Drilling halted by earthquake

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THE company drilling for shale gas on the Fylde coast has stopped its controversial “fracking” programme after an earthquake hit the Fylde.

Cuadrilla Resources began hydro-fracking – sending water and chemicals thousands of feet underground to break rock and release gas – in Weeton last week.

But the company has now halted the process while investigations are made into what caused yesterday’s earthquake, which measured 2.2 on the Richter Scale.

The British Geological Survey (BGS) immediately launched an investigation.

A spokesman for Cuadrilla said: “No fracking operations were taking place at the time of the earthquake.

“However, the company has chosen to pause its fracking programme for several days, pending confirmation of the full data. “

Dr Peter Turner, director of exploration at Cuadrilla added: “Minor earthquakes and tremors happen in the UK from time to time, indeed there were five reported from around the country this week. We are confident this is just a coincidence.”

“All of our activity is tightly regulated by the Environment Agency and other Government bodies, with the UK considered as having one of the most stringent regulatory frameworks in the world.”

The epicentre was identified as between Carleton and Poulton Industrial Estate, just two miles from Preese Hall.

Residents reported wardrobe doors being flung open, staff at Blackpool’s Bonny Street police station felt the building shaking, and pedestrians reported Lytham Road Bridge had cracked.

Brian Baptie, from BGS, said: “We investigated if the earthquake was caused by drilling for shale gas, and from the results, we can’t tell. The epicentre was certainly close by, which points towards the drilling being responsible, but the depth was around 9km underground, which is a lot deeper than the drilling.

“Similar quakes have been recorded during other episodes of drilling for oil so it is not out of the question.

“The nearest sensors are around 70km away – we could look at bringing them nearer to monitor the situation.”

Cuadrilla’s other sites are Singleton, Kirkham, Westby, Wharles and Becconsall.

Residents who were shaken from their beds are demanding closer regulation.

Caroline Murphy, of Singleton, said: “I was literally shaken from my bed at 3.40am yesterday. I’ve never felt anything like it, it can’t be coincidence they are drilling nearby, I want to know who is regulating it.”

Alistair Parker, 66, of Moreton Drive, Poulton, said: “Links between gas fracking, which is cracking up the underground structure, and the quake need looking at. We only have their word for the extent of the effects they are creating.”

After fears the quake caused a crack in Lytham Road, a spokesman for Blackpool Council said: “Structural engineers have been to Lytham Road bridge following a report of a crack on the road surface. No damage has been caused to the bridge during the earthquake. The crack has actually been there for a number of years and is just superficial.”