Fracking opponents pleased that regulator has no plans to raise tremor safety level

The shale gas drilling rig at Cuadrilla's Preston New Road site
The shale gas drilling rig at Cuadrilla's Preston New Road site
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Shale gas opponents have urged the Government to maintain its stance on tremor safety limits.

Fylde Labour Group was reacting after the Oil and Gas Authority said there were no plans to raise the 0.5ML limit despite calls from fracking firms Cuadrilla and Ineos to do so.

They say that the limit can be safely raised and the Government must do so to let the industry develop.

But opponents fear that larger tremors could cause damage either to the fracking well bore itself allowing pollution to leak out or at higher levels to resident's homes. A series of small tremors occurred when fracking was carried out at the Preston New Road site before Christmas.

Richard Marshall from Fylde Labour said: “It is excellent news for Fylde residents that the Oil and Gas Authority have reiterated their stance. Cuadrilla, operators at Preston New Road, have called for a review of the seismic limitations set by the OGA as they say it ‘severely constrained the volume of sand that could be injected into the shale rock.’

“The regulations were set in consultation with Cuadrilla by OGA before fracking began in December 2018 and the Traffic Light System of monitoring has undoubtedly prevented serious environmental damage.

"If the limit was raised then seismic activity caused by fracking could damage the well casing and cause pollutants to migrate into the ground and aquifers. The regulations are there for a reason and Cuadrilla shows contempt for the environment and Fylde people by suggesting they should be changed.

"The threat of fracking at Preston New Road may have dissipated for now but the residents of the Fylde will only be safe when fracking is banned in the UK completely.

Earlier this week Cuadrilla called for fracking earth tremor limits to be reviewed to aid the operation at its Preston New Road site.

No fracking has taken place at the site since December, with fracking prior to Christmas 2018 triggering 57 small tremors – several above the 0.5 magnitude (ML) safety limit at which the operation has to be paused for 18 hours.

But the company said there was a significant reservoir of "high quality" gas below the Fylde which could be accessed if the safety limit was raised. It pointed to levels of 4ML in the USA and levels allowed for other industries such as quarrying and mining.

Francis Egan chief executive of Cuadrilla said: All we ask now is that we are treated fairly, with comparable seismic and ground vibration levels to similar industries in Lancashire and elsewhere in the UK who are able to work safely but more effectively with significantly higher thresholds for seismicity and ground vibration.”

Ineos has pointed to the original ministerial statement by Ed Davey in December 2012 which announced the end of the moratorium on fracking following the tremors widely felt across the Fylde in 2011 were at the level of 1.5ML and 2.3ML asued by fracking at Preese Hall.

Ed Davey said the levels were to be set at 0.5ML "far below a perceptible surface event, but larger than the expected level generated by the fracturing of the rock" but that "it may well prove to be the case that, as our experience of applying this type of control to fracking operations develops, it can be confirmed that trigger levels can be adjusted upwards without compromising the effectiveness of the controls."