Fracking stopped at Preston New Road after 'red event' quake

Fracking stopped at Preston New Road after 'red event' quake

There are questions over whether a magnitude 5.6 temblor that hit Oklahoma - the biggest natural disaster ever recorded in the state - was caused by the controversial process.

The British Geological Survey recorded the quake at around 11.30am today.

Drilling for shale gas at Preston New Road in Little Plumpton was given the green light on 15 October, despite strong opposition.

"As per the hydraulic fracture plan in place at Preston New Road, work will now pause for at least 18 hours and is expected to recommence on Saturday morning". Without sophisticated monitoring at Cuadrilla, they would not be detected.

If an earthquake's magnitude is 0.5 or above, this is categorised as "red light" and means that work must be suspended immediately.

It will also cause a greater level of monitoring.

Hydraulically fracturing, or fracking, involves extracting gas from rocks by breaking them up with water and chemicals at high pressure.

The 0.8-magnitude quake centred 2km (1.2 miles) underground was too small for anyone to notice on the surface, but is ranked as a red event on the government's traffic-light scheme of fracking regulation. The integrity of the well was intact and regulators had been informed, it added.

However experts have said the key thing is not whether people notice the quakes but whether they damage Cuadrilla's well.

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Just days before minister Perry's meeting with the oil and gas companies, the UK government announced plans to facilitate timely decisions on shale gas exploration planning applications in England as part of a plan to reduce dependence on gas imports amid an ongoing decline in the UK North Sea's conventional gas production.

It is Cuadrilla that resumed hydraulic fracturing operations in the United Kingdom earlier this month-at the Preston New Road shale gas exploration site in Lancashire in northwest England amid protests by campaigners and local residents.

The Guardian revealed earlier this month that energy minister, Claire Perry, had proposed raising the regulatory threshold for tremors caused by fracking, as the industry begins to mature.

Cuadrilla said earlier this month it would spend at least three months fracking two horizontal wells and then test to see if the gas flow was commercially viable.

The work was stalled when an emergency injunction was filed at the 11th hour by a local campaigner.

Last month, three environmental activists were jailed for an anti-fracking protest in the United Kingdom, before their release last week.

Soil scientist Simon Blevins, teacher Richard Roberts and piano restorer Rich Loizou were the first environmental protesters to be imprisoned since 1932.

The three men had climbed on to lorries outside energy firm Cuadrilla's fracking site in Little Plumpton in a protest which lasted nearly 100 hours in July.

Lord Chief Justice Lord Burnett said the sentences were "manifestly excessive" and replaced them with conditional discharges.

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