Lancashire Tory and Labour MPs call for government action over fracking tremors

181104a tremor tracker

Recorded tremors at Preston New Road up to 16:24  on 4 November 2018. Data:BGS, Background photo: Google Earth; Graphic: DrillOrDrop

Conservative and Labour MPs in Lancashire have written to the business secretary, Greg Clark, demanding action following a series of tremors linked to Cuadrilla’s fracking operation near Blackpool.

Mark Menzies, the Conservative representing the area around the shale gas site, called for an independent assessment of the well. Gordon Marsden, the MP for the neighbouring constituency, was among six Lancashire Labour MPs who have called separately for a moratorium. The energy minister, Claire Perry, has also answered three parliamentary questions on the issue.

Well integrity concerns

Mark Menzies 3

Mark Menzies MP. Photo: Parliamentlive.tv

A spokesperson for Mr Menzies confirmed that the MP’s letter was expected to be sent today. It called for an independent investigation into well integrity at the site at Preston New Road.

The letter followed a meeting last week with local campaigners, Bob Dennett and Sue Marshall, at which they expressed concerns about the effect of a series of small earth tremors on the well

They told Mr Menzies that regulations were not meeting the gold standard that had been promised. They pointed to a report by the Royal Society in 2012 which recommended cement bond logs, as well as pressure tests, following seismic events:

“This advice is not being adhered to and they are currently relying on Cuadrilla simply pressure testing the well, so current practice is falling short of the Gold Standard regulations promised.”

They asked Mr Menzies to press for an urgent “comprehensive, transparent and independent well assessment”.

The most recent tremor near Preston New Road was recorded on 4 November 2018, with a local magnitude (ML) of 0.7. It was the closest so far to the well site and the largest since the 1.1ML event on 29 October 2018.

DrillOrDrop understands the 0.7ML event happened 48 hours after the most recent fracturing operation. It brings the total number of seismic events linked to the fracturing operation to 36. (Details on DrillorDrop Tremor tracker)

After the 1.1ML tremor, Cuadrilla said well integrity had been checked and verified.

A newsletter from regulators of the fracking site, issued this afternoon, said:

[The Health and Safety Executive] “receives regular reports from Cuadrilla on well pressure and a report detailing operations on the well each week, including integrity testing. HSE’s team of specialist well inspectors inspect these reports to ensure that they are in line with the notification supplied by Cuadrilla before hydraulic fracturing commenced.”

Regulators’ newsletter on assessing seismic activity – 6 November 2018

Regulators’ Preston New Road Community Update 3 – 6 November

Moratorium call

Labour MPs montage

Labour MPs (left to right) Rosie Cooper, Julie Cooper, Sir Mark Hendrick, Kate Hollern, Gordon Marsden, Cat Smith and shadow business secretary Rebecca Long-Bailey

In a separate letter, six Labour MPs in Lancashire and the shadow business secretary, have called on Mr Clark to impose a moratorium on fracking.

Rosie Cooper, MP for West Lancashire, wrote:

“the current government must accept in light of recent seismic activity, that at the very least it would be just and right to halt fracking at this site and place a moratorium on fracking until such point as they can be not just reassured, but fully assured that there will be no more man-made earthquakes in England or Wales as a result of fracking.”

The letter was also signed by Julie Cooper (Burnley), Sir Mark Hendrick (Preston), Kate Hollern (Blackburn), Gordon Marsden (Blackpool South), Cat Smith (Lancaster and Fleetwood), and Rebecca Long-Bailey, the shadow business secretary and MP for Salford and Eccles.

“Complete experiment”

The campaign group, Frack Free Lancashire, supported the MPs’ call for a moratorium, saying local concerns about the tremors had been dismissed.

“Cuadrilla commissioned their own report in 2011 which stated: ‘Stronger events occur when some of the fluid penetrates into faults and in rare cases, events with magnitude up to 0.8 ML have been detected.’

