Scientists call for relaxation of ‘conservative’ earthquakes rules to allow fracking | Eurasia Diary -

17 July, Wednesday

Scientists call for relaxation of ‘conservative’ earthquakes rules to allow fracking

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UK scientists are urging the Government to relax limits on fracking, which mean the process is halted when after small earthquakes. Almost 50 geoscientists have signed a written letter in The Times calling for a “firm but realistic framework”, adding that “at present, it is set very conservatively to be triggered by extremely small seismic events”. Current rules mean that fracking must cease if an earthquake of 0.5 magnitudes or more is detected.

‘An earthquake like dropping a melon’

It comes after fracking firm Cuadrilla came under repeated problems last year for causing small seismic events, which it described at the time as “like dropping a melon”. The company, which resumed operations in Blackpool in October 2018 after a seven-year hiatus, has been forced to halt work six times so far. The largest earthquake currently recorded clocked in at 1.5 magnitudes. It is currently the only fracking site active in the country.

The letter also called the scientific reasoning behind the current rules “debatable”, adding that the threshold was “not absolute” and should be “subject to continuing review”. 

It continued: “This is very far below the levels set in other countries, or for other comparable industries in the UK (such as quarrying, mining and deep geothermal energy). “It is widely believed by industry, and among informed academics, to be so low that it threatens the potential development of a shale gas industry in the UK. The scientific rationale for this trigger level is debatable.” The limit in America varies from 2.7 to 4.5 depending on local state rules, though often takes place in less populated areas.

However, the process is deeply controversial, with environmental groups also expressing concern over the use of large volumes of water, possible contamination of groundwater, and the continued use of fossil fuels instead of renewable alternatives.

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