On Friday, the British Geological Survey recorded a 0.3-magnitude earthquake — among three tremors within a period of 72 hours — close to the Black Pool Preston Site were fracking is being conducted by private firm Cuadrilla.
This latest phenomenon is part of a series of seismic events which have been taking place since 2011, when fracking activities began at the site. That same year, Cuadrilla — a British exploration and production company which primarily exploits shale gas — had to stop fracking because of the tremors.
Several smaller seismic events have occurred in recent days, prompting concerns of a possible major event. “I said earlier today, after the three tremors of yesterday, that there may be trouble ahead because Stanford University research suggests that tiny tremors caused by fracking are a precursor to bigger events,” David Smythe, a geophysics professor at Glasgow University, stated.
The permitted levels of seismic activity surrounding a fracking project are regulated based on a traffic light system: Green represents zero-magnitude on the Richter scale, while amber ranges from 0 to 0.5 and red ranges upwards of 0.5-magnitude, which means operations need to be immediately halted.
Amber light, which applies in this situation, states that fracking may go on “with caution, possibly at reduced rates. Monitoring is intensified.”
“If Cuadrilla carries on it is likely, in my view, to trigger bigger events. An event of just twice today’s amplitude will be enough to trigger the red alert to stop fracking,” mentioned Smythe.
Fracking has been an important political issue for Prime Minister Theresa May, who considers it to be a means of reducing the nation’s dependence on imported energy.
On the other hand, fracking is widely recognized by the scientific community as a big contributor to global warming; and aggressively exploiting shale gas undermines the United Kingdom's responsibilities on climate change.