Largest recorded UK fracking tremor is under investigation

Once again, seismic levels have risen past the Government’s 0.5 Richter scale limit in the Blackpool area near Cuadrilla’s Preston New Road site. Just five days after hydraulic fracturing (fracking) operations were halted to run safety and regulation tests at the site following a 1.5 magnitude tremor directly caused by operations at the site (reported on here), the area experienced a 2.9 magnitude tremor on Monday morning at 8:30am. Residents have reported seeing their houses shake. This is believed to be the largest recorded tremor at the site, surpassing 2011’s 2.3 magnitude earthquake, which caused the Government to place a temporary ban on fracking in the UK. The ban was lifted in 2018, when Cuadrilla’s Preston New Road site began operation. Monday’s tremor significantly surpasses the 0.5 magnitude limit.

Cuadrilla has released updates on the matter confirming the 2.9 magnitude of the event. The company’s website has attempted to reassure local residents, noting that “the event lasted for around a second and the average ground motion was 5mm per second. This is about a third of that permitted for construction projects.” Local residents reported their houses shaking for a period of about five seconds, paired with loud rumbling and banging noises.

The Preston New Road site was not in operation on Monday morning or over the weekend, due to the Bank Holiday and the previous closure on Wednesday to investigate the 1.5 magnitude tremor of that evening. Following this tremor, Cuadrilla described the event as “microseismic” and comparable to dropping a large bag of shopping on the floor. The operations will remain suspended as investigation continues into the cause of both seismic events.

The recent fracking-related seismic events come soon after the Government hinted at a reconsideration of its position on fracking in the UK, reported on here. This has caused concern for environmental activism groups, who fear that raising the 0.5 magnitude limit on fracking-related tremors would allow companies like Cuadrilla to ramp up fracking operations.

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