“So there we have it: these events are considered ‘rare’, yet Cuadrilla have been recorded across national press, urging the government to change the seismic trigger regulations further. Cuadrilla have also previously stated: ‘Very little of the fracture fluid actually ever returns to the surface. So when we inject the water in there most of it does not come back’.

“It is clear that Preston New Road is a complete experiment, and one which we are having to live with the consequences – both known and unknown. There have been 36-and-counting seismic events. In only two weeks. The valid concerns regarding the effects of seismic activity (whether felt or not) upon the well integrity and underground infrastructure, are being blatantly dismissed. Who knows what is happening under our feet? From past experience, Cuadrilla certainly don’t.

“This is unacceptable and we have called on central government to implement an immediate fracking moratorium.”

Minister quizzed

The energy minister, Claire Perry, answered parliamentary questions yesterday on the earth tremors from three Labour MPs.

Jim Cunningham (Coventry South) asked about the implications of the seismic activity on government fracking policy (link to question).Ms Perry said the Oil & Gas Authority was “continually monitoring operations around the Preston New Road site to ensure they remain in line with Cuadrilla’s hydraulic fracture plan”. She said the traffic light system for monitoring seismic activity was working “in exactly the way that it was designed to”.

Roger Godsiff (Birmingham Hall Green) asked what assessment had been made of the detection of seismic activity caused by fracking in Lancashire (link to question). Ms Perry made a similar reply, adding that seismic events with a magnitude of 2.0 were usually not felt at the surface. A magnitude 0.5 event was “far below the ground motion caused by a passing vehicle”, she said.

Ms Perry’s reply was also similar to a question from the shadow policing minister, Louise Haigh (Sheffield Heeley), who asked what steps would the government be taking before fracking resumed. Link to question

  • At the time of writing, more than 50,000 people have signed a 38 Degrees petition urging Mr Clark not to raise the threshold at which seismic activity would stop fracking.

103 replies »

      • Sherwulfe. Ask those arrested. They will have been given the reason when arrested. I personally do not know why they were arrested. I do know that our police do not go around randomly arresting people for no reason. You should spend a few days in a country where the police do …and then be thankful that you live in the UK.

        • Sure, I was charged, taken to court, the charge dropped due to fabricated evidence, complaint to police, my complaint upheld, no penalty to the police. The only penalty is to the individuals and the tax payers having to pay for all this charade. Dozens of people at PNR have been intimidated this way.

          • well said richard
            ‘that our police do not go around randomly arresting people for no reason’ – what world do you live in Nicky?

    • Dr. R., let’s see what the courts think about these reasons before we judge. Plenty of not guilty verdicts so far some with legal action against the police resulting and still ongoing, others with compensation already paid for false arrest I believe.

    • Dr Nick, I’d be interested in your views on the Cornwall Geothermal project, as I understand it, by which I mean of course, what I’ve read on the internet……

      “Radon and background radiation is naturally produced by the granites and clays of Cornwall. The radioactive decay is the reason the granite is heat producing. During drilling the level of radon emitted is not considered to have a significant impact and water quality will be monitored and carefully managed.”

      What are the chances the hot water will be significantly radioactive, Ie above “normal” or public health safety limits? Thanks in advance.

      On first look this appears a fascinating project with huge potential but isn’t it interesting that reassurances like “water quality will be monitored and carefully managed” and “Longer term, any build-up of radioactive minerals will be safely removed from site and dealt with” (Cornwall Council). are so easily taken at face value in one context but not in another.

