Updated: Fracking suspended after 2.9ML tremor – Conservative MP calls for ban

pnr 190823 Maxine Gill 1

Cuadrilla’s shale gas site at Preston New Road, 23 August 2019. Photo: Maxine Gill

The regulator for the shale gas industry has suspended fracking operations at Cuadrilla’s Lancashire site after this morning’s 2.9ML tremor.

The seismic event, which happened at 8.31am, is the largest tremor induced by fracking in the UK. DrillOrDrop report

Cuadrilla resumed fracturing at the Preston New Road site near Blackpool on 15 August 2019. Since then, there have been more than 90 tremors, including four that were felt locally. People living as far away as Preston and Chorley reported they felt this morning’s event.

The Oil & Gas Authority (OGA) said in a statement this morning:

“In accordance with the OGA’s strict controls, hydraulic fracturing operations at the Preston New Road site are suspended following the recent seismic activity in the area, including a 2.9ML event at 08:30am on 26 August, which was felt by people in the area.

“Operations will remain suspended while the OGA gathers data from this and other recent seismic events and then considers carefully whether or not the hydraulic fracturing operations, mitigations and assumptions set out in the operator’s Hydraulic Fracture Plan continue to be appropriate to manage the risk of induced seismicity at the Preston New Road site.”

MP calls for ban

The Conservative MP for Fylde, Mark Menzies, has said fracking at Preston New Road is unsafe and it should be banned in the region.

Asked by BBC Radio Lancashire this morning whether he thought fracking was safe, Mr Menzies said:

“If the guidelines that were set at 0.5ML are being breached to this level then no I do not think it is safe and it do not think it is something that can continue.”

In a statement issued later, Mr Menzies said:

“Throughout my time as the Member of Parliament for Fylde I have called for stringent and robust regulation of the shale gas industry to ensure the safety of local residents.

“This has led to a number of regulations being implemented, including the Traffic Light System for monitoring seismicity.

“The TLS limit, which was decided with input from the shale gas industry, is set at 0.5Ml – a level which ensures the safety of local residents and their properties.

“Since hydraulic fracturing activities begun at Preston New Road we have seen these regulations in action several times. Forcing the operators, Cuadrilla, to pause activities for 18 hours and check all seismicity is in line with their hydraulic fracture plan before they can resume. But also and crucially, releasing this information to the public and keeping the local community informed.

“It was for the industry to show that they could operate within these parameters, which they have been unable to do.

“It is now clear that hydraulic fracturing is not suitable for Fylde or the people of Fylde and I will be writing to Ministers and the Oil and Gas Authority to call for full cessation of the shale gas industry operating on the Fylde Coast.”

Update from Cuadrilla

Cuadrilla has said the 2.9ML tremor was “in the bounds” of what was expected from fracking at the Preston New Road site.

The company’s chief executive, Francis Egan, told BBC Radio 4’s The World At One, he hoped the OGA suspension would not lead to a long before fracking was tried again.

The hydraulic fracturing plan for the PNR2 well, which Cuadrilla has been fracking since 15 August 2019, estimated that the maximum strength of induced tremors would be 3.1ML. But the plan this was “considered to be a very low likelihood”. DrillOrDrop report

In a statement this morning, the company confirmed the ground motion was 5mm/second. This is significantly greater than the previously highest ground motion of 1.5mm/second and off the scale of examples provided on Cuadrilla’s website.

The statement said:

“We can now confirm the event detected at 8.30am in the area of our exploration site in Preston New Road, near Blackpool, was magnitude 2.9 on the Richter scale.
“We appreciate this this has caused concern for local people and by way of reassurance it is worth noting that this event lasted for around a second and the average ground motion recorded was 5mm per second. This is about a third of that permitted for construction projects.
“As previously stated, we were not operational this morning and no hydraulic fracturing has been carried out this weekend.
“We are working with the team of regulators who intensely monitor our activity at Preston New Road to investigate the event and will provide more updates in due course. Hydraulic fracturing operations will remain suspended during this time.
“We have verified that the well integrity is unaffected.”

24 replies »

    • I agree hewes62. The end of Cuadrilla and shale gas in the Fylde. It will be interesting to see if they managed to get more proppant away with the new stimulation fluid design in the stimulations prior to Friday.

      • Paul

        Interesting all round I expect.

        While the OGA and all review the assumptions and so forth I cannot see much happening at Misson. Whether INEOS are keen to drill ( for information ) will remain to be seen.

        Hopefully we will get to read all about it, but not for a while I guess.

  1. Well said Mr Menzies. It really is time this industry packed up and gave up. The public will never accept this under their homes. Loud rumbles, rattling of windows and shaking of property is simply not acceptable. And no matter how they try to play this down, when do your windows rattle, do you hear a large rumble and your property shake by dropping a bag of shopping or a water melon on the floor. They have now breached the level that occurred at Preese Hall and just because they state that a level of 3.1 was in their fracture plan – does not make it any more palatable. Time to ban fracking.

