Updated: 0.3M tremor recorded near Cuadrilla’s fracking site

The British Geological Survey recorded a small earth tremor today near Cuadrilla’s fracking site on the edge of Blackpool. This follows three micro-seismic events yesterday.

The seismic activity, the first recorded in the area since fracking began on Monday (15 October 2018), was too small to be felt at the surface.

But today’s event had a magnitude of 0.3ML, which would have put it in the amber zone of the regulations on induced seismicity had it occurred during fracking.

Under the rules, known as the traffic light system, operators are required to “proceed at caution” in amber. Fracking must stop immediately if seismic events reach 0.5ML (the red level).

The rules were introduced after fracking at Cuadrilla’s shale gas well at Preese Hall in 2011 was linked to earthquakes measuring 2.3 and 1.5.

Yesterday’s micro-seismic events measured -0.2, -0.8 and -0.3 magnitude.

All the activity was clustered on the edge of Blackpool, near the junction of A583 and Peel Road. This is the area approximately at the end of the horizontal shale gas well, called PNR1z, currently being fracked by Cuadrilla.

181018 pnr earth tremors location

Location of seismic events (yellow circles). There were two events at the most southerly point. Source: Batch Geo using maps copyright 2019 Google Imagery

181018 pnr wellbore location

Location of Cuadrilla’s shale gas well currently being fracked. Source: Cuadrilla Resources hydraulic fracturing plan

The first event was recorded at 4.48pm (BST) yesterday, followed by two others later at night at 11.54pm and 0.44am (both also BST). The depths were estimated by the BGS at 2km and 3km. Cuadrilla is fracking at a depth of about 2.2km.

Today’s event was at 2.20pm (BST) at an estimated depth of 3km.

Yesterday’s events were too small to show up on Cuadrilla’s online display of seismic data. This shows activity only in the amber and red zones of the traffic light system.

A spokesperson for Cuadrilla told us today’s 0.3ML event would also not be shown on the display. It was classed as a “trailing event” because fracking was not actually taking place:

“If we had been pumping at that time it would have indeed been an amber event we would have confirmed it.”

On yesterday’s events the spokesperson said:

“Three microseismic events were detected yesterday by the highly sensitive Traffic Light System Cuadrilla has installed around the Preston New Road site and were very far below levels that could be felt at surface. The recordings from these seismometers are shared with the British Geological Survey to help them reassure the public that operations are continuing safely as planned.

“We take the monitoring and regulation of seismicity seriously, with daily reports sent to the regulators. The microseismic events recorded were extremely low and well within the Green Light threshold and confirm that the monitoring system is working to the highest standard.”

DrillOrDrop asked the company whether it was fair to say that the events were caused by fracking. The company’s spokesperson said:

“Events of this magnitude cannot even be described as tremors. To do so implies some felt movement at surface and micro seismic measurement confirms this is simply not the case We’ve been monitoring baseline seismicity for some time in the run up to starting hydraulic fracturing operations, and we have noted fluctuations at this very low level of microseismicty during that time. What we do know is that our detection systems are working as planned and these very low levels of seismicity are being detected.”

We also asked when the most recent hydraulic fracture treatment took place. Cuadrilla said:

“The most recent stage was completed yesterday and our hydraulic fracturing operations are continuing as planned.”

The Southampton University geologist, Dr Stephen Hicks, who has been monitoring a recent swarm of earthquakes in Surrey, tweeted:

“These are tiny “microseismic” events (not felt at the surface) and to be expected as they are probably caused by the brittle failure of small volumes of rock due to the hydraulic fracturing process. It’s good that the BGS network has such a small detection threshold.”

181019 Stephen Hicks

Dr Nick Riley, commenting on the micro-seismicity, said:

“The -0.8 event corresponds in terms of energy released to a person of average weight at 75kg jumping onto the ground from a height of 2m.”

David Smythe, emeritus professor of geophysics at University of Glasgow, who opposed Cuadrilla’s shale gas plans in Lancashire, said the events could be a warning sign:

“Recent research by Stanford University shows that these tiny tremors can be indicators of bigger quakes to follow – like canaries in a coal-mine. The problem for Cuadrilla is that if it carries on regardless, bigger earthquakes may well be triggered. To quote Cole Porter; “There may be trouble ahead”. Cuadrilla’s only safe option is to cease fracking.”

