The shale gas exploration firm Cuadrilla was forced to suspend fracking at its Lancashire site last week after it triggered the UK’s biggest fracking-related tremor yet.
The company shut down operations at its Preston New Road site after the 1.55ML tremor was detected at 8.46pm, breaching the 0.5ML limit on seismic activity.
The firm confirmed the ‘micro seismic event’ in a statement, comparing its strength to ‘a large bag of shopping dropping to the floor’.
A Cuadrilla spokesman said: ‘We can confirm that a micro seismic event measuring 1.55ML (local magnitude) on the Richter scale occurred after we had completed the hydraulic fracturing programme for the day at our Preston New Road site. Most local people will not have felt it due to its small size.
‘Well integrity has been verified and we will now pause operations and continue monitoring for the next 18 hours.’
The 1.55ML seismic event is higher than the previous highest tremor recorded at Preston New Road, which was a 1.5ML quake in December 2018.
The suspension comes just days after Cuadrilla restarted fracking at Preston New Road after multiple shutdowns last year led the company to abandon its first well.
According to government regulations, operations must temporarily stop if any seismic activity is detected over 0.5 magnitude.
The firm has urged the government to review the threshold, saying it is stopping the UK’s shale gas industry from growing further.
‘Minor movements of this level are to be expected and are way below anything that can cause harm or damage to anyone or their property,’ the company added.
Earlier this week the government reiterated its support for shale gas exploration, hinting it would be willing to consider relaxing the regulations.
A BEIS spokesperson said: ‘Shale gas could be an important new domestic energy source reducing the level of gas imports while delivering broad economic benefits, including through the creation of well-paid, quality jobs. It could also support our transition to net zero emissions by 2050.’
Campaigners have warned the government against making the move, saying it could bring with it significant environmental risks.
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