infamous EA rubber stamp gilded plastic regulations actually being applied hard and fast to this filthy industry for once and for all shall we?
              Or better still scrap the whole damned fracking debacle and finally spend our time and energy and money on intelligent naturally occurring renewable energy and really create an energy secure future for all.
              Better for everyone isn’t it.

        • Phil
          I thought that permitted development was just for exploration wells, not fracked wells?
          I did not see much fast tracking to fracking, such that this would circumvent a 12 month monitoring plan?

  2. Spot on Phil C, just read the news item on water problems and they want the Fracking industry to use millions of gallons, you could not make it up could you.

    Prof Smythe was making the same calls on Fracking near faults from the beginning, but hey, we have a traffic light system so that’s okay!!!

    Will this shameful government listen, I doubt it. The usual pros are quiet, must still be in bed?

  3. You’ve hit the nail on the head as usual Phil C. Fracking was the first thing that came to mind when I heard on local radio news about water use restrictions. As we all know, the government’s left and right hands are not connected. What a load of numpties.

  4. So let’s get this right Phil,

    Whilst our outdated water infrastructure leaks like a sieve and Fracking Companies want to heavily add to the problems, as they require up to …. 9.6 million gallons of water PER WELL.

    The mugs in the UK are set to have an ever increasing amount of hose pipe bans and other water restrictions placed upon them.

    BUT THEY WILL STILL be expected to pay the FULL amount of their water rates ..

    Looks like it’s a WIN, WIN for fat cat boses.

    Water Use Rises as Fracking Expands . ( Scientific America )

    • Interesting Ronin,Kali and Jack, isn’t it? That the issues of the fracking debacle always come down to water in a quite fundamental way? And of course as you say Jackthelad, our infrastructure water supply leaks like a sieve, in Oct 2010, In total 3.28 billion litres of water were lost through leaking pipes every single day last year, the equivalent of 14 million baths of water. Why not do something about that first?

      BS isnt it?

      The threat to our water supplies is profound and irreversible. Once poisoned at source, and that will be the result, our water will remain tainted and undrinkable with filthy carcinogens, reproduction inhibitors and development preventers, chemicals and gas entrained deadly methane solution for generations to come,

      it is interesting to note that worldwide, monopolization of water supplies by governments and corporations is all ready in full swing? Some governments are saying there is no right to water and that is a fundamental human right for free access to clean uncontaminated water.

      What are we to derive from all that?

      The EA announcement is an unintentional own goal and a backhanded head shot to the industry that is propped up by Government complicit and compromised railroading to try an ride roughshod over everyone that dares speak up and object to this fracking debacle?

      Clearly there are two forces operating in this government and they are fundamentally conflicted? One is the corporate lobbied spokespersons trying to get Carte Blanche for every aspect of this exploitation process over on communities and the tax payer and make us pay for their profits. The other is trying desperately to operate an increasingly bureaucratic overbearing oligarchy overturn peoples human rights to clean uncontaminated water and at the same time, attempting to crush democratic representation, protest and accountability?

      None of these is of the slightest benefit to the people of this country, quite the opposite, they are just corporate theft and exploitation by the back lobby door, and is nothing more than big brother motivated by big oil and gas.

      I always remind myself that the people of this country never asked for any of this, but like i was always taught, never start a fight, but always finish one.

      the first thing to do in those circumstances, is to understand and identify your opponent, and having done so, look for weak points, contradictions and vulnerabilities.

      These people in government and industries, who have chosen to be our opponents by their actions, not ours, have many weak points, many contradictions, and many vulnerabilities. identifying them is not hard.

      It is these internal contradictions, the lies and the secretive cover ups, the unmentionable blinkered “refuse to discuss” issues, the lack of any observable objective intelligible logic beyond base viscous animal cunning, the “one rule for them and another rule for us” attitudes and so on and so on.

      All these are bringing them down to size time after time, day after day, issue after issue, to the point where we can simply push them out the door with the words “and don’t come back” ringing in their blinkered ears and rubber stamped on their receding foreheads.

    • Jack

      It seems to be supported by the water companies saying they can easily support the operation given the water they have.
      But one fracked well can use as much water as 11,000 houses use in 1 day it seems.

      But then, maybe those frackers do not need potable water to frack the wells and they can use water other than that from the mains.
      I would expect that, if there were a hosepipe ban fracking companies could find their own water, not the potable stuff that would be in short supply.

      We shall see no doubt, but so far only 4 wells to frack this year?

      The link says that water use rises as fracking expands and there are problems in dry areas, but not where it rains a lot!

  5. Why don’t we just operate a policy that bans reproduction? That would soon solve the water supply issue.

    Alternatively, perhaps one day the need to increase infrastructure to match population will be grasped? Ahh, where does the money come from? Maybe cut importing things and produce our own, raising UK taxes to spend on infrastructure?

    There is absolutely no problem with water supply in UK. The only problem is storing it and not wasting it once stored. Ancient civilisations could manage it. Not really a great challenge for the UK once immigration is managed so population growth requirements can be calculated.

    • WE SING from the same Hymn Sheet MARTIN .

