Cuadrilla yesterday stopped work at the UK’s only active fracking site after it triggered an earthquake almost ten times stronger than allowed under government rules.
The company said last night that it had detected a seismic tremor measuring 1.55 on the Richter scale.
The small quake forced fracking to stop, and the site will be monitored for the next 18 hours before fracking can start again.
Cuadrilla said that tremor would not be felt by most people in the area and compared it to “a large bag of shopping dropping to the floor.” In the past it has compared other tremors to dropping a watermelon.
Fracking, or injecting water solutions into rock to extract the oil and gas that is found there, has taken off in the US in recent years.
The industry has helped push down global energy prices, and made US a net exporter of oil.
However it is not without its critics, who worry about the climate impact, and the ability for fracking to cause earthquakes.
Last year there were 57 earthquakes over 60 days of fracking in Lancashire, said green activists Friends of the Earth who want the practice banned.
“It’s obvious that fracking can’t be done without triggering earthquakes,” said Jamie Peters, campaigner at the charity.
“This latest quake is a sign that Cuadrilla just can’t stick within the regulations they agreed. Even small vibrations at ground level can be the sign of far more damaging impacts deep underground.”
Cuadrilla said: “The Preston New Road exploration site is the most regulated and monitored site in Europe and the systems in place are working as they should. Minor movements of this level are to be expected and are way below anything that can cause harm or damage to anyone or their property.”