Socialist Worker

Frackers all shaken up as tremors pause work

Bosses’ claims that fracking is safe have been rumbled by activists and small earthquakes, says Sarah Bates

Issue No. 2628

The anti-fracking movement has seen some large protests in Lancashire

The anti-fracking movement has seen some large protests in Lancashire (Pic: John Atkinson)


Fracking operations have been paused due to earth tremors at the Preston New Road (PNR) site in Lancashire.

The British Geological Survey (BGS) said 28 “seismic events” have happened near the site since fracking started on 15 October.

These movements, although too minor to be felt on the ground, have forced fracking company Cuadrilla to suspend operations three times.

Fracking is a process that injects millions of litres of water, sand and chemicals into rock formations miles underground.

The pressure created by the stream of liquid cracks rocks to release shale gas or oil.

But if the pressure builds up enough the tectonic plates can slip, causing tremors underground.

These are measured in units of local magnitude (ML).

As Socialist Worker went to press there had been four readings of at least 0.5 ML, which count as a red alert and means work should be immediately suspended for 18 hours. Equipment should also be checked and further seismic events monitored.

Counted

But Cuadrilla denied one of these readings counted as it happened after fracking had finished, which is known as a trailing event.

If a tremor is measured up to 0.5 ML it counts as an “amber alert”, which means fracking can continue but pressure should be reduced and equipment should be checked.

So far, there have been two such readings at PNR—0.4 on 23 October and 0.3 on 25 October.

Campaigners say the earthquakes, which were highly likely to be caused by fracking at the Preese Hall shale gas well, are a major reason why operations should stop.

A tremor in 2011 during a previous fracking exercise measured 2.3. It was felt by residents who woke in the night and there were reports of toppled traffic lights and a cracked railway bridge.

This caused fracking at the Preese Hall site—also carried out by Cuadrilla—to stop immediately.

The firm commissioned a report into the earthquake, which recommended the “traffic light” system currently in place at PNR.

But earthquakes aren’t the only source of headaches for fossil fuel fat cats.

Trusted

A parliamentary debate on “local involvement in shale gas development” was set for Wednesday this week. Some Tory MPs were set to rebel—though they can’t be trusted.

Many have constituencies that sit in affected areas and are worried about getting re-elected if central government continue to force through fracking.

Details of a meeting between Tory energy minister Claire Perry and fracking companies were revealed last week.

She met with Cuadrilla and other oil and gas companies on 21 May this year, and the minutes of the meeting were released under a freedom of information request.

In it, Perry pledged that the Tories make the case for shale gas to “get past myths on the topic”.

But earthquakes at PNR show that concerns about fracking aren’t a fiction, but based on real fears about the effects on what an Earth-destroying industry can do.

It’s time Cuadrilla fracked off and left fossil fuels where they belong—in the ground.


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