A large tremor that caused houses to shake has been triggered by the UK’s only active fracking site, amid rising alarm about the controversial practice.The 2.9-magnitude quake, recorded near Cuadrilla’s site near Blackpool on Monday morning, is believed to be the biggest fracking-related tremor seen in Britain. Operations at the Preston New Road site had been suspended since Wednesday night after a series of gradually increasing “microseismic events”.
Yet the 2.9-magnitude tremor, which startled residents at 8.30am on Monday, is by far the largest recorded at the site and is bigger than the 2.3-magnitude quake that brought fracking to a halt in 2011.
The latest quake, which has been verified by the British Geological Survey, easily breaches the government’s 0.5ML (local magnitude) limit on seismic activity.
Cuadrilla said it was aware of the seismic event and no fracking had taken place over the weekend. The energy firm said it was investigating alongside regulators.Residents in nearby Lytham St Annes, Blackpool and as far afield as Preston reported feeling the tremor, with widespread reports of houses shaking.
Stephen Cheatley, a photographer who lives a few miles from the fracking site, said he “heard a bang, a bit like a shotgun going off”. “This was quickly followed by the house shaking for about five seconds. In my opinion, this was a pretty serious tremor,” he said.
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“It’s definitely the biggest since a natural one I experienced many years ago. I’ve been on the fence until now, but after that tremor this morning I think fracking needs to stop completely.”A resident of Lytham St Annes said there was a “very loud rumbling” and the “whole house shook, picture fell off a shelf” and that it was “quite scary”.
Another person posted on social media: “I heard a loud rumble then the house literally shook. Scary stuff”.
Cuadrilla saidthe integrity of its shale gas well was unaffected by the seismic activity. It added: “We appreciate this this has caused concern for local people and by way of reassurance it is worth noting that this event lasted for around a second and the maximum ground motion recorded was 5mm per second. This is about a third of that permitted for construction projects.”
Fracking involves pumping water and chemicals into rocks at high pressure to extract shale gas. Fracking in England resumed last year after two tremors – measuring 2.3- and 1.5-magnitude – prompted a seven-year moratorium on the process.
Cuadrilla has blamed the 0.5ML limit on seismic activity for stifling the UK’s nascent shale industry. It has called for a government review of the rules, and extra time to drill after its fracking licence expires in November.Preston New Action Group said it was “very frightening when you hear a loud bang and things in the house rattle”. She added: “Given that this quake was felt across Blackpool, the Fylde coast and beyond, what is likely to have happened beneath the ground to the well at the source? We should not be being subjected to this level of stress and fear. Fracking must be stopped immediately.”
A spokesman for Frack Free Lancashire said: “Enough is enough. People are cowering in their homes and just waiting and wondering when the next quake will be and how much damage it will cause. “We call upon our local MPs to come off the fence and press for an immediate ban on fracking. We are sick of being treated as human guinea pigs.” The Conservative MP Mark Menzies, who represents the Fylde coast where the tremors were felt, said he would write to ministers to call for a halt to fracking in Lancashire. He said the latest tremors showed that the fracking industry is unable to operate within safety regulations, and added: “It is now clear that hydraulic fracturing is not suitable for Fylde or the people of Fylde and I will be writing to ministers and the Oil and Gas Authority to call for full cessation of the shale gas industry operating on the Fylde coast.”
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