U.K. Natural Gas Driller Says Fracking Probable Cause of Blackpool Earthquakes

Cuadrilla Resources Ltd., a company engaged in <"http://www.yourlawyer.com/topics/overview/hydraulic_fracturing_fracking">hydraulic fracturing in the United Kingdom (UK), says its fracking most likely caused two small earthquakes near Blackpool, England. According to a report from The Wall Street Journal, Cuadrilla’s study said its pumping of drilling fluids and a “rare combination of geological events” led to the quakes, as well as 48 weaker seismic events near a natural gas well it operates.

Britain suspended hydraulic fracturing after two quakes – a magnitude 2.3 on April 1, and a magnitude 1.5 on May 27 – occurred just 500 meters from the Cuadrilla natural gas well. According to the Journal, a Cuadrilla study commissioned following the earthquakes concluded the combination of geological factors that caused the quakes was rare and would be unlikely to occur together again at future well sites.

“If these factors were to combine again in the future, local geology limits seismic events to around magnitude 3 on the Richter scale as a worst-case scenario,” the report said.

According to the Journal, Cuadrilla said the report was overseen by an independent team of seismic experts and was prepared in consultation with the U.K.’s Department of Energy and Climate Change. That department will comment on the study’s conclusions once it has had time to review the report.

According to a Reuters report, Cuadrilla has proposed implementing a seismic early warning system to make local people feel safer. However, British activist and environmental groups say the measure would mask the real risks of fracking.

“These findings are worrying and are likely to add to the very real concerns that people have about fracking and shale gas,” Nick Molho, head of energy policy at WWF-UK said. That group is seeking a moratorium on shale gas exploration until environmental risks have been properly assessed, Reuters said.

This is not the first time a fracking operation has been linked to earthquakes. In the U.S., a similar occurrence in Arkansas had prompted the closure of several underground waste disposal sites for fracking wastewater. At the time, it was reported that 90 percent of the earthquakes recorded in Arkansas since 2009 had occurred within six kilometers of salt water disposal sites associated with fracking operations. In 2009, the disposal of fracking wastewater was also named a possible suspect in a series of earthquakes that plagued North Texas, in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, prompting Chesapeake to close two nearby disposal wells “as a precautionary measure.”. A possible link to fracking and earthquake activity has also been investigated in West Virginia and Colorado.

In the Canadian province of British Columbia, regulators are trying to determine if a recent upsurge in earthquake activity in the extreme northeastern corner of the province could be the result of fracking.

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