Government mulls 'fracking' link to earth tremors

The government has said it is considering the findings of a report that found a 'highly probable' link between the process of 'fracking' to extract shale gas and a series of earth tremors in Lancashire earlier this year.

The investigation into hydraulic fracturing tests, which involved the extraction of gas from shale deposits by blasting pressurised water into the earth, carried out by operator Cuadrilla in April and May this year, found that it was "highly probable" that a number of minor earthquakes were caused by the process.

But it said that the seismic events were influenced by an rare combination of geology at the site. The report said that two earthquakes of 2.3 and 1.5 on the Richter Scale had been experienced during the tests.

However it said: "Even the maximum seismic event is not expected to present a risk.

"In the UK area near Lancashire there have been many seismic events induced by mining induced seismicity that caused events up to magnitude 3.1."

The report recommends that the company adopts early detection system which to monitor seismic activity and implement prevent the escalation of any future seismic events. It said that similar systems were in place in the Netherlands and Germany.

Cuadrilla Resources chief executive Mark Miller said: "We unequivocally accept the findings of this independent report and are pleased that the report concludes that there is no threat to people or property in the local area from our operations."

Energy minister Charles Hendry said: "We are committed to the highest standards of safety and environmental protection in all UK oil and gas activities, and we will look at Cuadrilla’s report carefully with the assistance of our independent experts and regulators, before deciding whether hydraulic fracturing operations should resume.

"This is a potentially important addition to our energy resources, but its development must be done in a way that carries public confidence."

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