UK fracking operations grind to a halt after mini-quake

BLACKPOOL, England, June 1, 2011 -- UK drilling operations for shale gas have been put on hold following a second small earthquake in the region which has been linked to the process...

BLACKPOOL, England, June 1, 2011 -- UK drilling operations for shale gas have been put on hold following a second small earthquake in the region which has been linked to the process.

A 1.5 magnitude tremor, reported by the British Geological Survey (BGS), was recorded on Friday 27th May in Blackpool - around the same time that energy company Cuadrilla Resources was fracking for shale gas: injecting water under high pressure deep underground to break apart gas-bearing rock.

The technique requires large quantities of water, sand and chemicals and concerns have been raised globally over how the process could contaminate groundwater and domestic water well supplies.

In April a 2.3 magnitude earthquake was also reported in the area. Both earthquakes have been related to the fracking, but this has yet to be confirmed.

An investigation is currently underway by Keele University, BGS and the government's Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) to analyse data from the site at Weeton in Lancashire, six miles from the seaside resort of Blackpool.

The BGS reportedly said: "It is well known that injection of water or other fluids during the oil extraction and geothermal engineering, such as shale gas, processes can result in earthquake activity."

Mark Miller, CEO of Cuadrilla Resources, said in a statement: "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."

Last month a report by the Energy and Climate Change Committee of the House of Commons summed up investigations into UK shale gas and the fracking process, including the Blackpool operations.

It said: "There is no evidence that the hydraulic fracturing process poses any risk to underground water aquifers provided that the wellcasing is intact before the process commences. Rather, the risks of water contamination are due to issues of well integrity, and are no different to concerns encountered during the extraction of oil and gas from conventional reservoirs. However, the large volumes of water required for shale gas could challenge resources in regions already experiencing water stress."

Commenting on the report, Miller said: "The committee reported it found no evidence that the hydraulic fracturing process posed any direct risk to underground water aquifers provided the well is constructed properly."

Bans on commercial fracking have already been established in France and certain states in North America, with people living close to fracking sites having been filmed setting fire to tap water contaminated by methane gas.

Cuadrilla Resources said it expects the current investigation to take a "number of weeks" and that it will "decide on appropriate acions after that".

###

More in Industrial