In recent months, the oil and gas industry has been vigorously denying that hydraulic fracturing (fracking), a technique of extracting natural gas from shale formations, is in anyway responsible for small earthquakes in areas where fracking activities have been taking place. However, (according to Bloomberg) U.K.-based shale explorer Cuadrilla Resources Ltd. said in a report published Thursday, November 3rd it is “highly probably” that fracking caused two small earthquakes near Blackpool in northwest England earlier this year.
Of course they went on to minimize the event saying the geological circumstances were “rare” and the strongest possible tremor, of a magnitude of 3, wouldn’t be a risk to safety or property on the surface.
That being said, the findings may add to concern that fracturing is harmful to the environment. France has already halted the practice for fear it may pollute drinking water and a small earthquake near Dallas caused concern for local residents who feared fracking in the area might have contributed to the event, even while the industry decried that possibility.
Cuadrilla halted operations earlier this year after two tremors were felt on the surface. The first, on April 1, measured 2.3 on the Richter scale and another on May 27 measured 1.5. Homeowners in the English seaside resort of Blackpool called the police after feeling their houses shake, the British Broadcasting Corp. reported.
Pressure from fluids on a so-called stressed fault zone probably caused the quakes, the report showed. This should be of concern for other areas around the world where fracking activity is occurring near faults (for instance the Eagle Shale area near San Antonio).