UK Fracking Company Takes Partial Responsibility For Earthquakes

Read time: 2 mins

U.K.-based energy company Cuadrilla Resources** has finally admitted that their hydraulic fracturing activities were likely to blame for a series of small earthquakes that shook areas of Britain around fracking sites earlier this year. The company was the only energy company in the U.K. that used fracking to extract natural gas until the entire practice was put on hold in late Spring while the company and government officials investigated the cause of the earthquakes.

Cuadrilla claims in a new report that the earthquakes that occurred in April and May of this year were caused by an “unusual combination” of both geology and their fracking activities. However, they’ve assured officials that such a combination, and resulting earthquakes, were not likely to happen again. The Associated Press said, “But the report estimated that in the 'unlikely scenario,' that fracking kicked off another tremor, its maximum magnitude would be about 3 – meaning it would probably barely be felt if at all.”

DeSmogBlog covered the earthquakes earlier this year:

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.

Fracking operations in the U.K. remain suspended as government officials continue investigating the earthquakes and review Cuadrilla’s report.

**DeSmogBlog contributor Graham Readfearn points out that Cuadrilla is 55 per cent owned by an Australian company, Lucas

Get DeSmog News and Alerts


First thought: are damages being assessed? are fracking companies getting sued for earthquake damage?

2nd thought: are these small earquakes releasing build up pressure and therby preventing larger devestating earthquakes in the near future? I think I’ll go with that. Fracking as an inoculation against mega quakes.

on #2 : Mega earthquakes in Blackpool?

not likely.. 

Fracking as a prop for the fossil fuel industry to carry on with BUA (and damn the implications for global warming) 

Very likely..

I’ve experienced a magnitude 6 earthquake, and it felt like a heavy truck was driving by outside, and not much more.  I doubt anyone would even feel a magnitude 2.3, let alone 1.5.

The lesson this story teaches is that in a highly unusual and unlikely scenario, the worst that can be expected are some virtually undetectable ground tremors, resulting in “No significant damage”.

Sounds like a pretty good tradeoff to me.

Yes, it’s a minor earthquake, and yes, most hydraulic fracturing related earthquakes are relatively minor. But the tremor implies the release of stress along a fault, and a shift in strata around the formation being fracked.

One of several huge problems with squeezing natural gas out in this way is the danger of setting up new migration pathways for the gas – into drinking water, or simply leaking out into the surface. The former brings on flaming tapwater. The latter accelerate global warming.

Having the earth move is NOT a good sign – and not such a good trade-off.


There has never been a credible documented case where fracking has caused the “flaming tapwater” parlour trick.  Fracking takes place on the order of thousands of feet below the surface.  The deepest water wells are, at most, a few hundred feet deep – with the vast majority being much shallower.

Fracking has been used for well over a decade in northeastern BC, without any of the alleged “problems”.  It is a mature, proven, and safe technology, despite what the PR company that runs this website tries to get you to believe.

Ah, but cuffy,  we’re all in the game of PR, one way or another…


I’m aware of a paper by Stephen Osborn and Robert B. Jackson (Duke University, North Carolina) published on the PNAS website, which tested drinking water samples from Pennsylvania and New York.

To quote :

Stephen Osborn ”We found measurable amounts of methane in 85 percent of the samples, but levels were 17 times higher on average in wells located within a kilometer of active hydrofracking sites.”

Robert B. Jackson ”When we compared the dissolved gas chemistry in well water to methane from local gas wells, the signatures matched.”

A smoking faucet methinks!

As a closet geologist Im perfectly aware of the depth discrepancies between the strata being fracked and the water wells. But the subterranean environment is poorly mapped, laced with fractures and stresses and possible migration paths. Pump enough water down at enough opressure, and who knows what might happen. 

Maybe even an earthquake..

And don’t get me started on ‘tightly cemented well casings’ which leak like swiss cheese.


Interesting study, I wonder if someone could do a few studies around many different Fracking sites.  Then you could graph the the chances of burning water to proximity to fracking sites.

You folks might be interested to know that in Alberta, Canada, medical doctors do not decide if water is safe for you to drink.

Only a Professional Engineer or Geologist can do that.

This is a classic example of direct industry involvement with conflicting interests.

On fracking news in Australia here. Conservative independent Tony Windsor is threatening to block legilsation unless an investigation takes place into fracking which is destroying farmland.

And last night the show “The Hamster Wheel”, had an excellent skit ( starts at 5:00) on Alan Jones ( Australia’s Rush Limbaugh) .

They pointed out the irony that Jones has beliefs that are exactly aligned with the Greens on this issue, yet Jones supports Tony Abbott’s ( the conservative leader) stance….who doesn’t support Jones stance & believes fracking is good.