First red-level tremor at Cuadrilla’s fracking site

181026 location map

Location of earth tremors linked to fracking at Cuadrilla’s shale gas site to 26 October 2018. The most recent events are marked in red. Source: Google Imagery (c) 2018

A 0.8 magnitude earth tremor was recorded today near Cuadrilla’s fracking site at Preston New Road on the edge of Blackpool.

The event, at 12.30pm (bst), happened while fracking was taking place, the company has confirmed.

It qualifies as the first red event near the site under the government’s traffic light system regulations for induced seismicity.

It is also the largest seismic event near the site since fracking began on 15 October 2018.

181026 BGS chart

Extract from British Geological Survey list of seismic events around the British Isles since the Blackpool activity began.

A red event is where seismic activity during fracking measures 0.5ML or more.

Under the traffic light system, Cuadrilla must stop fracking the current stage, flush the well, reduce pressure and pause fracking for 18 hours. The integrity of the well must be checked and ground motion recorded. A report is sent to the regulators before operations can restart.

There have also been two amber events so far at Preston New Road were on 19 October and 25 October 2018. Amber events are where seismic activity measures 0.0-0.5ML. Fracking can be completed with caution, pressure reduced in the well and the integrity checked.

Cuadrilla said work would pause today for at least 18 hours and was expected to recommence tomorrow morning (Saturday 27 October 2018).

The company said in a statement:

“Micro seismic events such as these result in tiny movements that are way below anything that would be felt at surface, much less cause any harm or damage.

“It is reassuring that the monitoring and traffic light system is working as it should.

“All the relevant regulators were informed without delay and we have verified the well integrity is intact.

Today’s seismic event is the 17th earth tremor in a series that started on 18 October. There were two other events today, measuring 0.2 and -0.2ML.

There have been four consecutive days of seismic activity this week, comprising a total of 12 tremors.

Cuadrilla recorded today’s event as 0.78ML but the British Geological Survey, which records to one decimal place, listed it as a 0.8ML.

A spokesperson for Lancashire for Shale said:

“Like the others that have preceded it in recent weeks, this is still a microseismic event that we only know about because of the intensive monitoring being performed by both Cuadrilla and the British Geological Survey, using highly sensitive instrumentation.

“It is many thousands of times smaller than the 4.4 ML earthquake that struck South Wales earlier in the year, but which caused no damage to property or injury to people despite being felt over 100 miles away, including in Lancashire.

“People need to accept that these imperceptible microseismic events are just a feature of the fracking process. Provided that Cuadrilla continues to observe the requirements of the Traffic Light System and adheres to its government-approved Hydraulic Fracture Plan, there is no reason to suspect they are a precursor to more significant ‘felt seismicity’.”

What does a red light mean for fracking?


136 replies »

      • No, no no Bobby; so many posters on here informed us poor anti-fracking swampies that it would just be background seismicity, apparently occurs all over the UK……
        Got any gas yet?

    • Jono, ask Riverstone. It’s a multi-billion private equity shop without any debt. I think they could probably handle a few hundred years if they needed to.

    • They haven’t lost a day, in fact they probably haven’t lost much time at all. They are not allowed to frack at night are they?

      Cuadrilla should go for another red light tomorrow as they can’t do anything on Sundays. Then back to fracking on Monday.

  1. If these tremor locations are at all accurate as an indication of progress it would suggest that next week could complete this horizontal, if no serious delays.

    If that proves to be the case, it will be interesting to see if the seismic activity stops or whether there is any residual “settling” activity. Might give some indication of the level of control achieved with the current system.

    Mind you, Nov. 5th could mess up the data.

  2. It is likely that Cuadrilla completed today’s frack – hence the 0.8 tremor. So Cuadrilla will resume as normal tomorrow morning (18hrs later) assuming no objections from OGA / HSE etc. and no additional red light tremors. I wonder how much time, if any they have lost? Well integrity has already been checked okay.

    “A spokesman for Cuadrilla said: “It is reassuring that the monitoring and traffic light system is working as it should.

    “All the relevant regulators were informed without delay and we have verified that the well integrity is intact.

    “As per the hydraulic fracture plan in place at Preston New Road, work will now pause for at least 18 hours and is expected to recommence on Saturday morning.””

    Sherwulfe – are Cuadrilla permitted to work at night? If not then no delay…unless you can get CP or Toni Harvey to shut them down.

  3. Anyone else get the sense that earthquakes are beginning to become a tiring story in the media? The boy can only cry wolf so many times, right?

    • Bob
      I think, the more it is reported, the merrier we will be.
      However, unless a house shaker turns up I do not expect to see anything more. It certainly does not turn up in the Lincolnshire local rag. Fracking ( not earthquakes ) featured in the Mansfield Chad with one against and 5 guardedly for ( out of 6 ).

  4. In relation to the 0.8 event recorded today, a quote from the expert BGS site…

    “Seismic activity is not unexpected since hydraulic fracturing is generally
    accompanied by microseismicity (very small earthquakes that are too small to be felt).”

    Looking up the Richter Scale on Wikipaedia, tremors under 1 are not even thought worthy of description but ..
    1 to 1.9. Microearthquakes, not felt, or felt rarely. Recorded by seismographs. Continual/Several million per year.
    2 to 2.9 Felt slightly by some people. No damage to buildings. Over one million per year

    Remember that the Richter Scale is a logarithmic Scale which means each level is 10 times greater than the next lowest. So the 0.8 event recorded today is 10 times smaller than an event categorised as an “microearthquake”. Though let’s be clear, considerable pressure is being applied to fracture the rock. The fractures are then held open by sand which acts as micro “pit props” and the natural pressure at depth then drives the natural gas out of the billion year old compost heap we call shale rock.