    • KatT – why ban fracking in Derbyshire / Yorkshire etc? We need to drill and test a few wells to determine if seismicity is a problem there or not. We have heard from experts on here, well at least one expert today, why Cuadrilla has had this problem. But it does seem to be local to the Bowlnad Shale in the Fylde.

      • Paul. Seismicity is just one of the problems with fracking though. It’s time to admit fracking which would need to be foisted on an unwilling public over 65% of the country with PEDL licemces will never be acceptable in a small densely populated country such as ours.

      • [Edited by moderator]
        We have been living with this for 9 years now. After 89% of the locals voted against it.

      • Paul, Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire are former mining areas which according to Professor Styles are at considerable risk from fracking. In addition studies have concluded that fracking should not take place within 650 to 850m from existing faults, this further restricts fracking. Studies have shown, irrespective of the recent Nottingham University BGS study, that reserves will be severely limited by around 70% because of all the fixed surface infrastructure in the U.K. others state the geology is simply not suited full stop. The geology of the U.K. is complex, in North Yorkshire there is an area known as the Pickering Fault Zone, one of the target areas. I am not a geologist but this again suggests the matter will not be straightforward. The U.K. is a densely populated, small country, we now have legislation in place whereby the U.K. must be net zero by 2050. I doubt very much a U.K. fracking industry could meet the existing CCC three tests, which are likely to become even more stringent as time passes, the reserves may be much smaller than originally estimated, the majority of the public oppose fracking (NERC survey), 85% of the public is concerned about climate change. Far better to continue to reduce our gas consumption through energy efficiency and other measures and import gas from Norway (Europe) by pipeline which has lower emissions than U.K. shale. No energy source is perfect and we need energy but far more can and must be done and fracking is not the answer. These are just some of the reasons that spring to mind.

        • Hi KatT – I am also not a geologist but have a pretty good understanding of sub surface oil and gas issues. Clearly there is something wrong at PNR which we will find out in due course. One point you made which I find odd – how do you know that Norwegian pipeline gas has lower emissions than UK shale gas? Pipeline emissions increase with pipeline length and infrastucture complexity (at both ends). Trees / compressors / valves / ESD valves / pigging / controls all contribute. The fugitive emissions from the Caspian to Europe pipeline are huge.

          I don’t know what the fugitive emissions are for UK shale but neither does anyone else at the moment.

          I have never thought UK shale gas would be developed due to surface planning and traffic issues – your point about being too small and too populated. However if companies want to spend their money drilling and testing exploration wells in different parts of the country within the planning and regulatory regimes then I am happy for them to do so. Useful G & G information.

          • Hi Paul sorry for the late reply. The emissions from gas are contained in the MacKay Stone report, the one industry and government always refer to. In this report it clearly states emissions from European gas imported by pipeline are lower than U.K. shale. It also highlights a concern that a U.K. fracking industry may contribute to raising global emissions ie higher global emissions.

            • Hi KatT- the report you refer to is clearly incorrect if this is what it states. There is no UK shale so they don’t know what emissions will be. Shale downstream of the wellhead is the same as conventional. UK shale is closer than Troll and lower pressure therefore emissions will be higher from Troll etc

              The unknown is the flowback phase. But conventional wells also often have to be flowed back / lifted with N2 etc albeit normally not for as long.

    • Times up for fracking in the Fylde – almost certainly. However our (and the rest of the world’s) demand for hydrocarbons continues, UK’s demand will slowly drop over the next 30 years, globally demand for oil will increase for 20-30 years and natural gas increase for 30 plus years. This will happen with an increase in renewables. Without an increase in global renewables the timeline will be longer. And don’t forget global coal demand.

      For the UK it just means we import more gas for longer as the North sea depletes.

      • Paul, and if imported gas has lower emissions than U.K. shale gas, which gas via pipeline from Europe (for example Norway) does, then that is exactly what we should do. Our gas consumption is falling and could be reduced further and there is no shortage of gas and oil in the world, in fact far more than can be burned in terms of climate change. And the U.K. has traded with oil and gas exporting countries for a very long time so the excuse of dodgy regimes is wearing very thin. Indeed, we are very happy to sell weapons to some of these so called dodgy regimes and INEOS is happy to agree a joint venture with Saudi Arabia – when the U.K. was mainly coal powered we closed our own mines and imported coal from Russia for decades. There were no concerns about dealing with Russia and energy security then. This has all been generated by the fracking PR industry. And was the industry allowed to close Rough because that is what has introduced some volatility into gas prices? Gas, oil and inter-connecters from Europe is relatively easy for the U.K. with our current set up. Nothing is perfect but fracking is a dead duck in my opinion and can’t even beat the emissions of imported European gas (by pipeline). Far better to lead in engineering and skilled jobs in green technology so that we attract huge investment from the private sector and can be at the forefront of the inevitable change.

