AS of this month, the UK’s infant fracking industry remains in lockdown in the wake of an investigation into shale gas mining operations in Lancashire.
Last year, Cuadrilla Resources, a British energy company based in Litchfield, Staffordshire, announced that it had discovered the potential for 200 trillion cubic feet of gas in a large geological formation called the Bowland shale.
Drilling and fracking commenced but was suspended following two small earthquakes in April and May.
The epicentre of one of the tremors was two kilometres down and within 500 metres of Cuadrilla’s Preese Hall well.
Since high pressure liquid fracturing of a fault zone in the shale rock took place shortly before the earthquakes occurred, the British Geological Survey (BGS) concluded the tremors and the fracking were probably connected.
The Department of Energy and Climate Change asked three scientists, including BGS’s head of seismology, Dr Brian J Baptie, to assess Cuadrilla’s findings and make recommendations about the safety of fracking.
The report was published last month and advised that Cuadrilla should be allowed to recommence “cautious” fracking, so long as better seismic monitoring and earthquake mitigation measures were put in place. Consultation on the issue ended this week. Although an outright ban on fracking is an option, this is unlikely given the report’s recommendations and a previous decision by the Parliamentary select committee that fracking was not unsafe and did not pose a danger to Britain’s natural resources.
If fracking gets the green light, albeit with new rules about well construction and seismic monitoring, Cuadrilla intends to resume drilling in Lancashire and other companies will undoubtedly begin or resume exploration for shale gas.