UK fracking suspended after series of earth tremors

Regulators have temporarily shut down operations at Britain's only active fracking site.

    Cuadrilla's Preston New Road site is Britain's only active fracking site [Hannah McKay/Reuters]
    Cuadrilla's Preston New Road site is Britain's only active fracking site [Hannah McKay/Reuters]

    Fracking has again been suspended at a site in northern England, less than two weeks after operations restarted, the United Kingdom's Oil and Gas Authority (OGA) has confirmed.

    British shale gas exploration firm Cuadrilla Resources said another earth tremor occurred on Monday near its fracking site in Lancashire, and was bigger than a 2011 quake that suspended operations at the site for seven years.

    It is the third earth tremor in a week at the Preston New Road site, where activities only resumed on August 15 after Cuadrilla secured all required permits following several stoppages last year because of minor seismic events.

    "We're aware of a seismic event at 8.30am. We can confirm that no hydraulic fracturing was being carried out at the time and none has been carried out over the weekend. We are investigating alongside regulators," Cuadrilla said in a statement.

    The British Geological Survey said that Monday's tremor had a magnitude of 2.9 ML (local magnitude) on the Richter scale, bigger than the 2.3 ML quake in 2011 at Britain's only active fracking site.

    The Oil and Gas Authority noted the tremor was felt by people in the area, and it will now review whether Cuadrilla's operations should be shut down indefinitely.

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    "Operations will remain suspended while the OGA gathers data from this and other recent seismic events and then considers carefully whether or not the hydraulic fracturing operations, mitigations and assumptions set out in the operator's Hydraulic Fracture Plan continue to be appropriate to manage the risk of induced seismicity," the regulator said in a statement.

    Under Britain's traffic light regulation system, work is immediately suspended if seismic activity of magnitude 0.5 or above is detected.

    Fracking, or hydraulically fracturing, involves extracting gas from rocks by breaking them up with water and chemicals at high pressure.

    It is fiercely opposed by environmentalists who say extracting more fossil fuels is at odds with Britain's commitment to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and news agencies