Cuadrilla apologises for fracking-induced tremor

Shale gas exploration firm Cuadrilla has issued an apology regarding a recent 2.9 Richter Scale magnitude tremor, caused by the company’s Preston New Road site in Lancashire. This tremor occurred just a week after a 1.5 magnitude tremor caused hydraulic fracturing (fracking) operations to be briefly halted. Both of these magnitudes are notably higher than the Government’s current limit of 0.5 magnitude tremors. The site has been closed indefinitely following the recent seismic event, which was the largest fracking-related tremor to have occurred at Cuadrilla's sites.

“We are sorry for any concern this has caused” Cuadrilla has stated. “We are in the process of visiting local people who have raised concerns about minor damage to their property and will repair any damage that is assessed to have been caused by the seismic events.” The apology goes on to explain that operations will not be resumed until regulators and inspectors are confident of the site’s compliance with current standards and capacity to avoid repeated seismic events. Cuadrilla has also attempted to provide details and context surrounding the event. According to Cuadrilla, the event lasted between two and three seconds and the resulting ground vibration was between five millimetres and 8 millimetres per second, while construction projects are typically allowed to operate at levels between six and 15 millimetres per second.

MP Mark Menzies has called for a ban on fracking in the area following the tremor, claiming that the firm cannot operate safely within the Government’s regulations. Friends of the Earth has consistently opposed fracking and has responded to the apology, claiming that Cuadrilla’s apologies are useless unless the company plans to quit fracking. Cuadrilla has no plans to cease operations, stating in the apology that the company aims to continue exploring the Bowland Shale in order to provide the UK with domestic natural gas. The company claims that sourcing natural gas domestically will help the UK lower emissions from imports and aid in the push toward climate sustainability. Friends of the Earth claim that any fracking operation is a step away from sustainability, due to the inherent emissions from site construction, operations and the combustion of oil and gas, along with the risks of fracking induced earthquakes.

The Government has hinted recently that it is reconsidering its position on UK fracking operations. An ongoing scientific assessment of Cuadrilla’s fracking operations will be considered by the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) upon its completion. Environmental activism groups like Friends of the Earth have expressed concern that this review could prompt the Government to relax fracking regulations. The BEIS’ review could take these limit-breaking seismic events as examples of the dangers fracking poses to UK communities. Alternatively, the frequent shutdowns due to regulatory inspections could be taken as examples of bureaucracy getting in the way of Cuadrilla’s operations. The results of the assessment are yet to be seen.

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