CONTROVERSIAL gas drilling DID cause Fylde coast earthquakes.
And now energy chiefs have sent a stark warning to shale gas company Cuadrilla Resources – stop the tremors or we will shut you down.
It comes as the company this week held urgent talks with the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) to consider a report into the risk of earthquakes associated with fracking – the process used to extract shale gas from deep beneath the Fylde coast.
The meetings followed the British Geological Survey’s (BGS) conclusion two recent earth tremors felt nearby were most likely to have been caused by fracking.
The BGS said the correlations between the earthquakes and the time of fracking operations and the proximity of the quakes to the site, all pointed towards the earthquakes being a result of the fracking process.
Seismologist Brian Baptie added: “These are still very small earthquakes, even by UK standards and won’t cause any damage, if fracking continued I couldn’t see the tremors getting much bigger.
“But it is obviously a concern for local residents and I’m sure the report commissioned by Cuadrilla will be greeted with interest.”
Cuadrilla has came under fire from activists for its drilling technique, which involves pumping high volumes of water and sand into drill holes to crack the rocks so gas can be extracted
The company commissioned a report following the tremors earlier this year.
Soon after the quakes were feltthe firm halted the fracking process after admitting the low magnitude tremors felt in Poulton in April and May, close to Cuadrilla’s Singleton site could be linked to them.
And experts said Cuadrilla’s operations could be shut down permanently if proposed methods to reduce the risk of earthquakes fail.
Toni Harvey, a senior geoscientist at the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) said: “If we allow fracking to continue and their mitigation didn’t work, then we would shut them down again, without a doubt.
“There is a lot of concern in the media and from ministers about public safety.”
“DECC has requested a detailed report from Cuadrilla, which we understand they are close to finalising. When the report is received, it will be carefully considered, with input from British Geological Survey and other experts.
“We will also be discussing the report with other regulators before any decision is made on resuming hydraulic fracturing operations for shale gas.”
Last month Cuadrilla, the first company to explore for shale gas in the UK, announced the Fylde coast holds a total potential resource of 200 trillion cubic feet of gas.
It estimated the discovery – between Blackpool and Southport –could be worth £6bn to the UK economy and create 1,700 jobs locally.
However protesters are campaigning to stop the drilling and anti-fracking group, Frack Off - London, rallied outside the DECC headquarters on Thursday as Cuadrilla presented their study.
And the chairman of the Blackpool and Fylde Green Party Philip Mitchell today called on the Government to halt all UK hydraulic fracturing industry activity until there had been a thorough and robust evaluation of the risks related to future activity.
He said: “Any suggestion of an acceptable level of earthquakes caused by fracking should be rejected.
“The Government must realise it must stop treating our communities like guinea pigs and accept these techniques carry unacceptable risks to the British public.
“Ministers must stop the industry activity at least until parliament and the public can be guided by a full and robust appraisal of the total risk to the themselves and to the environment.”
Mark Miller, CEO of Cuadrilla Resources, said: “We met with officials from DECC and their technical advisors and had a useful, in-depth working session on the initial findings of the report.
“There is some considerable work still to do and we absolutely share with DECC the need to have the complex issues involved addressed dealt with satisfactorily.”