The business minister, Kwasi Kwarteng, has confirmed that Cuadrilla will not be allowed to resume fracking at its Preston New Road site near Blackpool until last month’s record-breaking tremor has been investigated.
Mr Kwarteng made the statement in a letter to the local Conservative MP, Mark Menzies.
The Oil & Gas Authority (OGA) suspended fracking on the PNR2 well within hours of a 2.9ML tremor on August bank holiday (26 August 2019). This was the UK’s largest seismic event induced by fracking.
The tremor was felt across the Fylde district and registered as a level 6 on the 1-12 intensity scale. Residents reported damage to buildings.
Mr Kwarteng said in the letter:
“The Oil and Gas Authority recently announced that operations at Preston New Road are suspended, pending further extensive investigations which now must be undertaken by Cuadrilla.
“Data from these investigations will assist the OGA’s full consideration of whether the assumptions and mitigations in Cuadrilla’s PNR 2 Hydraulic Fracture Plan continue to be appropriate to manage the risk of induced seismicity at the Preston New Road site.
“Hydraulic fracturing operations will remain suspended until the OGA’s considerations are complete.”
No timescale has been given for the investigation. A separate analysis is also underway of data from fracking the first Preston New Road well, known as PNR-1z.
Mr Kwarteng repeated the government’s view that shale gas development must maintain “the very highest safety and environmental standards, which we have established as world leaders in safely extracting oil and gas over decades”.
The traffic light system, which was intended to prevent damaging seismic activity, required Cuadrilla to pause operations if there were tremors measuring 0.5ML or more during fracking.
No tremors above the 0.5ML threshold were recorded during fracking on the PNR2 well, raising concerns about the effectiveness of the traffic light system (TLS). Before August’s tremors, the industry had called for the TLS 0.5ML limit to be raised.
Cuadrilla’s hydraulic fracturing plan for PNR2, approved by the OGA, required the company to pause fracking for 18 hours following any seismicity measuring 0.5ML or above, whether or not it happened during fracking. The company paused fracking four times. But this also did not prevent the 2.9ML earth tremor.
Some experts on fracking and seismicity have argued that regulators should be monitoring other issues, including injection pressures. More on this coming soon on DrillOrDrop
Mr Menzies said on his website:
“I am pleased to see activity suspended while a thorough investigation is carried out.
“An event of 2.9ML is simply far too high to countenance and I believe the shale in Fylde is not suitable for the development of a shale gas industry.”
The British Geological Survey has now recorded 132 tremors caused by fracking at Preston New Road. The most recent, measuring -0.7, was on Saturday 14 September, 23 days after the most recent frack. DrillOrDrop’s Preston New Road 2019 tremor tracker
- DrillOrDrop is investigating damage to properties from the Preston New Road earth tremors and how Cuadrilla is handling complaints. We’re very keen to talk to people who have made a complaint to the company and been visited by its representatives. Please contact us in confidence here