A spokesperson for the campaign group, Frack Free Lancashire said:

“We will continue to monitor these events closely. Considering the relevant past history with the Fylde Coast’s geology and having two significant seismic events which effectively shut down the fracking industry, all eyes are currently on Cuadrilla. These events may be dismissed as being minor and “can’t be felt” but what occurs under the earth is beyond anyone’s control.”

97 replies »

    • Where do you dig up these shocking websites? Everyday we are being barraged by pulp alt right rubbish which usually had nothing to do with the original topic of the thread.

      How does a supposedly normal bloke from Kirkham have the web addresses to these sites with links to alt right, ultra conservative American think tanks and foundations?

      It’s all a bit iffy and far past Martin “Walt” Colliers clarion call to DYOR.

      • It’s all over the mainstream media crembrule because it’s a fact. More natural gas from fracking has allowed the US to lead the world in reducing GHG emissions. The UK has also reduced emissions due to a growing reliance on gas and away from coal. Now the UK has the opportunity to reduce GHG further by replacing the rest of its coal, wood pellet, and imported gas with domestic fracked gas. Better for the environment, better for those who live in fuel poverty, better for jobs, better for energy security, better for wealth creation.

        • Bob the point being this isn’t a main stream media link it’s funded by a ultra conservative alt right think tank, as all of Kishney links appear to be.

          You would think with it being “all over” the main stream media he would be able to post a non partisan link.

          I’ll tell you what is also all over the mainstream media at the moment, the recent IPCC report and also still fresh is the US proposed withdrawal from the Paris CCA on business grounds, although this don’t come into effect until 2020.

          • Crembrule, I’ve seen plenty of far left links on this site too. Those may very well be funded by Vladmir Putin. Better to debate the facts in the stories rather than the sources.

            The IPCC report is all over the mainstream media, this is true. Oddly enough that report doesn’t spend a lot of time crediting fracking for doing more to lower GHG emissions than any other technology. Maybe in the next report?

            • Well I wouldn’t hold your breath Bob, but then again you might need to if you are down wind of PNR once they start flaring 😉

          • I think that there are those who would debate you on that point. Some feel that the job creation and investment that could result from a strong industry would easily offset the small impact from well pads.

            • Yeah well we could also throw into the mix the potential losses in tourism and agriculture jobs. You know the type of jobs that are long term in an area rather than short term and transient like oil and gas activity.

  1. I wonder how the horses at Penny Farm and cattle at Wensley’s field are reacting to these events?
    Anybody out there observing by any chance?

    • The protesters don’t like Penny Farm as they let the police use their facilities

      Protesers blocking entrances to Penny Farm to show their opposition, this has not made it into a report by DOD… Funny that…

      • We are disgusted with Penny Farm (a registered charity) because they pretend to be concerned about horse welfare but facilitate the destruction of their own community!

        They are run by ex-police personnel therefore are obliged to do this or be in danger of losing their pensions I believe!

        The current group of tremors are less than 200 meters away from their fields yet they still host the police vans out of site waiting to stop our peaceful protest!

    • Peter Roberts
      I would point you to the BGS database for earthquakes. You can see that the majority of smaller quakes over time in the uk coincide with areas of mining activity.

      In addition have a look at the Ollerton Earthquakes report by the Daily Mail ( easily google ) which shows 36 tremors over 31 days ( end of 2013 into 2014 ). All of those 36 exceeded 0.8 with a maximum of 1.7 as shown.

      No horses were bothered by the tremors, but plates rattled in some cases.

      So, no need to check out the livestock yet I suspect.

      Unless anyone has information on any adverse affects of mining tremors on horses over the 100 years plus that mining took place in Nottinghamshire?

      • Note that there was a tremor in the forest of bowland on 05/06/18 at 2.0Ml. That would be over 100x more powerful than the recent tremors near PNR. No news coverage. No dancing. No amber alerts.

        On 28/02/18 near Keswick there was a 3.0Ml event. So, around 200x stronger than the PNR event. Not felt by anyone. Not in the media. No anti-frackers dancing. Nothing.

