Wednesday, June 1, 2011

'Man-made' earthquake strikes Blackpool... and consequences could be severe for UK's gas drilling industry - 1st June 2011

The people of Blackpool may have barely felt a shudder, but the repercussions could be wide-reaching.

Measuring just 1.5 on the Richter scale, the seaside town escaped a recent earthquake totally unscathed.

But it was the latest in a series of 'natural' disasters, that are not considered natural at all - they are man-made.

Now the UK’s only ‘shale’ gas drilling project has been suspended after it emerged that the controversial technique may have caused the tremors..

Shale gas drilling – known as 'fracking' – is the process of fracturing rock deep underground using high-pressure water to extract gas.

The company behind the scheme, Cuadrilla, confirmed that it had been doing this just 1.2 miles from the epicentre of the tremor and has downed tools to investigate.

Experts believe the process could be behind the earthquake, which could have severe repercussions for drilling in the UK.

It follows a 2.3 magnitude earthquake at the beginning of last month, which also occurred near to the site at Preese Hall, near Blackpool.

Today, the British Geological Survey's head of seismology, Brian Baptie, said the survey recorded the magnitude 1.5 earthquake shortly after midnight on Friday.

He said: 'Data from two temporary instruments close to the drill site, installed after the magnitude 2.3 earthquake on April 1, indicate that the event occurred at a depth of approximately 2km or 1.2 miles.

'The recorded waveforms are very similar to those from the magnitude 2.3 event last month, which suggests that the two events share a similar location and mechanism.' Read More

WHAT IS 'FRACKING'?

  • It is a mining technique commonly used to get gas or oil from under land rather than under the sea.
  • To get the gas out, companies drill down into shale and form a well. They then inject wells with water, small amounts of chemicals and sand to create tiny cracks in the rock, allowing natural gas and sometimes oil to flow upwards into the well.
  • The technique could add about 40 per cent to previous estimates of global recoverable gas resources, with the largest known reserves are in China, the United States, Argentina and Mexico.
  • However, It is now feared the process could be the cause of small earthquakes.
  • Critics such as the Green party say that it is environmentally unsafe because the chemicals could contaminate soil and get into drinking water.