Is Fracking In The UK Causing Earthquakes?

Wed, 2011-06-01 13:37Farron Cousins
Farron Cousins's picture

Is Fracking In The UK Causing Earthquakes?

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.

Comments

Lancashire is a county, not a town. The county town of Lancashire is Lancaster.

It seems not a lot of people now that.

I fixed it in the story.

The reason earthquakes can be produced by fracking has to do with the injection of fluid into strata at the fracking depth, rather than drilling per se.

Injecting fluids reduces the frictional stresses opposing the shear component of the deviatioric stress everywhere present within the earth, thereby allowing the magnitude of the shear component to locally exceed the strength of undamaged rock or the frictional shear stress along a pre-existing fracture surface. the result is formation of a shear fracture or movement along an existing one, with generation of seismic shockwaves as a result. Occassionally the shear fractures produced are very extensive and the associated relative displacement of the fracture walls large, resulting in an earthquake.

The recent earthquakes in Lancashire involved release of a tiny amount of energy in terms of global seismic events.

earthquakes measuring 1.5 or 2.3 on the Richter scale are quite small. Living in Vancouver I have felt more than a couple quakes of that magnitude. Actually some quakes that small are very hard to notice.

So while it is wise to understand the mechanism involved in these quakes, if these are biggest quakes we expect from fracking then I think the Energy and Climate Change Committee report is probably right (at least in regards to quakes, fracking obviously has other issues).

If on the other hand the mechanism behind these fracking quakes could lead to larger quakes then we really do have a serious problem on our hands.

This isn’t vancouver. You know what, Japan sees even more bigger earthquakes.

But what does that have to do with fracking causing earthquakes?

NOTHING.

What’s this with : “then we really do have a serious problem on our hands.”

YOU are in Vancouver.

No possible earthquake from Lancashire could cause YOU in Vancouver a problem.

As a UK resident I’d prefer to know all the potential consequences BEFORE we subject any land in our small, densely populated, island to fracking. I’m sure the US and Canada will destroy large areas of their own land regardless of any objection their own citizens have: but the UK can benefit from others experiences. The gas isn’t going to go away, so later generations of UK citizens can enjoy its use - if the fossil fuel industry hasn’t utterly ruined the planet by then.

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