Fracking report warns over tremors

One of Cuadrilla's seismic monitors
One of Cuadrilla's seismic monitors

Fracking on up to half of the land licensed by the Government for shale gas operations could trigger earthquakes, a seismologist has claimed.

Former advisor to No 10, Professor Peter Styles, said hydraulic fracturing in former coal mining areas increases the probability of earthquakes on faults that have already been subject to movement through mining.

As the Government announced plans to speed up fracking developments by fast-tracking private companies’ planning applications, Professor Styles has called for more rigorous checks to identify the dangers.

In his new report, ‘Fracking and Historic Coal Mining: their relationship and should they coincide?’, he said there was a “serious earthquake risk” posed by fracking in former coalfields, because induced tremors would be “dramatically enhanced”.

Although the Fylde has no mine workings, the Blackpool area was hit by two induced tremors in 2011 linked to Cuadrilla’s fracking operation at the now abandoned Preese Hall drill site.

rof Styles recommends a 850-metre buffer zone between fracking and any significant natural fractures or faults. There are faults beneath the Fylde.

He said: “Unfortunately the physics of it means you cannot see those faults with the (survey) waves that you put into the earth. To date it does not appear that any proper industry or government due diligence has taken place with regards to fault lines mapped.”

But shale industry body UKOOG said mapping had been done and that a “traffic light” monitoring system had been put in place to prevent tremors.