        Get a grip.

        • And 01/04/11 a 2.3Ml event at Preese Hall and on the 27/05/11 a 1.5Ml event also at Preese Hall. No amber alerts but plenty of dancing around by the company trying to avoid any blame.

          • “Then after the British Geological Survey confirmed that the shakes and tremors was indeed a 4.4 magnitude earthquake, which is the biggest in 10 years, all that was left was for social media to begin their gentle mocking.

            That earthquake was approximately 100x more powerful than the most powerful of those that “shook” Lancashire when Cuadrilla first fracked. That 4.4 Ml event generated not much more than a good laugh. So, yes, get a grip!

            • It’s not the whole lot of shaking going on that bothers me it’s the whole lot of well deformation going on that is a concern though.

              Mmm Preese Hall 1 the gift that never stops giving.

  2. Problem of the amtis is they use this as a PR against Cuadrilla but most people did not notice or unable to feel any tremor and this PR tactic is seen as a scaremongering tactic rather than factual.

    • Eh? I don’t dispute these readings are very low level and most likely not unexpected but how can something that has been reported by the BGS independently not be factual?

      The reaction may or may not be hyperbole but the facts that these readings are related to the process given the depth and long/lat are irrefragable.

      I expect the BGS Earthquakes around the U.K. page will make boring reading for the next few months with one location holding multiple position on the hit parade.

      • Sure. I agree. The word factual wasnt accurate description but it is sensationalized by the media and anti frackers for their political agenda rather than its factual context.

        • The media are just reporting the news they are not sensationalising anything, it’s factual and it’s in the public interest.

          Pretty sure they haven’t said the Fylde is going destroyed by earthquakes of this level just yet. Or would you have a preference that nothing was reported unless there is a major event?

          I am sure the media outlets will soon move onto the next hot potato soon enough.

          • It’s great for Cuadrilla and the rest of the industry to have these sensationalized earthquake stories which are driven by politics. It’s the “Boy Who Cried Wolf”. People see the headlines about fracking causing earthquakes and the problem for anti-frackers is that they then read the stories. When they see that the “earthquakes” are of 0.0000 magnitude or up to a massive 0.3, they wonder why the heck a newspaper would devote space to something so inconsequential. So, the next time the paper runs a similar story, they realize it’s all hype and they just move on to the next story.

  3. Problem for Cuadrilla is they are not getting the gas to flow and will have to frack harder. That’s when the headline will. Lol

      • Well. Do you Bob? What make you so confident that current fracking program is effectively producing gas flow. They are only doing a mini frack. Cuadrilla is too worry about the tremor they are going at snail pace. On top of that problem, they cant frack hard enough to get the gas flow

        • TW – Cuadrilla are undertaking there full fracking program. A “mini” frack may precede the full frack at each stage. This provides information to refine the main frack prior to executing it. The frack volume, sand content, chemicals etc. are exactly as planned. The difference is that Cuadrilla are using the TLS to ensure induced seismicity is kept in the required window. This is achieved by a lower pump rate and injection pressure; this means each frack takes longer than it would have done if seismicity (TLS) was not a constraint. This costs more money as it takes more time but the end result is the same. Gas will not be produced to surface until the fracking program is complete. The TLS limits are set too low due to Politics, spineless Industry Body and lack of understanding of the issues but that is the way it is – for now. Perhaps CP knows better as she has mentioned altering the TLS limits apparently. But these wells will have to abide by the current TLS limits. INEOS may be a better bet for sorting this out. Coming soon….

  4. It’s just the classic “crying wolf” TW. The last couple of years has been littered with “concerns” about everyday events that excite a few and the media pick up on that. But items such as “wheel washingate”, “waterpipegate” etc. that the public might come across every day of their lives and hardly notice simply shows that the antis need a grievance to mobilise them, even when there is no basis to it.

    The media will mop it up now, and then revisit it if and when gas is produced, and use it against the antis. Two stories from the same situation-that’s the way the media works today.

    • Nope wrong as per usual, situations like wheel washingate were clear indications of the companies inclinations to bend the rules to suit their needs.

      Here we have raw information being provided by an independent body and reported by the news media as it is in the public interest.

