Shaken AND Stirred

It is no news to anybody now that Cuadrilla appear to have lost control of the seismic activity at their PNR 2 well at Preston New Road.

We have now seen 128 seismic events registered by the BGS. Of these 9 have been amber level events and 9 have been red level events as per the Seismic Traffic Light regulations which were designed to stop earthquakes that might damage property or cause distress to local residents.

Of these 38 have occurred since Cuadrilla stopped pumping on Friday 23rd August. 6 of these “trailing events” were red events and 3 were amber. The 2.9 Ml quake which woke up the Fylde on Sunday 26th August was the biggest seismic event induced by hydraulic fracturing in the UK.

It is clear that events of this magnitude and frequency were not anticipated by Cuadrilla or the regulators. In Cuadrilla’s Environmental Statement it is made very clear that if the seismic Traffic Light System (TLS) were in operation they considered a theoretical “worst case scenario” to be a 1.5 Ml event

This Environmental Statement was a very important document in both the planning application that was rejected and the subsequent appeal which was granted.

The fact that the “worst case scenario”presented by Cuadrilla was exceeded by a quake 25 times stronger and with an energy release 125 times greater on 26th August clearly demonstrates that the “gold standard of regulation” described by our local MP, Mark Menzies, has failed totally to protect the citizens of the Fylde.

It is uncertain yet how many claims for property damage have been registered, but it is abundantly clear already that the scale and range of damage is far greater than that which was experienced after the Preese Hall quakes which occurred in 2011.

So now we have to wait for the outcome of the Oil and Gas Authorities investigation. It seems absolutely inconceivable that they could conclude that it is safe for Cuadrilla to continue to frack under their existing Hydraulic Fracture Plan as this is based on the obviously ineffective TLS. They would seem to have 3 choices here though. Firstly to forbid further fracking, secondly to permit it but with a reduced red limit and finally to ignore the empirical evidence and raise the TLS, allowing Cuadrilla to potentially unleash further stronger quakes on an increasingly restive local population.

Local businessman Mark Mills address a crowd of hundreds at the second demo in just 1 week at Cuadrilla’s Preston new Road site

Likewise it would seem inconceivable that Lancashire County Council could now grant Cuadrilla an extension past the end of November to complete drilling and fracking operations on well PNR2 at Preston New Road. Any councillor supporting such a move would surely find themselves looking for alternative ways to pass their time come the next local elections.

So Cuadrilla having managed the next to impossible task of mobilising a normally quietly acquiescent local population against themselves, are now burning though (by their own estimate) £96,000 a day and are starting to remove material from the site. That would be nearly £1 million since they last pumped at the site.

It can only now be a matter of time before either the commercial reality or government action puts an end to the failed experiment that is UK fracking.

If not then the sleeping giant of local public opinion will continue to grumble along with the earth under the well and it won’t be a good outcome for any local politicians who continue to support fracking in the face of incontrovertible evidence that our “gold standard regulation” is really just fools’ gold.

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