The largest earth tremor induced by fracking at Cuadrilla’s shale gas site near Blackpool was recorded this evening.
People living near the site at Preston New Road said they heard and felt the tremor at 8.46pm.
The tremor was described as a “loud rumble and tremble”. Cuadrilla compared it to a “large bag of shopping dropping to the floor”.
The British Geological Survey measured the tremor at 1.6 on the local magnitude (ML) scale and said it was felt by people living in Westby, Weeton, Wrea Green, Blackpool and Lytham St Annes. Cuadrilla said it measured 1.55ML.
Another tremor at 10.42pm measured 0.9ML.
Fracking was not underway at the time of either tremor. But Cuadrilla said in a statement it would pause fracking operations for 18 hours.
A spokesperson for the company said:
“Most local people will not have felt it due to its small size.
“Well integrity has been verified and we will now pause operations and continue monitoring for the next 18 hours.”
Because fracking had finished for the day, the tremors counted as trailing events under the hydraulic fracturing plan for the well. Cuadrilla must carry out well integrity checks for all trailing events with a magnitude of more than 0.5ML.
The centre of the 1.6 tremor is the furthest east of all those recorded by the BGS after fracking resumed at Preston New Road on 15 August 2019.
Since then, there have been a total of 54 seismic events. There have been tremors on all six days that fracking was carried out at the site.
This evening’s 1.6ML tremor exceeds the magnitude of all the other tremors since 15 August 2019.
It also exceeds those recorded by the BGS when Cuadrilla fracked the first well at Preston New Road in October-December 2018. During that operation, there were more than 50 small tremors, the strongest of which was 1.5ML.
Cuadrilla previously caused a larger tremor. In 2011 its fracking operation at Preese Hall, also in the Fylde, induced seismicity measuring 2.3ML, prompting reports from people who felt it from across the area.
This evening Cuadrilla said:
“The Preston New Road exploration site is the most regulated and monitored site in Europe and the systems in place are working as they should.
“Minor movements of this level are to be expected and are way below anything that can cause harm or damage to anyone or their property.
“All the relevant regulators were informed and we have verified that the well integrity is intact.”
The company has posted a video online about 1.6ML earth tremors, using a glass of milk to demonstrate the impact.
Local reaction: “Living in fear” – local residents respond to 1.6ML tremor
Updated 22/8/2019 to add revised bubble chart