Minister updates fracking “myth buster” on earthquakes

181016 Claire perry

Energy minister, Claire Perry, talking about shale gas at Westminster on 16 October 2018. Photo: Parliament TV

The energy minister, Claire Perry, has revised her “myth buster” about shale gas and fracking, apparently to take account a series of earthquakes near Cuadrilla’s site in Lancashire.

The document, distributed to MPs and constituents, originally included this from “Myth#7:

“The risk of an earthquake from shale gas extraction is very low.”

But an updated version now says:

“Seismic events below magnitude 2.0 on the Richter scale are usually not felt”.

Since the first version, Cuadrilla began fracking at its shale gas site at Preston New Road, near Blackpool.

In the past fortnight, the British Geological Survey has listed 30 seismic events close to the site on its online webpage Earthquakes around the British Isles in the last 100 days.

Two of the events triggered a red light in the traffic light regulations on induced earthquakes under which Cuadrilla was required to stop fracking. The earthquake with the greatest magnitude was 1.1ML (local magnitude) yesterday (29 October 2018).

Myth revisions

Sep 2018 Myth buster on earthquakes

Extract from pdf of “myth buster” published in September 2018

The original version of the myth buster’s “Myth #7” said in full:

“The risk of an earthquake from shale gas extraction is very low. The Oil and Gas Authority regulates for seismicity and requires operators to stop activity if any seismicity in measured, even if it is lower than tremors caused by a rollercoaster.” pdf version of the original “myth buster” downloaded on 30/10/2018 from a Conservative website

Ms Perry had suggested in the summer that the threshold for seismic activity at which fracking must pause could be raised above the current level of 0.5ML.

But on 16 October 2018, the day after Cuadrilla began fracking, she confirmed she was “not considering weakening the monitoring controls on seismicity”.

This statement was added to the new version of “Myth#7”, currently on Ms Perry’s website:

“Seismic events below magnitude 2.0 on the Richter scale are usually not felt. The Oil & Gas Authority uses a Traffic Light System to monitor seismicity caused by shale operations and at their Preston New Road site, Cuadrilla must pause activity for a minimum of 18 hours if an event of magnitude 0.5 or above is detected.  This is lower than the readings caused by a rollercoaster.  According to the British Geological Survey, we have on average 166 events of magnitude 2.9 or below each year in the UK.  The Traffic light System thresholds are set at a very low, precautionary level and we have no plans to review these.”

October 2018 Myth buster on earthquakes

Extract of “myth buster” published in October 2018

A spokesperson for the Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, told DrillOrDrop this afternoon:

“This is not a static document and is regularly updated. We are aware there has been interest in potential minor seismic events associated with hydraulic fracturing. The changes have been made to offer the public transparency about the government’s position and the regulations that govern shale seismicity.”

30/10 Typo corrected in minister’s name
30/10 Text edited to remove reference to Cuadrilla breaching limit

63 replies »

  1. Firstly I have an outstanding request into the truthfulness of the Myth buster from the BEISCORRESPONDENCE@BEIS.GOV.UK
    recently. Basically it’s a pack of pro-fracking garbage!
    Secondly although earthquakes may not be felt above ground, the cumulative damage is already building up underground!
    There is no thirdly.

  2. For the last 4 years we’ve had all the fracking supporters on this site ridiculing and vilifying all who dared to suggest that fracking might in any way be responsible for seismic events, with calls of “Prove It,” “Show Me The Evidence,” “That’s Never Happened” etc. Now they’ve instantly changed to “We Know Fracking Causes Earthquakes But They’re Not Big Ones.” None of these people are remotely interested in the truth, they just try to provoke an argument in the hope of diverting attention from the real issues. Just ignore them, we can see what’s really happening.

    • Lots to read in here.


      Note the omission of the 0.5 magnitude threshold in this part. I wonder if there would be a 67% chance if the 0.5m was adhered to?

      “The new regime includes the requirement for seismic monitoring of each well site area and a system under which operations are halted if seismicity reaches a level greater than 1.7 ML (Operation has to stop if 1.7 is exceeded, the well bled off and then the seismicity monitored until zero events for at least 10 days, then the operation can recommence, otherwise the operation has to be aborted and the seismic risk reevaluated)

      • Have you not seen this before John? I have had it for quite a while – I should have posted the link earlier. I would have hoped you would have checked the AJ Lucas economics at least?

        Did you miss this post copied below John? No, of course not, this is how you got the link. And Canada??

