Ministers faced renewed calls to ban fracking today as a record-breaking earthquake shook homes in Blackpool just weeks after the government said it may review limits which the industry says are stifling business.
A 2.9 magnitude quake by Cuadrilla’s Blackpool site woke up locals enjoying a bank-holiday lie-in.
Nick Bell, who lives four miles from the site, said the experience was “scary”. He told City A.M. his windows had rattled when the quake hit at 8.30am.
“If it’d been a little bit stronger today it might not have been things falling off shelves, it might have been chimneys coming off these old houses,” he said.
According to government rules, fracking must stop when tremors reach 0.5 on the Richter scale. Cuadrilla can normally restart within 18 hours. However after the scale of yesterday’s tremor, the Oil and Gas Authority suspended activity at the site indefinitely.
“It’s clear that the industry cannot work within the limits that they themselves agreed. It’s time to stop,” said Conservative MP Lee Rowley.
Jamie Peters, a campaigner at Friends of the Earth, said:“This issue of earthquakes in connection to unwanted fracking has always been serious but now it is getting out of hand. It’s clearly not under control and at this point there is only one thing that can fix this situation: a ban, right now.”
It comes less than two weeks after the government indicated it could review the tremor limits
Cuadrilla told City A.M. that the most recent development would not set the industry back in its fight to get the 0.5 limit changed.
The firm said the well’s integrity had not been breached, and it is working to understand the cause of three powerful tremors in the past week.
“This is exploration about what could potentially be a very important resource for the UK and we would like to continue with our work to prove this.”
When asked if it believes the suspension may never be lifted, a spokesperson said: “We very much hope not.”
Yesterday’s tremor broke through the previous record for a fracking-induced earthquake. In 2011 a 2.4 magnitude tremor at a different Cuadrilla site led the government to ban all fracking for two years. It was later allowed to restart under the 0.5 limit.
The industry today called on the government to review the cautious limit based on the data gathered at the Blackpool site.
“Hydraulic fracturing does involve an element of seismicity. That’s always been clear. What I think needs to happen now is let’s look at the data. The requirement for gas in this country hasn’t gone away. And we need to make choices based on the science,” said Ken Cronin, the head of industry body UK Onshore Oil and Gas.
Natascha Engel, the UK’s former shale gas commissioner who resigned earlier this year, said she hopes the government will move over to a system which measures how much the ground moves, rather than seismic levels miles below the surface.
“It’s not the seismicity that people care about, but its effect on the surface and that’s not what is being measured here,” she told City A.M.
Heather Goodwin, a resident of Lytham St Anne’s who felt the tremor, said: “The walls of my house shook, there was a really deep, guttural roar. For a moment, I really thought my house was going to fall down. It only lasted a few seconds but I felt the need to go all round the house and check for damage. We’ve been afraid of this happening. How long before there’s real damage done and people injured? When are the government going to stop the fracking? Because right now we feel disposable up here.”