A former energy secretary has urged the government to uphold the safety rules he introduced six years ago on fracking-induced earth tremors.
In a parliamentary motion, Sir Edward Davey defended the requirement that fracking companies should pause work if their operations triggered seismic activity at a level of 0.5ML (local magnitude).
Sir Edward, the energy secretary in the Conservative/Lib Dem coalition government, announced the 0.5ML threshold in December 2012.
It was part of a set of regulations, known as the traffic light system, introduced when the government lifted a moratorium on fracking in the UK. The moratorium had been imposed after a series of 50 earth tremors linked to fracking at Cuadrilla’s Preese Hall site in 2011.
Sir Edward’s motion, submitted yesterday, follows 36 tremors since 18 October 2018 caused by fracking at Cuadrilla’s Preston New Road shale gas site. Two of the tremors during fracking were above the 0.5ML threshold and the largest, which was after fracking had finished, measured 1.1ML. DrillOrDrop Tremor tracker
The motion says:
“since fracking was resumed in Lancashire in October 2018, the safety limit threshold for earthquakes has been breached three times, including one at Preston New Road that recorded eight times the energy of the 0.5 Red light magnitude set by the Government”.
The motion also noted that the government, through the energy minister, Claire Perry, had announced it had no plans to change the threshold in the regulations.
It called on the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy to:
“uphold the present traffic light system requiring any fracking company to cease fracking after triggering a tremor in excess of 0.5 on the Richter Scale.”
At the time of writing, the motion was signed by only Sir Edward and the seconder, Wera Hobhouse, Lib Dem MP for Bath.
Red light debate
Earlier this month, Cuadrilla called for the 0.5ML threshold to be lifted to 2.0ML to make the UK shale gas industry commercially viable.
The company’s chief executive, Francis Egan, told the Financial Times the shale gas industry could be “strangled at birth”. In an interview with the Times, he said the company was unable to get effective fractures using the current rules and he hinted that any gas flow tests would be unrepresentative.
But the energy minister, Claire Perry, said a change to the regulations would be foolish. In a guest post for DrillOrDrop, engineer Michael Hill made the case for keeping the 0.5ML threshold.
Reports from the most recent meeting of the community liaison group for people living near Preston New Road, indicated that Cuadrilla will not now lobby for a change in the threshold. Cuadrilla would not comment on the meeting until formal minutes were published.