Fracking triggered British earthquakes

Summary:The UK is not widely known for shale gas drilling. And it's certainly not famous for seismic tremors. But one led to another near Liverpool, the company behind the fracking admits.

Protesters scale a fracking rig this morning near Liverpool

Drilling for shale gas almost certainly set off two small earthquakes in northern England last spring, the energy company behind the project has admitted.

Cuadrilla Resources said in a report that it is “highly probable” that its exploratory fracking project near Liverpool set off the April 1 quake that measured 2.3 on the Richter scale, and the 1.4 magnitude earthquake on May 27, the BBC reports.

The independent experts who Caudrilla commissioned to investigate also concluded that an “unusual combination of geology at the well site” helped trigger the quake. Those conditions are “unlikely to occur again” but if they did repeat, an earthquake would not exceed a magnitude 3 on the Richter scale, the report claimed.

Hydraulic fracturing of shale gas, also known as fracking, involves pumping water and chemicals into shale rock to release natural gas. It could provide Britain with a lower carbon fossil fuel alternative to coal.

The controversial technique is in the early stags in the UK. Cuadrilla has found huge reserves in north west England, and has been drilling near Southport, about 17 miles north of Liverpool.

Opponents in Britain, as they do in the U.S., claim that fracking can pollute drinking water with carcinogens.

Now they are adding earthquakes to their list of objections. Some people have suspected that fracking triggered an earthquake in the eastern U.S. last August.

Anti-fracking protestors halted operations at Southport this morning by climbing a rig.

Photo: Frack Off

This post was originally published on Smartplanet.com

Topics: Innovation

About

Mark Halper has written for TIME, Fortune, Financial Times, the UK's Independent on Sunday, Forbes, New York Times, Wired, Variety and The Guardian. He is based in Bristol, U.K. Follow him on Twitter.

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