Cuadrilla has halted fracking operations for a fourth time in the last two months as yet another tremor was recorded near the shale gas company’s Preston new Road site in Lancashire, after seeing its first natural gas flows from that site in early November.
Cuadrilla’s new natural gas operation has been shuttered four times since October, and this time will see production halt for “at least 18 hours after the event was recorded,” Cuadrilla stated on Friday.
Cuadrilla shut down its site three days ago after a 1.5 magnitude tremor in what is considered a “red” event under Britain’s traffic light system that calls for mandatory shutdowns to all fracking operations.
Today’s seismic event was a magnitude 0.5 quake, the minimum threshold for requiring a shut down, which is described as the equivalent of “mixed traffic on a busy road” in the University of Liverpool’s “Seismic Context Measurements for Induced Seismicity”. While imperceptible to most people, this still triggers a “red” light situation which requires frackers to halt operations.
A 1.5 magnitude tremor was described as the equivalent of “a honeydew melon dropping”.
In the beginning of October, these stringent requirements that frackers must adhere to may be relaxed, moving the minimum magnitude that would trigger a red-light situation to a 1.5 or a 2.0 on the Richter scale.
Cuadrilla has had a tough road in the last seven years as it has fought hard to overturn temporary injunctions when a minor quake first halted operations. Operations restarted October 13 of this year, defeating the opposition that sought to ban all fracking in the UK. The October startup was met with protestors after being defeated in court, but ultimately Cuadrilla was victorious.
With the bar being set at 0.5 magnitude, Cuadrilla is likely to experience frequent outages unless the threshold is revised upward.