    • Shalewatcher. are you suggesting we swap one oppressive regime in the Middle East for the other right here at home; shame on you….and what do the folk at Warton say about that?

  5. Seriously, Shalewatcher? You have the audacity to hide behind an anonymous handle and wheel out that racist and debunked ‘headchoppers and henchmen’ line? Even though BEIS have confirmed that almost half our gas comes from UK supplies, with the rest coming by pipeline from Norway and Holland, topped up by a small amount of LPG shipped from Qatar (who you presumably see as ‘headchoppers’ – an insulting and incorrect phrase, incidentally). They also confirmed that we get less than 1% of our gas from Russia (presumably your ‘henchmen’). This just shows how barren the arguments from those who support fracking are if all they can do is spout this nonsense.
    I would suggest that this site employs a moderator so that racist insults like this are removed, and posters blocked.

    • Ellie
      Russia is not in the Middle East.
      Plus, the moderator will no doubt review the post you complain of and take a view. And, I think you know that this site is moderated.

    • Ellie, In 2017 the UK got 9% of its gas from LNG, 44% from North Sea and 47% from European pipelines. The European pipelines are made up of 36% Russian gas. So 17% of UK gas coming in via Europe is Russian Gas, and can assume a portion of LNG from the likes of Qatar. So probably close to 20%. Not so insignificant I would suggest!!!

      • Blair
        If you have used the Centrica slide whoch shows 47% of our gas coming from European pipelines, that slide does not show the full picture.
        We import primarily through the Langaled Pipeline and Vesterled line. That is 100% Norwegian gas.
        We also import through the Bacton Connector but can export as well. That is truly European gas.
        So 1% Russian gas is about right by LNG, tho the fear is that we will become more dependant on it via LNG and via Bacton, especially if Holland shut down their prolific Groningen field.
        Of course a few molecules of Russian gas may reach us by the inter connector whethervwe like it or not.
        See for a good description of the pipelines connected to us.

        • A substantial, prolonged or permanent cut of Russian gas exports into Europe would be very damaging to Europe.

          It would be very hard to replace these imports with other gas or with a replacement source of energy in the short term.

          Gas prices would rise materially and shortages would be highly likely.

          Cutting gas exports however would also seriously impact on Russia itself, as a large portion of the government revenue relies on international gas and oil sales.

          • John Harrison
            I agree, Russia is not likely to turn off gas to Europe, as Europe pays and they need the cash.
            Indeed they are as keen to build more pipelines as Germany is to get gas.
            But if for some reason their gas supply failed, gas prices In Europe and the UK would rocket, and non contracted gas would be exported to Europe via the inter connector ( be it uk gas or Norwegian ).
            Ireland would feel the pinch as their gas flows across the UK first!
            We would also burn lots more coal, as would germany.
            No doubt we would seek to ameliorate the problem with LNG, but that is, like oil, internationally traded, so the highest bidder wins outwith any prior contracted price.

            Just my opinion of course.

            • You all swallowed the rhetoric hook line and sinker from both sides; promote fear, buy (with taxpayers dosh, of course) and sell weapons….simple!

            • Good call hewes, but still hearing the blue boys talk about Russian gas and the lights going off……

              Remember the war speak comes from both sides; they have no intention of conflict, just fear mongering to sell weapons…..behind closed door they sup Vodka and eat caviar together.

    • Hi Ellie

      Thanks for your comment. I was beginning to think that the “Headchoppers and Henchmen” line had been used enough. I believe it originates from Gary Smith, the GMB union’s Scotland secretary (who also included hangmen in the list).

      The phrase does appear borderline racist (since headchoppers presumably refers to most/all Arab countries who export oil/gas in this description). It surely is insulting to reduce a nation’s people or even just its government to a single unpleasant epithet.

      So the description will be removed from comments in the future.

      Paul (Moderator)

      • Paul, how can you possibly know who I was referring to in my posts. Of course I was thinking about the recent murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi and the difficult moral position the U.K. and other governments find themselves in dealing with such regimes. A similar dilemma is faced by Germany in relation to gas supplies from Russia vis a vis the annexation of Crimea and Russian human rights abuses. These dilemmas are forestalled the more we provide our own gas.

        In relation to future censorship I note that you allowed the term “Stalinist” to be pass unchallenged in relation to the detention of a possibly mentally disturbed young woman near Cuadrilla’s ste. Stalin murdered millions of his fellow citizens whilst this young woman was detained under the Mental Health Act, almost certainly for her own welfare.. Equally a few months ago I remember you allowed the actions of the police at Blackpool to be associated with the persecution of the Jews in Hitler’s Germany. A burly Lancashire copper restraining a protester is not quite the same thing. I commented on that reply at the time. So while we’re thinking about unpleasant epithets please consider putting your own house in order before adopting such a high moral tone.

        • References to Nazi Germany are generally removed from comments.

          I don’t think you have to murder millions of your fellow citizens to have your actions described as Stalinist (and the description was not being applied to a whole country of people)

    • Ellie, 38% of the gas in the European network is from Russia. If you look at how much we import from the European network and do the calculations based on 38%. Then it works out that 4.71% of our total imports excluding LNG came from Russia

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