The government’s rejection of Cuadrilla’s call for a relaxation of rules on earthquakes caused by fracking has been welcomed tonight by campaigners in Lancashire.
The Preston New Road Action, which has opposed Cuadrilla’s operations near Blackpool, said increases in the trigger levels of the traffic light system would be “an entirely unacceptable concession to the industry”.
It said in a statement:
“If the government should attempt to pander to industry requests and moves are made to change these regulations, we would immediately seek a judicial review.
“If Cuadrilla are unable to operate under the standards that they initially agreed to, then they should not be allowed to continue.”
The company asked the government last week to raise the level of seismic activity at which fracking must stop. This followed a series of small earth tremors near the Preston New Road, some of which passed the red-light threshold.
Cuadrilla’s chief executive, Francis Egan, said in newspaper interviews with the Times and Financial Times that the current threshold of 0.5ML (local magnitude) could “strangle” the UK’s shale gas industry. He said the government should allow the company to carry on fracking through tremors measuring up to 2.0ML.
But yesterday, the energy minister, Claire Perry, said it would be a
“foolish politician who would do things that would be considered to be relaxing regulatory standards when we are trying to reassure people about safety.”
In a statement tonight, Preston New Road Action Group (PNRAG) said it was pleased that the government had refused to raise the red-light level.
“Widening the trigger threshold would be an entirely unacceptable concession to the industry for our community, and any other community, who has been unfortunate enough to have fracking forced upon them.”
DrillOrDrop reported yesterday that Cuadrilla had accepted tough controls on the rules on earthquakes six years ago.
The traffic light system was introduced after the company’s fracking operation at Preese Hall in 2011 was linked to earthquakes measuring 2.3ML and 1.5ML. The larger event reportedly caused damage at the surface and deformation of the well.
Preston New Road Action Group said:
“Cuadrilla were instrumental in agreeing to the Traffic Light System, following their actions in 2011 when previous earthquakes occurred following fracking at Preese Hall.
“We therefore find their demands to now relax such controls a dangerous precedent and one that would never be acceptable to our community, which includes residents who live only 350 metres from the site.
“The often-repeated “gold standard, robust regulations” are being constantly adjusted to benefit the fracking industry, at the cost of communities. There are deep concerns that the current regulations that are supposed to keep us safe, are being weakened.”
Since fracking began at Preston New Road on 15 October 2018, there have been 33 small seismic events. DrillOrDrop tremor tracker
Two of them qualified as red events, which required Cuadrilla to stop fracking, reduce pressure and check the well’s integrity.
The most powerful tremor, measuring 1.1ML, was on 29 October 2018. According to the British Geological Survey it was felt by someone living near the well.
The company also stopped operations for an amber event, defined as seismic activity during fracking that measures between 0.0ML and 0.5ML
On the past three days, there have been only very minor tremors or no seismic activity.
Cuadrilla has told DrillOrDrop it is not disclosing when fracturing operations are being carried out. But campaigners monitoring the site have said they do not think there has been any fracking since the day of the 1.1ML tremor.
“Our community is already concerned that the recent tremors that have been experienced may have caused damage below the surface or to the integrity of the wells.
“This may allow toxic fluids to leak from the wells and migrate via faults to contaminate the surface groundwater so close to our homes. We question how thoroughly Cuadrilla is checking after a seismic event, given the speed at which statements confirming integrity are issued.”
DrillOrDrop asked Cuadrilla how it measured well integrity.
The company said:
“Well integrity is assessed in the first instance by measuring any changes in pressure in the annuli between the “strings” of casing that form the well.
“As the pressures of the fluid injected down the wellbore during hydraulic fracturing are very high any leakage from the wellbore would be very quickly detected in pressure response.
“If initial indications indicate a potential leak path tools can be run into the well to isolate and/or repair. There are no integrity issues with the PNR well.”