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).
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.”
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.”
- The original version of the myth buster’s statements have been challenged by Friends of the Earth and the campaign website Refracktion.com
30/10 Typo corrected in minister’s name
30/10 Text edited to remove reference to Cuadrilla breaching limit