      • Shalewatcher, I am not involved in this project. So I cannot add anything to what you have already quoted. There are strict regulations applied to radioactive materials used in, or produced from industrial processes, so produced water treatment, drilling mud & cuttings containing NORMs (naturally occurring radioactive materials) will have to comply with these regulations, and are routine issues in the oil & gas industry. You can get more info about radon levels in the UK from here https://www.ukradon.org/information/ukmaps

      • “sidelining” not at all. There are massive challenges for those who dream of a non-fossil future, with the simplistic polarised view that fossil is all bad, renewables all good. A huge amount of stuff will still need to be dug out of the ground to enable renewables. Plus there are the social injustice issues with many of the resources such as cobalt, vital for renewables to be rolled out at large scale. https://www.weforum.org/projects/global-battery-alliance

        • Still sidelining Nicky
          Why electric cars? Do you believe this myth?
          We have been here before with the cobalt. Do you have a mobile phone by any chance, had one for a while? Swap it for the latest model….if so, you are one of the biggest contributors to a consumer led capitalist scam. The price you pay for your phone, would easily pay decent wages and provide protective equipment for your fix….if the ‘profit’ wasn’t siphoned off into one of the 600 super yachts ordered this year alone….

          It seems you need to champion what amounts to an industry that will ‘murder’ billions of innocent people by conversely adding another in which you yourself are one of the biggest participants in this ‘social injustice’; shows you up for what you really are. And I thought you had a semblance of intelligence? Shocking

      • Dr Riley is just here to spill chaff on behalf of his industry friends. He seems to think we don’t realise that there are negatives to any industrial process but that that does not legitimise UK fracking.

        Perhaps he’d like to post something about the social injustices caused by the fossil fuel industry here – you know – just for academic balance?

        • You mean the social injustices caused by drivers of diesels? OMG, a sinner doing his penance-or just an anti who has to drive around the countryside as it’s too expensive to pollute the cities further. (I know, it is a nice clean diesel, because the Germans have said so!)

          Very easy to counter such social injustices. But, maybe it isn’t necessary. Just place the blame elsewhere. Talking of the Donald….he has set quite a trend!

            • Nah-all that glass has been destroyed as the many green bottles keep falling off the wall. Just blame the tremors, but another one (bottle) in Yorkshire today, and that one is a little out of range.

              You also miss the minor point that I am not an activist against fossil fuels. I use them as you do, so hypocrisy is not a mind set I believe in.

            • Then you need to lay off the green bottle and start talking sense; stop playing off one crap industry against another to justify the first. Think positive, work a viable answer that doesn’t choke, burn or drown the human race.

        • Refracktion is just here to launch personal attacks on anyone with a modicum of technical knowledge who is willing to call out anti-frackers for their ludicrous statements.

  1. Some commentary from the NY Department of Environmental Conservation on the subject of seismicity and well integrity, “Wells are designed to withstand deformation from seismic activity. The steel casings used in modern wells are flexible and are designed to deform to prevent rupture. The casings can withstand distortions much larger than those caused by earthquakes, except for those very close to an earthquake epicenter. The magnitude 6.8 earthquake event in 1983 that occurred in Coalinga, California, damaged only 14 of the 1,725 nearby active oilfield wells, and the energy released by this event was thousands of times greater than the microseismic events resulting from hydraulic fracturing.” (Chapter 6, p. 6-212)

  2. Hi Bob.
    So that’s 14 damaged wells in coalinga probably leaking contamination into the nearby countryside. Exactly why we don’t want fracking to occur anywhere.
    Point made.
    Thank you.

    • Findings by the BGS on the first ever small fracking operations in the highly stressed Bowland shale at Preese Hall.

      “The fact that the casing deformation was discovered on 4th April, after the initial seismic event on 1st April, indicates that it is clearly related to the event, which caused rock shear due to the changes in pressure and stress”

      Production casing deformation is common in wells in highly stressed reservoirs and there are three main forms of well damage that have been observed:
      1) Horizontal shear at weak lithology interfaces during reservoir compaction.
      2) Horizontal shear at the top of a production or injection interval, due to temperature or pressure volume changes.
      3) Casing buckling and shear within the producing interval due to axial buckling, when lateral constraints are removed or due to shearing at a lithological interface.

      As historical facts prove that small scale fracking in the Bowland shale has caused damage to the first ever well then there is a high probability that multiple larger fracks would cause more damage to wells.

