No review of fracking tremor rules – minister

PNR 181026 Ros Wills

Fence artwork outside Cuadrilla’s shale gas site at Preston New Road, 26 October 2018. Photo: Ros Wills

The government appears to be standing firm against industry pressure for a review of the regulations on earth tremors caused by fracking.

A junior energy minister, Kelly Tolhurst, said this week the rules, known as the traffic light system, were working as intended and she repeated there were no plans for a review.

Francis Egan, chief executive of Cuadrilla, repeated his call today for a review of the rules, which require operations to stop if fracking causes tremors measuring 0.5 or above on the local magnitude scale.

Mr Egan said:

“We urge the Government to support our request for a review of the regulations and assist the onshore shale gas industry in becoming commercially viable and assisting the country in achieving our ambitious climate change aims.”

But Ms Tolhurst, in parliamentary answers to two backbench MPs, maintained the government’s position on a review (links here and here). She said:

“The Traffic Light System for monitoring induced seismicity was introduced after consideration of advice from three scientists, following operations at Cuadrilla’s Preese Hall site in 2011.

“The level of magnitude 0.5 at which operators must pause operations, was set in consultation with industry as an appropriate precutionary measure.

“These regulations have been working as intended and there are no plans to review the traffic light system.

Both Cuadrilla and Ineos have argued that the current rules are unworkable. The government’s refusal to carry out a review was a key reason behind the resignation of the shale gas commissioner, Natascha Engel, last weekend.

Campaign and community groups in shale gas areas have strongly opposed any relaxation of the traffic light system.

24 replies »

  1. Excellent news. The industry informed the government they could frack without breaching the TLS just before they fracked at PNR. The industry has not once since they agreed the TLS complained that it was too restrictive, that is until the fracking failed at PNR. And the 5% of fracking just the one well at PNR can hardly be classed as an evidence base to justify relaxing the so called gold standard regulations. This government has bent over backwards for this industry and it is about time they stood up to their relentless demands.

  2. Natascha Engle was clueless anyhow, The industry proved beyond all reasonable doubt in 2011 that there will be seismic activity as a result. Furthermore, it was reported today that a child died because of air pollution. this industry will inevitably cause further air pollution even inadvertently. Glad this useless government is now, at last, joining the dots.

  3. It’s a shame that this will also mean that one of the main measures recommended by the CCC report that CCS will not be able to be implemented

  4. It is clear that this government is failing in all areas where evidence-based policy is required. It is a government that is brittle, on the defensive, tearing itself apart & is inflicting huge long term damage to our country, whilst it is stuck in its red lines & tram tracks on the rickety Brexit Tram & carrying its quarrelsome passengers. Labour are no better with their continued “constructive ambiguity”.

  5. No different to any other items within Government (lack of) activity. Fence sitting until the log jam is broken, and then it will be up to the new Ministers to decide.

    Part of it is sheer lack of ability but part of it is a deliberate policy to show nothing will be done, on anything, until the log jam is cleared to try and force some movement as voters put more pressure upon MPs. Problem for Cuadrilla in the interim, for INEOS I suspect they are big enough and bold enough to show the cost consequences of such fence sitting.

  6. Never forget that the earthquake traffic light system reflects caution on reactions underground not the sensation of an occasional melon being dropped in the kitchen!
    Seriously which laboratory prisoner (pseudo scientist) thought that one up?

    • The TLS was designed to stop surface damage but was based on the theory that ML 0.5 could be used to separate tensile from shear events – new evidence suggests that’s not the case. The TLS was also based mainly on results from 15 Hz geophones, which are not suitable for detecting larger seismic events.

  7. The anti frackers and current government doesn’t think seismic of magnitude up to 4 was a bad limit when it come to geothermal well or their favourite carbon capture schemes (CCS) which is a necessary step for net zero emission target.

    Interestingly, US National Research Council found that CCS “may have potential for inducing larger seismic events,” while the earthquake potential from hydraulic fracturing was low.

    A clear double standard from the anti science government minister.


  8. Wonder how they will argue the seismic levels in Cornwall to blast out huge quantities of granite to build a lagoon at Swansea. Oh, and then there is a little matter of local democracy against that would require a Minister to intervene. Hmm.

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