      What is quite telling is that none of the events would have appeared on the company’s own TLS reporting tool and it is left to the general public to look at BGS for data. It probably seemed a good idea at the time to reduced reported data only to trigger events but it now looks to the press and public as if the company was deliberately withholding data.

      As I have already said the size of the events is tiny and probably par for the course and no one appears to be scaremongering but the non reporting of these events by the company is probably of more interest to the wider public.

      We will all watch ( the BGS not Cuadrilla’s site) with interest as things develop. But as has been previously stated this isn’t real world activity as it is at such a slow pace as to make the whole process unviable if it where the operational timescale for other future wells.

      • Nope, Crembrule, wrong again. It is absolutely sensationalized by the media. Doesn’t take a genius to figure that out just read the headlines yourself. “Blackpool suffers FOUR earthquakes in two days as fracking restarts” Daily Mail. Plenty of others. The media can’t help it, they know that perceived calamity sells copy, right?

        I wonder why you think that the company should report these events. They are certainly not newsworthy. When earthquakes that are 100-200x as powerful happen in areas nearby, there is no reporting of it because it isn’t newsworthy to talk about something that does no damage and that no one can feel. If Cuadrilla were to put out a release for every negative 0.4Ml event then anti-frackers would complain that the company was attempting to overwhelm people with data so that they would miss possible significant events.

        Watch any site you want, but Cuadrilla’s will show any event of real significance. This is real world activity as real gas will flow from the well and you will benefit from that gas eventually, and it will help to reduce GHG emissions and clean the air of pollutants. Enjoy!

        • Hahaha the Daily Mail, the most pro Tory rag of them all. They are reporting the facts nothing made up.

          BTW its actually five tremors in Blackpool since this was initially posted, all of which likely attributable to the big Cs activity, as indicated by the depth and long/lats.

          Now you may be uncomfortable with this being reported but that is because it’s an inconvenient embarrassing truth. Would the industry and its supporters rather the wider public not know this activity causes earth tremors? Like in 2011, cause an issue then deny all knowledge only to be caught with their pants down.

          Why should the company report them you ask, well because it’s about transparency, a much more sensible approach would be to report everything and to explain what is occurring and why. See the BGS

          Please can your explain how the burning of gas for heating, cooking or electricity production “cleans” the air of pollutants? It may produce reduced levels of some pollutants as a bi-product of it’s combustion or it may offset the production of pollutants from other fuel sources but what it absolutely, positively will not do is “clean” the air of anything. That’s the kind of fantasy nonsense you seem to accuse to Antis but seem more than happy to peddle yourself. Keep up the good work Bob you are doing sterling stuff with crap like that.

        • Bob did you ever come up with a reply as to how burning gas “cleans the air of pollutants”? Like some one wearing a very tiny hat to a party I am fascinated.

  5. Anyone checked that these epicentres are inside the hydraulic fracture plan boundaries?
    Also, what constitutes the start and end of a frack? If Cuadrilla are permanently keeping the well under some pressure then presumably the frack cycle is non-stop / ongoing.
    Anyone any idea of the pressure cycling limits. A limit on daily fluid volumes but what of pressures?

    • The information is in the Hydraulic Fracture Plan PNR 1/1Z which can be down loaded at:

      Click to access PNR1z-HFP-v9.pdf

      David Smythe has checked according to his comment plus the BGS data and well path on google earth indicate yes (see the article).

      Start is when pumping starts, end is when pumping has stopped and pressure bled off – at least that was how it was when I managed fracks. Not possible to keep the pressure on permanently, the proppant, sand, is there to keep the fractures open. Cycling limit is 0 – 9,500psi according to the Plan (max pumping pressure).

      Pumping time should be just under 4 hours per stage.

    • I posted this earlier:

      Looking at the map and the wellpath sat image above the events are S of the wellbore and consistent with fracking back along the horizontal section from TD. I think this is what David Smythe is saying. If the events are not perpendicular to the well and west of the well bore then you may be correct. The other point is that the formation is not homogeneous and will vary in sand content. Cuadrilla are presumably targetting “sweet spots” which have higher sand content but this will change as the frack propogates. If the induced stress is multiplying then we will see a much larger event which is what you are predicting I think?

