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Comments sought on recommendations from independent experts on shale gas and fracking

17 April 2012 DECC will today publish an independent expert report recommending measures to mitigate the risks of seismic tremors from hydraulic…

This was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government

17 April 2012

DECC will today publish an independent expert report recommending measures to mitigate the risks of seismic tremors from hydraulic fracturing - and is inviting public comment on its recommendations.

An effective monitoring system and a traffic light control regime are among measures recommended by the report, which has reviewed a series of studies commissioned by Cuadrilla, and confirms that minor earthquakes detected in the area of the company’s Preese Hall operations near Blackpool in April and May last year were caused by fracking.

DECC’s Chief Scientific Advisor David MacKay 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.”

The invitation for comment runs for six weeks from today. All comments received will be considered and taken into account before any decision is taken on further fracking for shale gas.

The report recommends the following measures to mitigate the risk of any damaging seismic activity from future shale gas operations in the Bowland Basin:

  • 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, similar to that recommended by Cuadrilla’s consultants. A red light at activity levels of magnitude of 0.5 or above means fracking should be stopped and remedial action taken (this is lower than the magnitude 1.7 proposed by Cuadrilla’s report). Unusual seismic activity, even at lower levels, should be carefully assessed before operations proceed.

For any future operations elsewhere in the UK the review recommends suitable actions to assess the seismic risk before any operations take place.

Notes for editors

  1. For background information, to download the reports and to comment, visit the DECC Oil and Gas website.
  2. Visit the shale gas Q&A on the DECC website for more information.
  3. An earthquake of magnitude 1 can be perceptible if the epicentre is near to the surface, but would not cause any damage to property. Earthquakes with lower magnitudes cannot normally be felt, but can be detected by suitable instruments. See the British Geological Survey website.
Published 17 April 2012