'Fracking' suspended in UK following possible earth tremors

01 June 2011 13:23  [Source: ICIS news]

A Cuadrilla drilling rig in Lancashire, UK (Source: Cuadrilla)LONDON (ICIS)--Shale-gas drilling near Blackpool, in the northwest of the UK, has been suspended following fears that it may have triggered a small earthquake in the area, the energy company Cuadrilla Resources said on Wednesday.

The company, which operates the sole hydraulic fracturing (also known as “fracking” or “fracing”) operation in the UK, said it would postpone fracking operations at its site at Weeton, near Poulton in Lancashire, while it interprets seismic information from monitoring equipment at the site.

A “small seismic event” was recorded in the Blackpool area at approximately 00:48 hours UK time on 27 May, the company said, adding that it had been planning to halt operations over the holiday weekend but did so following discussions with the British Geological Survey (BGS).

The BGS, Keele University and the company installed seismic monitoring equipment at the Weeton site following an earth tremor on 1 April. The 27 May tremor registered 1.5 on the Richter scale, according to media reports, while the 1 April tremor was a 2.3-magnitude event.

The BGS had been unable to say conclusively that the earlier event was related to hydraulic fracturing, although the tremor's estimated depth was close to the drilling depth and located 2km from the drilling site.

The BGS is investigating the location and properties of the UK’s shale deposits. In 2010, it identified “significant potential areas in northern England, including the Widmerpool Gulf near Nottingham and a large area centred on the Elswick Gasfield, near Blackpool”.

Cuadrilla Resources CEO Mark Miller said: “We take our responsibilities very seriously and that is why we have stopped fracing operations to share information and consult with the relevant authorities and other experts.

“We expect that this analysis and subsequent consultation will take a number of weeks to conclude and we will decide on appropriate actions after that.”

Concerns are growing about the exploitation of extensive shale deposits in North America and in Europe. France’s lower house of parliament, the National Assembly, voted overwhelmingly on 11 May to ban fracking.

Cuadrilla Resources has plans to drill for gas in Poland and in the Netherlands.

By: Nigel Davis
+44 20 8652 3214

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