      As the BGS state

      “the lack of identification of the causative fault, and the generally poor understanding of the fault systems in the basin, has implications for the hazard from induced earthquakes during future operations”

    • Peter, damaged wells does not necessarily equate to leaking contamination, in fact I have not found a single piece of evidence to support your theory. Well casings are designed so that they can sustain damage without leading to failure. So, a 6.8Ml earthquake with less than 1% of wells damaged, and no evidence of any contamination. Obviously, the hyperbole and fearmongering around 1Ml events is just that.

  3. Err, no Peter. If 14 active wells were damaged they would be repaired or sealed.

    The antis are becoming even more unscientific by the day. Reverting to such, is very interesting. Some would simply describe it as desperation. There doesn’t seem to be much sign of a Plan B-but, there never is.

    The drilling in Cornwall is interesting. Similar to what has been operating in Southampton for a long time. I hope they are using that experience rather than the German experience where subsidence has been a big issue at one site. Maybe in Cornwall it might stop Wales trying to nick their granite for lagoon construction.

    • Yes Martin, either repaired or replaced but damage done to the Enviroment would probably have occurred before the well damage was noticed and action taken.
      If otherwise all the pollution events registered on the List of the Harmed would never have occurred.

      • These were the main conclusions of the BGS Report on the Preese Hall event https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/48330/5055-preese-hall-shale-gas-fracturing-review-and-recomm.pdf If you look at page 2 the main points made about seismicity are as follows: 5. The maximum likely magnitude resulting from a similar treatment is estimated as 3.0 ML. An event of this size is not expected to present a significant hazard. 6. There is a very low probability of other earthquakes during future treatments of other wells. 7. The injected volume and flow-back timing are an important controlling factor in the level of seismicity, as evidenced from the lack of seismicity during and after stage 3. 8. The potential for upward fluid migration is considered low. In the worst case, fluid could migrate along the fault plane, but this would be limited due to the presence of impermeable formations above the Bowland shale. 9. Though some casing collapse was found in the lower reservoir section, well integrity has not been compromised.

  4. “There is a very low probability of other earthquakes during future treatments of other wells”

    Yes – so low that Cuadrilla’s ES states “The hydraulic events induced by hydraulic fracturing do not typically exceed magnitude 0 ML and very rarely exceed 0.5 ML.”

    Remind me Dr Riley – how many events >=0.5 Ml have we had in 2 weeks of fracking and let us know how you think “very rarely” and “very low probability” might be reasonably defined in this context.

    • Refracktion. 4 events out of 36 as posted on the BGS 50 day UK seismic event tracker today were higher than 0.5. That is 11%. None were anywhere near the strength to cause any damage, & I am sceptical about the report that the strongest one at 1.1 was felt. Furthermore the BGS report says this. “The initial threshold for cessation of operations proposed was 1.7 ML. This was
      based on the critical magnitude 2.6 ML and a maximum post-injection magnitude increase of 0.9
      ML. However, we note that, based on this limit, no action would have been taken before the
      magnitude 2.3 ML event on 1 April 2011. We recommend a threshold of 0.5 ML for cessation of
      operations, to minimise the probability of further felt earthquakes. We also suggest that a more
      detailed analysis of seismic activity is required, rather than application of a simple upper limit, so
      that numbers, magnitudes and mechanisms of any induced earthquakes are considered. We
      also recommend that these values are refined as more experience and data is acquired, to
      better understand the behaviour of any induced seismicity. Even with real time monitoring there
      may be a time delay between injection, monitoring and remedial action, and we feel that the
      lower traffic light threshold will minimise such control risks” Note that “We
      also recommend that these values are refined as more experience and data is acquired, to
      better understand the behaviour of any induced seismicity.”

  5. Oh, we understand John you are anxious about your N.Sea investments. We also understand competition is good for the consumer and UK taxation on UK production adds to that. So, all in all, not too much sympathy.

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