Cuadrilla has been accused of trying to downplay last night’s 1.6ML earth tremor caused by its fracking operation near Blackpool.
The tremor, at 8.46pm, was the largest so far recorded at the Preston New Road site since fracking began there in October 2018.
The British Geological Survey (BGS) gave it a 3 on the EMS Intensities scale, where 1 is the lowest and 12 the most intense. The BGS said the tremor was felt and heard by people living in Westby, Weeton, Wrea Green, Blackpool and Lytham St Annes. Cuadrilla compared it to a large bag of shopping falling on the floor.
Another tremor, measuring 0.9ML, was recorded at 10.42pm last night. DrillOrDrop 2019 tremor tracker
Last night, campaigners called on Cuadrilla to publish the results of its well integrity checks at Preston New Road.
“Fear of damage”
One resident said today:
“We heard and felt the tremor. It was a loud rumble and shudder. We realised immediately what it was.
“We are now living in fear for the next one to happen wondering what damage it will cause to our home and what damage is being done below the ground.
“Any below the ground damage may not manifest itself for a long time. Who will resolve any issues that may appear in the future? Why would anyone want to cause earthquakes on purpose?”
Last night’s tremors happened after fracking operations had ended for the day and were described as trailing events. Because they measured more than 0.5ML, Cuadrilla must pause fracking for 18 hours.
This was the first required pause in the operation to frack the second well at Preston New Road, which began on 15 August 2019.
Local engineer, Mike Hill, said of the tremor:
“The 1.6ML event was strong enough to damage the well.
“At the local area where the quake occurs (2 miles down not the surface where it is measured), the energy released is focused much more strongly on the well bore and this can severely damage it. So to the well it is more like being hit by an articulated truck than a bag of shopping.”
“Tremor regulations must not be relaxed”
The campaign group, Frack Free Lancashire, said:
“Having abandoned their attempts to frack their first well after only being able to fully fracture just two of the planned 42 stages, Cuadrilla are now trying to repeat the process.
“There was, therefore, a certain grim inevitability to last night’s events, but what should really give local residents pause for thought, is the fact that these were trailing events and there is nothing that can be done to mitigate them in real-time.
“We deplore Cuadrilla’s attempts to downplay and trivialise these quakes by making facile comparisons with milkshakes and bags of shopping being dropped. This is a serious issue and we know that seismic activity at similar levels deformed the well bore at Preese Hall, which Cuadrilla failed to report to the relevant authorities for six months.
“This is, in fact, a perfect illustration of why the limits on the seismic traffic light system must not be relaxed. The safety of residents must be prioritised before a private corporation’s greedy drive for profits at any cost.”
Gina Dowding, Green Party MEP for north west England, said:
“It is simply astounding that Cuadrilla feel they are able to pass off the very real concerns of residents, regarding the seismic events that are being caused by fracking, comparing tremors to like “dropping bags of shopping” or the equivalent of a glass of milk shaking on a table – these are both responses that Cuadrilla deem to be suitable as “reassurance” to residents and the communities around their Preston New Road site.
“Earlier this year, former energy minister, Claire Perry MP said that: ‘It would be a very foolish politician who would do things that would be considered to be relaxing regulatory standards when we are trying to reassure people about safety.’”
“And yet, the fracking industry is heavily lobbying the government to shift the seismic traffic light system so that they would be able to cause larger tremors.
“This is not in the interests of the community and the government should strongly refuse this request, and not renege on their previous promise to maintain the current regulatory standards.”
The shadow industry secretary, Rebecca Long-Bailey, said:
“For residents of Lancashire that do not want earthquakes to become a part of daily life, do not want the air pollution, water pollution and climate change caused by fracking, I have a simple message: vote Labour. Labour will ban fracking”
“Cuadrilla cannot keep to regulations”
Jamie Peters, campaigner at Friends of the Earth, said:
“It’s obvious that fracking can’t be done without triggering earthquakes.
“This latest quake is a sign that Cuadrilla just can’t stick within the regulations they agreed. Even small vibrations at ground level can be the sign of far more damaging impacts deep underground. Earthquake regulations must be maintained for the safety of local communities.
“52 seismic events in just 6 days of fracking and now the biggest earthquake at the site clearly underlines that this is absolutely not the time to start weakening regulations.
“Fracking just isn’t part of the future if the government is serious about avoiding climate breakdown, in fact it defies belief that the oil and gas industry think they are part of a response to climate change. It’s time to ban climate-wrecking fracking and back renewable energy and green jobs instead.”
Third trailing event
A third tremor, measuring 1.03ML was recorded at 15.23 GMT. This also counted as a trailing event. It was also felt by people living near the fracking site. The BGS said this had an intensity of 2.
A local resident said:
“This is the second earth tremor that I have heard in the space of two days. The fact that this latest one has occurred well over 24 hours since they last fracked emphasises the fact that they have little control and our concerns are increasing.”
Frack Free Lancashire said in a statement:
“Cuadrilla’s Francis Egan has been giving bland reassurances all over the media that ‘minor movements of this level are to be expected’.
“In spite of this we have now had no less than 3 seismic events which have exceeded the red level of the traffic light system since they stopped pumping yesterday afternoon. There have also been 2 amber level events.
“When events occur after pumping there is absolutely nothing that Cuadrilla can do to control them, and it is becoming abundantly clear that Cuadrilla are not able to frack at Preston New Road without triggering this type of event.
“Frack Free Lancashire now calls upon the government and its regulators to put an end to this experiment in which local residents are the unwilling guinea pigs. It is time to put this ailing industry out of its misery.”
Updated 23/8/2019 with details of a third trailing event and on 28 August 2019 to reference the EMS Intensities scale