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 »

      • After Preese Hall failings Cuadrilla asked for a 1.7 magnitude threshold. Now they want 2 magnitude.

        Things going worse than expected?

        Not mentioning till now that ‘ the scientists who proposed the 0.5ML threshold had said it could be adjusted upwards over time’ may have kept the majority of the public unaware for several years but the bad news about earthquakes had to arrive sometime.

        Well its arrived now and no one is having it.

      • John Powney
        Slow fracking more like. Gas flow yet to come, as explained ad infinitude on here.
        And the investors are no doubt telling them to go steady and complete the frack plan rather than blow it all in one go ( canny chaps those investors … steady as it goes … waited a few years, a month or two more is fine ).

      • Coupled, John, with the knowledge that the money financing this ‘adventure’ is not that of the operators, and, as you suggest, may dry up, especially as tremors show no sign of letting up and may well surpass in intensity those experienced. Unprincipled investors might well be beginning to suspect that operations are being directed by persons without a clue about what they are doing in an unknown environment, or what risks, not just seismic, they are taking. What amazes me is that all this is being undertaken in the supremely arrogant and immensely stupid supposition that nothing can go wrong, and that many possessed of just as much or much more intelligence, and certainly much more humanity and ecological awareness, are convinced that the planet is telling us to stop. Even more sickening is the fact that the government we have entrusted with the future of our children is fully aware that this is the case. Stupidity is, I suppose, excusable. This gambling with our future is not.

  1. Sorry Claire, we certainly don’t want the equivalent of the impact of a rollercoster effecting our areas – especially if its next to our homes, our families and our neigbouhood. Try another re-write of the situation and move nearer to no fracking.

  2. There already is a roller coaster (used) in Blackpool, plus a huge rusty drilling tower that has never drilled into the ground. And as for all that noise and vibration from the trams-seismic!

    Rock on, Claire.

  3. Ruth

    I do not consider that your reporting is correct in saying that Cuadrilla breached the traffic light regulations on induced earthquakes. Nor that Cuadrilla were forced to stop fracking.

    Firstly, you would only be in breach of the system ( and therefore any regulation by which that system is in force ) if you have not complied with it. I have not seen any evidence that Cuadrilla have failed to follow the traffic light system, and hence they are not in breach of a regulation, and hence not in breach of the law ( which you imply ).

    Secondly, Cuadrilla have not been forced to stop fracking, they do so in order to comply with the traffic light system. Forced implies that they have stopped against their will.

    it may be prudent to correct this assertion that, although following following the traffic light system, Cuadrilla have broken the law?

  4. Just to add to that, they need to be in compliance with their frack plan, and in particular the flow chart showing what to do to imp,event the traffic light system. If they are in breach of a regulation, they would need to be in breach of that plan.

  5. The on trend term, ‘myth busters’!

    Just have to put up with two more weeks of crying and stamping of feet from the antis and then it’s all plain sailing thereafter no matter what they say.

    Was listening to Nick on LBC this morning, even he is wise to the ‘anti mafia’ and their tricks. They had a bit of support from the leftie papers but this will dwindle, even the BBC are showing a more pro stance.

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