Expert British Geological Report Blames Fracking for UK Quakes

by Dee Fulton on November 3, 2011

A report by the British Geological Society (BGS)concludes that fracking caused two earthquakes in the United Kingdom (UK). The report was commissioned by Cuadrilla Resources Ltd, the company that performed the fracking operations and is implicated in the quake episodes and in a multitude of smaller seismic events.
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There is confusion in media reports. Some state that the report concludes that the geological conditions were unusual and that earthquakes are unlikely to reoccur. This is not what is stated in the expert BGS report.  Cuadrilla Energy made those statements, which apparently are not based upon anything other than their opinion at this time.  What the BGS report concludes is that the two earthquakes, April 1 and May 27, could be placed as occurring within 500 metres of Cuadrilla’s Preese Hall drilling site in Blackpool and that the timing of those events following the injection of fluids during fracking at those locations suggests that the quakes were caused by the fracking.
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Excerpted from the UK-based Financial Times, November 2, 2011, by reporters Sylvia Pfeifer and Andrew Bounds in a story titled “Shale Gas Fracking Blamed for Blackpool Quake”:
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Efforts to unlock the UK’s potentially significant shale gas reserves suffered a setback after a report found that fracking, the technique used to extract the gas from underground rocks, was the “highly probable” cause of two minor earthquakes in the Blackpool area in the spring.
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The Wall Street Journal adds, “The report, which was financed by U.K. energy company Cuadrilla Resources Ltd., pointed to “strong evidence” that the two minor earthquakes and 48 weaker seismic events resulted from Cuadrilla’s pumping drilling fluids used in hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking.”
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In the industry journal, PE Unconventional (subscription required), a story on the same subject was given a different spin in its title “No threat from fracking tremors”. This misleading title appears to be a gross distortion of the news.
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A look-see at the report by the BGS reveals some straightforward statements of fact:
>> “Any process that injects pressurised water into rocks at depth will cause the rock to fracture and possibly produce earthquakes.”
>> “It is well known that injection of water or other fluids during processes such as oil extraction, geothermal engineering and shale gas production can result in earthquake activity.” 
>> “Typically, the earthquakes are too small to be felt, however, there are a number of examples of larger earthquakes occurring.”
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Although the earthquakes were minor in that buildings didn’t collapse, there were reports of homes shaking in Blackpool during the magnitude 2.2 quake on April 1, 2011. I’m reminded of that tremor we felt in West Virginia at the end of August that originated in Virginia near Charlottesville. If a quake is capable of cracking the Washington Monument and knocking statuary angels off the National Cathedral, what will it do to the concrete and steel well casings that are our protection from ground water contamination from fracked wells? If quakes, even of a minor nature, are to be routinely expected in tandem with fracking, will the well casings hold up?

{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Duane Nichols November 4, 2011 at 9:24 pm


Injection well operators say there is no clear link between earthquakes and fluid being pumped underground. No operating Ohio wells have been linked to earthquakes, but a now-closed well in Ashtabula County was. The operation, run by Resource Environmental Services Inc. from 1986 to 1994, was linked to numerous small earthquakes between 1987 and 2003.–gas-drilling-waste-pumped-under-Ohio-.html?isap=1&nav=5072


Duane Nichols November 4, 2011 at 9:38 pm


Geologists have tied fracking wastewater disposal wells in central Arkansas to an outbreak of more than 1,200 so-called “minor earthquakes.” According to the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, the state’s Oil and Gas Commission has voted to ban fracking wastewater disposal wells within a 1,150-square-mile area north of Conway in the Fayetteville Shale region. According to the Arkansas Geological Survey (AGS), the fracking operations were taking place on top of an active fault line.


Duane Nichols November 6, 2011 at 9:28 pm


A previously unreported study out of the Oklahoma Geological Survey has found that hydraulic fracturing may have triggered a swarm of small earthquakes earlier this year in Oklahoma. The quakes, which struck on Jan. 18 in a rural area near Elmore City, peaked at magnitude 2.8 and caused no deaths or property damage.


Duane Nichols November 6, 2011 at 9:56 pm

OKLAHOMA — Weekend earthquakes up to magnitude 5.6 were among the strongest yet in a state that has seen a dramatic, unexplained increase in seismic activity. Oklahoma typically had about 50 earthquakes a year until 2009. Then the number spiked, and 1,047 quakes shook the state last year, prompting researchers to install seismographs in the area. Still, most of the earthquakes have been small.

There are 181 injection wells in the Oklahoma county where most of the weekend earthquakes happened, said Matt Skinner, spokesman for the Oklahoma Corporation Commission, which oversees oil and gas production in the state and intrastate transportation pipelines.


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