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article imageUK government could give green light to fracking despite quakes

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By Anne Sewell     Apr 18, 2012 in World
Despite the fact that fracking caused 2 earthquakes in the UK last year, the government will likely be giving the go-ahead for the resumption of extracting natural gas by this means.
RT reports that according to a government panel of experts fracking, the controversial method of extracting natural gas caused 2 earthquakes in the U.K. last year. However, despite the environmental dangers involved, resumption of fracking has been recommended, but under strict regulation.
According to a report by the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) The earthquakes were felt at the surface and measured 2.3 and 1.5 on the "local magnitude" system, under which 3 is considered "moderate". The energy company involved, Caudrilla admitted culpability for these tremors and gas drilling at the Preese Hall well in north-west England was suspended in 2011.
To release reserves of natural gas, hydraulic fracturing (or fracking) is used to pump water, chemicals and sand into shale rock at extremely high pressures.
The United Kingdom holds significant reserves of shale gas and this is considered to provide relatively cheap energy supplies and to be a good alternative to importing fossil fuels.
Peter Styles of Keele University, one of the government-appointed panel of experts issued a report stating:
"[Cuadrilla's experts] said there was a very low probability of other earthquakes during future treatments of other wells. We agree that [last year's] events are attributable to the existence of an adjacent geological fault that had not been identified."
However the panel stated that fracking is unlikely to produce any temblors larger than a magnitude-3.
"There's no record of a quake at this size doing any structural damage," Styles said. "But they would be strongly felt, and there is a possibility of superficial damage."
A decision on whether to allow Cuadrilla to continue utilizing fracking as a method to extract gas is due in 6 weeks, when ministers are expected to give the go-ahead.
However, anti-fracking and green groups are denouncing the report and are warning against possible side effects. They state that not only is there an increased risk of earthquakes, but contamination of groundwater and air pollution are also possible side-effects from this controversial method.
The Frack Off Group organised protests at the Cuadrilla rigs and held rallies in London. Elsie Walker, one of their members said: "This report is a seriously dangerous distraction. People need to understand that the wave of unconventional gas development that is threatening the British Isles will bring with it far greater consequences than a number of small earthquakes."
"Even within the narrow context of earthquakes, this report misses all the real issues such as sub-surface damage to wells causing them to leak, the much larger earthquakes seen in the US as a result of widespread shale gas development and the potential effects on sensitive infrastructure like nuclear power stations and railway lines."
Despite the opposition to the plan, it is likely that fracking will continue. However, the following measures will be implemented to lessen the risk of seismic activity at Cuadrilla's Preese Hall and other projects in the Bowland Shale area of Lancashire.
- That the hydraulic fracturing procedure should include a smaller pre-injection and monitoring stage.
- That an effective monitoring system to provide near real-time locations and magnitudes of any seismic events should be part of any future hydraulic fracturing operations.
- That future fracking operations for shale gas should be subject to a “traffic light” control regime. A red light at activity levels of magnitude of 0.5 or above means fracking should be stopped and remedial action taken
The Chief Scientific adviser for the DECC, David MacKay has said: “If shale gas is to be part of the UK’s energy mix, we need to have a good understanding of its potential environmental impacts and what can be done to mitigate those impacts. This comprehensive independent expert review of Cuadrilla’s evidence suggests a set of robust measures to make sure future seismic risks are minimised – not just at this location but at any other potential sites across the UK.”
However, the report's authors do concede that further earthquakes are possible from the fracking process. Although these would likely be small and no higher than approximately magnitude-3 and unlikely to cause any structural damage, they added: "Such an event would be strongly felt by people within a few kilometres from the epicentre and could cause some alarm."
Despite any dangers involved in the process, the government is expected to give the go-ahead to Cuadrilla to continue their fracking activities in 6 weeks.
The video below highlights the dangers of fracking, as experienced in the U.S.A.
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