        John – why did you miss out the first four words of the sentence you are quoting from AJ Lucas- see page 24 of linked document? “In US shale plays…”

        Canada is not in the US? What you should have written is:

        ” In US shale plays, fracture treatments of a similar size have yielded events of lower magnitudes, up to 0.8 ML, and there are only two documented cases of stronger events, of magnitude 1.9 ML and 2.8 ML, from massive hydrofrac treatments in South Central Oklahoma…”


        There is some information on economics if you want to read it – but you keep telling us it will never be economic…….

          • Thought not John. So you finally agree about 4.0 + events in Canada? Change of subject is always a good sign….

            Canada equivalent of UK 0.5 is 4.0… perhaps Mr. Egan and CP are correct, needs to go up for the second well. Watch this space….

    • Jules Burton
      I think that you are not correct in that assertion.

      Firstly I have not said that fracking does not cause earthquakes, so that’s disproved.

      Secondly, I think you are mixing up comments re Weald Earthquakes and Fracking earthquakes, although you can clarify that on here,

      My advice. ..do not get carried away by the rhetoric, or try to provoke an argument by suggesting such an easily disprovable hypothis,

      But, the odd poster on here may have said that fracking does not cause earthquakes. A few links to past comments to that effect would help your argument.

  3. So all seismic tremors are now earthquakes? Depends on what you are trying to prove, but I would like to see what the seismic “footprint” would have been for a cutter grinding away underground in one of the dear old UK coalmines.

    My wife used to work for a company selling such gear, and I would suspect they would produce quite a nice little seismic event-similar to the construction of Cross Rail.

    So, there are plenty of situations where underground seismic events are triggered, and nothing new about that.

  4. Every footy manager would like Messi-the 2 scale-many will ask for that, but if they end up with someone not quite as good-the 1 scale-they will be content, because that was probably their expectation, and will still be better than what they have-the 0.5 scale.

    Once again, nothing unusual, and nothing to be excited about. Lot of people do live in the real world.

      • But how do you know Richard. Only PNR has the equipment required to detect it – no where else in the UK has such sensitive receivers – BGS:

        How big are the events?

        The largest event that we have detected to date had magnitudes of 1.1 ML. Earthquakes with magnitude less than 2 are not usually felt and if they are felt then by only a few people very close to the earthquake. Earthquakes with magnitudes less than 1 are hardly ever felt. The smallest earthquake felt in the UK had a magnitude of 0.5 and was felt by one person.

        The magnitude 0.8 ML event at 11:36 UTC on 26 October was around 200 times smaller than the magnitude 2.3 ML event that stopped hydraulic fracturing operations at Preese Hall in 2011. The maximum recorded ground motion was around 0.1 mm/s. This is well below the limits set for quarry operations (6 mm/s). The BGS network of sensors across the UK routinely detects many blasts from quarry operations around the UK with magnitudes of up to around 2 ML every day.

        How often do earthquakes of this size occur?

        Earthquakes have an exponential frequency-magnitude distribution, so for unit decrease in magnitude there are approximately ten times as many earthquakes. On average there are around 20-30 earthquakes with a magnitude of 2 ML or greater every year somewhere in the UK or immediate offshore area. That means we should expect several hundred earthquakes with a magnitude of 1.0 ML or above and several thousand with a magnitude of 0 ML or above. The number of earthquakes also roughly scales proportional to an area, so a small region of the UK will have fewer events.

        Why are BGS able to detect such small earthquakes?

        A dense network of temporary seismic sensors around Blackpool allows us to detect much smaller earthquakes than we are typically able to do in other parts of the UK. The BGS permanent network of sensors across the UK is usually able to detect most earthquakes with magnitudes of 2.0 ML or above anywhere in the UK, though this may vary from place to place and also at different times. All of the events detected near Preston New Road have magnitudes that are far below our normal detection threshold.

  5. If these seismic events are so twee, why is Franny (we are on track) Egan running from tv studio to tv studio and any press outlet that will give him the time of day to whinge and bleat. He knew the rules when this started. It is now too late to change the rules. This is something that this industry will find hard to stomach, because up until now, any changes have been accommodated. If he can’t hack it, the door is always open. Bye bye now!

    • Cuadrilla et al had their chance to fight the low limits of TLS a long time ago but they didn’t so here they are today back peddling. They should never have agreed to the low limits and should never have assumed they could get them changed at a later date.

      But discussions are underway as we blog.

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