      Page 9 of the HFP V9 indicates a average fracture height ranging from 24 – 150m and average fracture half length ranging from 64 – 313m.

      • Paul. Interesting. So what you are saying is if the microseismic is perpendicular to the well and just at the end of the well, which look like it is exactly as shown on the sat image, then it is likely due to fraccing. Obviously that is where the propagation of fractures occurred. So it is as expected.

      • Thanks for that Paul, I had missed the earlier response.

        I think we’ve ‘bantered’ over the hydraulic frack plan in the none too distant past. A local friend activist in the Fylde has pointed out an example of an apparently more comprehensive (and diligently signed) frack plan under:-

        But we’ve got what we’ve got thanks to Cuadrilla and the EA etal. One thing the Cuadrilla fracture plan does show is the potential fault zone at the end of the well implied by SD4, SD5 and SD6. These could be all interjoined and this is what Cuadrilla maybe inadvertently ‘lubricating’. This would fit with the seismic activity. Remember, we’ve got to be very careful with a Cuadrilla interpretation. This is the company that couldn’t resolve there was no millstone grit under the well pad until they drilled down and found it wasn’t there.

        The potential latency of events to fracking/injection seems tobe exposing a shortcoming of the TLS anyway. Amber, red events after fracking. Perhaps the remit should now be to wait, but for how long? How much fluid is in this fault zone? If that’s what it is and that’s where the fluid is that hasn’t come back…

        But, I’m curious as to the well not being kept under pressure or ‘shut in.’ Presumably post frack fluid and gases are migrating back up the well now 24/7. Is this all then captured and stored? What happens to the gas if it’s not flared? Is it separted from the fluid in separation tanks, analysed and then kept under pressure in cylinders. I suppose there’s safety venting direct into the atmosphere. When is there enough gas produced to flare efficiently?

        • Richard – I don’t have the operational program. This will have been submitted to HSE for approval but I haven’t seen it on the Cuadrilla documents. There are a few ways to do this apparently (I have been retired for a while now).

          Somewhere they mention frack sleeves. These will have been placed at the zones to be fracked. What I expect they are doing is opening the frack sleeve at the point they want to frack, conducting the frack, bleeding off the pressure and thereby flowing back the fluid that was injected, closing the sleeve and moving onto the next sleeve up the well and repeating the exercise. This will be undertaken until all the fracks are completed. Only then will all the sleeves be opened, the well flowed back to surface and cleaned up. This is when there will be gas to surface. If this is the procedure then there will be no gas at surface until all fracturing is finished and clean up and flow testing begins.

          There is no mechanism that I am aware of for “storing” gas at surface. Gas produced to surface must be cold vented or flared (or compressed and put into a pipeline, not the case at PNR).

          • Thanks Paul. I have also since read in EA documentation that it is abnormal for gas to flow back immediately after a frack along with the flowback.

          • Yes, and I suppose the potential problem with closing sleeves straight after a frack is that it pressurises the geology more. No way back for fluid or gas. More seismic activity. Maybe as dangerous as waste fluid disposal. All new novel stuff in a highly faulted environment. What could possibly go wrong?! Not to worry the EA & OGA will all have it under control …

  6. Yep, correct again, crembrule.

    Yesterday the road cleaner was busy 200 metres from my house scrubbing the road clean from the traffic in and out of the new housing estate being built. Should be reasonably clean until Monday, and then will start all over again. No one concerned, not even myself with a white car, because that’s what happens with building sites-exactly the same as happened on two other sites within half a mile of this one within the last three months. Same sort of thing, may or may not happen, when the sugar beet harvest is being done.

    “No one appears to be scaremongering”!!! Oh really. Put the telescope to the good eye. DYOR and check back through these 61 posts on the subject. Not difficult.

  7. Martin you are aware that different sites have different planning conditions for different reason aren’t you? Not all traffic requirements for site access onto local roads are the same. Or maybe you are so naive that you don’t know this!

    Onto the scaremongering cobblers, nope still not seeing a single post predicting frackmagedon on the basis of these readings. Apart from your involvement there actually appears to be a sensible discussion taking place. But as per usual you spoiled it with your!us and them nonsense. I would suggest it is YOU that is holding the telescope to the wrong eye [edited by moderator]

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