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Immediate moratorium on fracking in England because of tremor risk

Immediate moratorium on fracking in England because of tremor risk

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Gooseneck at Cuadrilla’s Preston New Road shale gas site, 5 August 2019. Photo: Ros Wills

After seven years of promoting fracking, Conservative ministers have withdrawn their support and blocked the prospects of a shale gas industry.

The UK government has issued an immediate moratorium in England because of the risk of earth tremors. Governments in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland have already issued measures that amount to moratoriums on fracking.

In a statement released just after midnight, the Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS), said new scientific advice concluded that it was not possible with current technology to predict accurately whether fracking would cause tremors and how big they would be.

Opponents of fracking described the announcement as a victory for communities and the climate but called for a full, permanent ban. IGas, the only industry representative to respond to our invitation to comment, said it was confident it could operate safely and environmentally responsibly. The industry organisation, UKOOG, later said fracking was a long-standing technology and the UK had a world-class shale resource.  Full reaction

Ministers said they had based their decision on a report by the industry regulator, the Oil and Gas Authority (OGA). It had been investigating earth tremors caused by fracking at the UK’s only shale gas site, at Preston New Road, near Blackpool, operated by Cuadrilla.

The report looked at the impacts of fracking the PNR1z well in autumn 2018, which caused more than 50 tremors. The OGA is also examining 134 seismic events caused by fracking the second well, PNR2, in August 2019. They included the UK’s largest fracking-induced tremor, measuring 2.9ML. The British Geological Survey said this tremor was felt by several thousand people, while several hundred reported damage to homes. The OGA suspended fracking within hours.

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Campaigners outside Cuadrilla’s shale gas site at Preston New Road near Blackpool, 26 August 2019. Photo: Used with the owner’s consent

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