      Uncontrolled immigration and/or reproduction growth will put real strains on all natural resources and services in the future .

      This problem will not just be confined to the UK though, this is a global problem, that will need global solutions.

      Interesting report put out today about the state of the NHS ….. Please though ignore the usual rhetoric of blame the elderly for all the problems . ( We don’t want to start the Liverpool Care Pathway again )

      NHS needs £2,000 in tax from every household to stay afloat – report

    • Martin

      I agree. No doubt come the next drought, there will be talk of a contour canal once more, one that takes water from the well watered North to the parched south. A problem made worse by the expanding population of the SE (and the industry down there ).

      It requires an engineering solution.

  6. Quote: ‘we should be very careful not to single out any particular report…’ That’s a bit rich. The government is still leaning on their Public Health England report despite it being discredited by the BMJ as a ‘leap of faith without scientific foundation’ and eclipsed by hundreds of other peer reviewed papers from bona fide independent sources since then. Yet there it is, still front and centre of the governments case.

  7. Ahh, but it is the Guardian, Jack!

    I don’t disagree with the concept, but equally, the NHS is an extremely disorganised organisation which is full of wasteful practices. Their own recent report indicated that £22 billion could be saved through efficiency improvements, and yet, where are they?

    Fortunately, I have yet to call upon the NHS that much, but when I do the same consultants who are able to operate an efficient service in the private sector are “unable” to do so when working in the NHS. Nothing to do with resource, just a huge difference in organisation. One treats the individual as a customer, the other often as a tick box exercise. It has long been the case, and is nothing to do with party politics but someone has to grasp that if large sums of money are currently being badly utilised, just making those sums bigger will achieve just the same result.

    I have no axe to grind about immigration having enjoyed working and socialising with people from around the globe all my life. However, as medicine becomes more complex and specialist the simple mathematics of how long it takes to train specialist staff and provide them with specialist facilities is impossible to organise efficiently if you don’t know what the demand is. You couldn’t run a corner shop efficiently on that basis, let alone the NHS. However, I suspect the playing catch up game will continue for a long time yet.

  8. Professor Styles Report says that in coal mined areas fracking may affect existing small faults such that fracking may (or more likely) trigger seismic events.

    Hence it would not be a success, as 0.5 events would turn up immediately (depending on proximity to a fault).

    He also suggests that all information is considered in the planning process, to include the faulting information available ex British Coal.

    This issue may struggle to go much further on this site unless the companies who intend to frack address the Professors report in that

    1. Have they got and or considered the faulting information available from old coal mining areas
    2. How does their seismic program fit in with that information (ie with the BC information what additional information is the seismic surveys giving them ).
    3. How does this information affect their fracking expectations (ie time to frack each well)

    These are questions that could be asked at the next INEOS information sessions, short of any comment from the company in the meantime I guess.

    Some view from UKOG would be interesting.

    Anti frackers may well fear that in order to successful frack, that there would be a request for a derogation of the traffic light system in order to allow more seismic activity prior to stopping / reducing the injection rate. But on a more positive note for them, it may mean that fracking in old mined areas could lead to levels of seismic activity which, while not causing damage (or be detectable by people living in the area ) would not be deemed acceptable, and hence fracking would not be allowed.

    But .. in the meantime fracking will take place outwith old mining areas in Lancashire, and (depending on exploratory drilling) in the East Midlands (not up North as noted in the vox pop above ) Misson and Tinkers lane are on the edge of old mined areas (ie in the solid).

    So we shall see how it goes no doubt.

  9. Jack

    The interesting thing is that it requires £2000 per year, every year and on into the future.
    No doubt the wealth of the old will be used to fund care, although lots of that is being passed down the generations to fund house buying and so on. Interesting times.

  10. From Styles’ report: “So we have injected water at sufficiently high pressure to overcome the weight of the rock above”
    I’d like to hear the science behind this if the Prof is on the website. Generally fractures will propagate parallel to the maximum stress, as shown in his figures.

    • Al
      I did not see an issue with that comment ( first paragraph page 14 of the report ).

      It’s quite easy to provide sufficient pressure to counter the weight of rock above, aided by the pressure of the fluid in the drill pipe of course. Gravity is on your side. Likewise it’s on your side to provide sufficient pressure to fracture the shale.

      I think the point was that, once you flowback the fractures would close ( be it from the weight of rock or horizontal stress ) unless you popped a proppant in there.

      Re propagation parallel to the max stress, the diagram on page 13 shows that to be the case?

      Just my interpretation of course.

      • Unless you are doing the frack treatment at less than about 1000ft below ground level, the vertical stress field will be more than either of the two horizontal stress fields, so you will generate vertical fractures. If you are somehow generating horizontal fractures in UK operations, then there is no need to worry about fractures propagating up to the aquifer!

        • Al
          I think that the prof is not going to reply to your question!

          My thought was that the prof would be aware that fractures will be vertical at depth but may have painting a picture for his audience (it was first a talk )

          He should certainly be aware of the work by Hubbert et al, a work well worth reading for all interested in the history of fracking.

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