Hydraulic fracturing in areas of the United Kingdon has been halted due to concerns that the procedure is responsible for two small earthquakes triggered in the county of Lancashire. One earthquake occurred in April and measured a 2.3 on the Richter scale, and another occurred last week measuring 1.5 in magnitude. Both quakes happened at the same time and in the same location where the Cuadrilla Resources energy company was actively fracking gas wells. No significant damage was reported from either earthquake.
The British Geological Survey suggests that the earthquakes are a result of fracking, as gas and oil drilling has been known to cause small earthquakes in other areas of the world. From a report in the UK’s The Independent:
“It seems quite likely that they are related,” said Brian Baptie of the British Geological Survey (BGS). “We had a couple of instruments close to the site and they show that both events were close to the site and at a shallow depth. “The timing of these two events in conjunction with the ongoing fracking at the site suggests that they may be related.” He added: “It is well-established that drilling like this can trigger small earthquakes.”
Cuadrilla said that it may be many weeks before it resumes fracking operations at its site near Blackpool because the incidents warrant further investigation with the help of outside experts.
“We’ve suspended drilling because there was an incident that the BGS recorded. We were aware of it because we have our own monitoring equipment on the site,” said Paul Kelly of Cuadrilla. “We are now compiling a report with the BGS and Keele University. It was entirely our decision to suspend operations. We see it as an appropriate and responsible thing to do.”
The Energy and Climate Change Committee of the House of Commons in the United Kingdom released a report last month claiming that they had no evidence showing that fracking was unsafe, and therefore they would allow the practice to continue. However, once the final report is finished on the earthquakes, they might have different conclusions about the safety of fracking.