Frack on: shale gets go ahead, despite earthquake risk

The controversial shale gas industry has effectively been given the green light by the UK Government, despite warnings from an independent report which found that fracking, the process of extracting […]

By Tom Gibson

The controversial shale gas industry has effectively been given the green light by the UK Government, despite warnings from an independent report which found that fracking, the process of extracting shale gas, was responsible for earthquakes in Blackpool last year.

The government-backed panel is recommending a series of new, precautionary measures to the shale gas industry following the shutdown of test fracking by shale drilling company Cuadrilla last year.

Fracking works by pumping high pressured water and chemicals into shale rock to release gas. The industry has long been under the spotlight following accusations the process can also contaminate water resources.

The report has recommended introducing a ‘traffic light’ system where a red light at activity levels of magnitude of 0.5 or above means fracking should be stopped and unusual seismic activity, even at lower levels, should be carefully assessed before operations proceed.

DECC’s Chief Scientific Advisor David MacKay said: “If shale gas is to be part of the UK’s energy mix we need to have a good understanding of its potential environmental impacts and what can be done to mitigate those impacts.

“This comprehensive independent expert review of Cuadrilla’s evidence suggests a set of robust measures to make sure future seismic risks are minimised – not just at this location but at any other potential sites across the UK.”

The report also recommends:

-That the hydraulic fracturing procedure should include a smaller pre-injection and monitoring stage.

-That an effective monitoring system to provide near real-time locations and magnitudes of any seismic events should be part of any future hydraulic fracturing operations.

The panel’s report will face a six week consultation period, after which DECC will be expected to make regulatory changes.