A ban on hydraulic fracturing (fracking) for shale gas exploration purposes was this week lifted by the UK Government. Exploration can now continue subject to regular seismic risk assessments.
New research suggests that fracking is not a significant cause of earthquakes that can be felt on the surface. A study conducted by Durham University looked at quakes caused by human activity ranging from mining to oil drilling; only three could be attributed to hydraulic fracturing. The study suggests that most fracking events released the same amount of energy as jumping off a ladder. However, the integrity of well bores drilled for fracking is of much greater concern.
Fracking can now go ahead if safeguards are followed. These include:-
- having a review before fracking begins to assess seismic risk and any faults;
- the submission of a fracking plan to the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) setting out how the seismic risks will be addressed;
- seismic monitoring before, during and after the procedure;
- a new traffic light system to categorise seismic activity, with a trigger demanding work stops when a certain level is reached.
DECC provide a briefing note on fracking - www.gov.uk/government/publications/shale-gas-and-hydraulic-fracturing-briefing-note