Residents warn of legal action if government relaxes fracking quake rules

Preston New Road Action Group pnrag

Opponents of Cuadrilla fracking site at Preston New Road near Blackpool. Photo: Preston New Road Action Group

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.

PNRAG said:

“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.”

21 replies »

  1. Look like the anti fracker and protesters have the last laugh in this struggle. They have halted Cuadrilla fracking, sent investors in AJ Lucas packing (-30%) in 2 days and probably soon Cuadrilla too, and got the minister and mp to switch onto their side.
    After 7 years the UK shale thought it finally has it happening for them but they just seem to manage to shoot themselves in the foot again.

  2. It appears that Cuadrilla has applied sufficient pressure to crack the government’s previous support.

    Early days – time will tell!

  3. Well, well, or not very well, well, you might say, here is Ian R Cranes video this morning about the latest on the the TLS and what response may well come from Cuadrilla. Ian also refers to the Deep Water Horizon Schlumberger scenario in the Gulf of Mexico, and what the possible result will be with Cuadrilla subsequent actions here.

    Really well worth watching all the way through. I am sure the fans will shout for joy about the mere mention of Ian R Crane? We will see wont we?



  4. Don’t get too excited my little lefties. The government is adopting a very cautious approach to this first site, there was never going to be a loosening of regulations on this one but once the operations are complete and there has been no loss of life or the complete destruction of local area then you’ll start to see the mood change in the political landscape.
    We’ve survived the recent headlines of ‘Major Earthquakes Rock the Planet’ relatively unscathed, just the typical camoflauge crew being mouthy with no sight of any increase in numbers.
    Every day we’re below ground is a good day 😁.

  5. GBK, please be sure not to leave anything below ground when you leave!

    Why the ‘we’re’ in your last paragraph, you’ve just exposed your participation in the oil and gas industry!

    Not that there was ever any doubt from the attitude of your posts, are you actually Francis Egan?! Probably not, just one of his interns recruited from Blackpool and Fylde College who are also just exposed as having a relationship with the toxic fracking industry!

  6. Well said Peter. I did invite GBK to the area some time ago, he failed to respond, easy to support this toxic industry from afar!

  7. Looks as if the moratorium in Wales might be lifted soon!

    Jobs-as Peter points out, are what swings it. Meanwhile, those who don’t want to work or too old to do so, can protest.

    • Martin.
      The frackers are going to have to create many thousands of new jobs, whether full-time or part-time, permanent or seasonal, high-tech or manual, to make up for all the tourism and farming jobs that will be lost here on the Fylde.
      And that isn’t going to happen! Not only that how many families are wanting to relocate to the largest onshore gasfield in Europe? Not many I would expect!

      • Plenty would like to relocate to the largest European on land oil field Peter-but few could afford it. Tourism and agriculture doing pretty well also.

        Strange. The majority of people do tend to check actual experience and not rely upon speculation-although some of course do it the other way round.

  8. After all the news and the tremors did anyone notice any difference before and after this series of quaker yet? Nope. Zil.
    Cuadrilla would be the first to be worried if they frack to hard because they will be the one to sustain to vibration damage to their well and their rig on site which is right above the quake.

    • TW.
      Visible signs of damage would only occur deep down to the integrity of the well. The quakes have been progressively stronger and getting nearer to the horizontal well.
      Loss of integrity would lead to leakage of pollutants into our environment. Local residents are naturally very concerned, only an idiot wouldn’t be bearing in mind reports from mature fracking locations elsewhere.
      Please refer to List of the Harmed for confirmation if in doubt.

    • From BGS site
      2018/10/29 11:30:38.9 53.789 -2.962 2 1.1 2 BLACKPOOL,LANCASHIRE FELT BLACKPOOL – note last comment…

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