        • KatT

          Just on the point of Rough …

          Rough closed due to it reaching the end of its design life, and some, with no prospect of making a decent return on investment if it was refurbished ( new wells, platforms etc ).

          Gas storage economics are interesting. Buy low, sell high hoping to cover your costs in the meantime. Rough got in the game due to it being an existing field, with suitable characteristics for storage once depleted ( and its own terminal plus connections to the grid and latterly Langaled pipeline )

          If the gov had told Rough to keep going ( or keep trying ), the HSEx ( and the results of the Centrica well integrity programme, maintenance backlog etc ) would have shut it down anyway.

          Saltfleetby was in the mix at one point re gas storage, but it came to naught, and now Angus hope to squeeze the last bit of gas out of the reservoir.

          • Hi hewes62 – Rough burst surface pressure ratings on the well were de-rated to a pressure below the injection pressure required – I think it was the production casing but it may have been the wellheads / trees or both. Rough was no longer safe – as you pointed out re HSE.

            KatT – I don’t have a problem with importing gas from Russia – although it would be good if BEIS could confirm via Gazprom how much of the gas we import via Gazprom is Russian as this appears to be covered up. John Powney will tell us zero via a reference to Dukes but it looks like it is a reasonable quatity and set to increase as Norwegian Fields deplete.

            Although if Boris stays in I expect to see a lot of US shale gas coming our way as LNG. Double whammy on fugitive emissions…..

        • KatT

          Re green technology….yes.

          I am always puzzled by the comments posted by some others on here that somehow fracking has stifled green investment. For sure, the removal of subsidy for onshore wind has clipped its wings, but only in that it needs subsidy to get investment.

          However, in the meantime, outwith that debate, Siemens and the East Coast of the UK has quietly got on with investing in offshore wind power. An investment that benefits Lincolnshire, the Humber gateway and Norfolk.

          Good that Siemens has been able to capitalise on their engineering base, mainly concentrated on gas turbine technology, but supported by the engineers who support East coast gas, global mining and the small local onshore oil and gas industry.

          They may now be able to capitalise on any release of funding ( subsidy ) for onshore wind. However, the uk needs large wind arrays, connected to the grid at appropriate voltage. Hence we should prepare for some large applications with planning times to suit?

          Interesting times ahead. I still expect some fallout from the recent power outage.

          In 2013 the outgoing head of offgem warned that recent closures of nuclear and coal-fired power stations in the UK had removed the traditional 20% reserve in generating capacity over peak demand, that had been maintained since the mid 20th Century, so that by 2016 the reserve margin of generation will fall from about 14% ( 2013 ) to less than 5%. Uncomfortably tight. And seems he was right.

          As that despatch-able base-load gap exists now, let’s see how coal gets on while the wrangling over who pays for what in terms of grid stability rolls on.

          Plus, will 5g speed up the roll out of a smarter grid?

  2. and cracking methane into H2 and carbon solid are two ways forward. We should be encouraging government investment in these two projects.
    Wind and solar can not create enough energy to save the planet, as they use too much CO2 to build, and produce too small amounts of energy, we need far higher energy density to save the planet before it is too late. We will need methane for all this.

    • Charlie, if you read the BEIS paper on CCS you soon realise this is in its infancy and may not be practical nor economic on a large scale. Some argue it would be far better to only use CCS for essential industry purposes for these reasons. We have to change, we are facing a climate change emergency. Gas and oil are finite resources so we can destroy the planets climate and still face energy problems further into the future, or we can start tackling the problem sensibly now by switching to green energy alternatives. We have to act now and extracting more fossil fuels cannot and is not the right way to go. We can and must do more. With the right investment, political will and policies in place I’m sure renewables will be far more successful than many people think. Incidentally I once saw a report where an engineer worked out the energy expanded by the entire fracking process to extract gas to the energy provided and it showed a very poor outcome. So perhaps you should consider that also?

  3. It lasted more than a second, a man was up a ladder over the road at the time. Residents did not want this, the authorities voted against it, however the government over ruled cos they want to make a few quid, but at what cost before something is done! It’s a bloody joke!

  4. Comment on behalf of Susan Butler-Davies
    Very pleased that Mark Menzies MP has announced that he is going to apply for a ban of fracking in Lancashire after this mornings 2.9 quake. I was sat on my sofa this morning around 830 am having a coffee when I can only describe the feeling of something powerful rear ending my sofa from behind, it was very frightening and felt very strong. Hopefully the government will now listen to the people of Lancashire and agree with us it’s time to stop the fracking.

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