Week Ending 1st September 2013
BGS lat/long of epicentres mapped on google
Epicentre imposed on DECC oilfield map (approximate)
New Quakes off Blackpool
Perhaps because of the Bank Holiday weekend, the press didn't work on the two earthquakes recorded with epicentres off the Fylde coast. They just printed the facts and a couple of comments.
The Mail, of course, felt it necessary to insert in its report:
"Last year it was suggested that fracking tests in the region had caused tremors in Blackpool."
Rather more than suggested, the proof was clear except to the fracking risk deniers, of which the Mail is the cheerleader.
The Mail was also keen to point the finger at prehistory. A spokesman for the The Irish National Seismic Network said the quakes were probably caused by stresses built up from the weight of glaciers covering land during the Ice Age. However INSN director Tom Blake also said said it was unusual that the earthquakes - measuring 2.5 and then a stronger 3.3 on the Richter scale - happened in the Irish Sea.
Glen Ford from the British Geological Survey said it could have been ‘quite alarming’ and added: ‘Not many people experience earthquakes in the UK. There are only two or three of them a year of that size.’
Back on 1st April 2011, immediately after the first major felt tremor at Blackpool now known definitively to have been casued by fracking the Preese Hall well, the BGS seismic supremo Brian Baptie was quick to issue a statement that the tremor was a remnant of the Ice Age. He told the BBC ""The movements are a relic of a post-glacial uplift left over from the last ice age." He also said (contrary to anecdotal experience) that it would take a ;quake of magnitude to do any superficial damage.
Brian Baptie was proved wrong (including by his own organisation) when extra seismic detection eqipment pointed the finger at fracking PH1 in May, when the second fracking-induced 'quake (in the meantime there were also about 50 very minor but measurable events). Glen Ford now seems to be taking a more cautios line (including predicting small aftershocks in the coming days or weeks).
So is Tom Blake also to be proved mistaken? We will have to wait and see.
What we can say is that according to the BGS data from last Sunday's 'quakes, the epicentres of both were extremely close together. Above is a map of the Irish Sea offshore from the Fylde from DECC showing offshore oil and gas permission areas and wells. Also marked is the epicentre of the earthquakes. Coincidence? I'm no geologist and don't know what exactly is going on right now on the sea rigs. But I wouldn't write the story off yet.
Now I have remapped the BGS data the epicentres both appear to be on the rightmost fringe of an area which is currently being developed for offshore gas storage caverns. Work is almost certainly going on here, and I have asked DECC for confirmation of this, and whether they intend to ask BGS to do more research on the possible cause of the weekend's quakes. This has implication not only for fracking the Fylde, but for the Halite plans for an onshore underground gas storage set of caverns near Preesall, Blackpool. Their application for planning permission was recently turned down,
however they are pursuing a judicial review of the planning inspectorate's refusal on grounds of insufficent geological data. Meanwhile they are currently carrying out survey work including explosions and monitoring of underground response.
Since writing the above I have now had information from the BGS to say that to their knowledge work has been delayed on the Gateway project and has not yet commenced, which rather rules that one out. Although it still remains a possibility to be matched against the historical seismicity of the area that oil or gas works in the Morecambe field could be linked. I doubt we shall get any further information one way or the other on that.
Although opponents of fracking have tended to downplay the seismic risk of fracking as far as earthquakes are concerned, there are still concerns about seismic events causing damage to wells (as happened at Preese Hall) and seismic events opening faults allowing migration between saline and freshwater aquifers, or indeed gracing fluid to aquifers. These concerns have not been addressed.
In any event, we can also say that to pursue fracking in the Fylde which is clearly now prone to faults moving, in particular to pursue mass fracking there would be extremely unwise. We haven't heard the last of the earthquake issue yet, I feel.
BGS warned of aftershocks, but another quake of magnitude 2.6 perhaps exceeded expectations on the 31st August.
The week at Balcombe.
The protest entered its fifth week with every indication that it will continue. News came of a four week countdown plan to September 28th, when Cuadrills's current permission expires. But we know WSCC are going to rubber-stamp an extension, don't we?
Rumours suggest that trucks bring chemicals are pulling in as they exit the motorway and having their company markings and hazard warning signs removed before arriving at Balcombe. This is not only dangerous but of questionable legality, but no doubt they have been advised by the police to do this?
Talking of the police, the Sussex Police and Crime Commissioner expressed confidence that her request to central government for bailing out the force over costs of policing Balcombe would be successful.
She said "What happens in Sussex may determine what will happen nationally across police force areas in the future."
I am sure she is right. And the £3.7 million estimated for the Balcombe policing rather puts the £100,000 bribe to local communities for accepting test fracking into the shade, doesn't it?
As the week went on pro-fracking Balcombe residents managed to scrape together 60 signatures on a letter advocating fracking. Which seems a little odd since Cuadrilla claim not to be fracking and not targeting shale gas but oil at Balcombe. Clearly they aren't believed even by their "supporters".
The first evidence is clearly emerging of how fracking has the potential to set neighbour against neighbour and cause social division.
Other UK news
More local nwspaper reports suggest the fear of fracking is spreading across the country. Confusion reaigns in some parts. The Much Marcle is NOT a potential county fracking site, Herefordshire council admitted after mistakenly naming it in a press release. And in East Sussex, two Lib Dem councillors failed to do their homework and created a scare story about three wells that had been rilled and abandoned years ago - two in the 1930s, after misidentifying them as new permit applications
A UN legal tribunal gave verdict that the UK government had acted illegally over wind farm permissions.
The complaint was that "the UK’s renewables policies have been designed in such a way that they have denied the public the right to be informed about, or to ascertain, the alleged benefits in reducing CO2 and harmful emissions from wind power, or the negative effects of wind power on health, the environment and the economy."
The decision was seen as a blow to the government's policy, and call into question the legal validity of any further planning consent for all future wind-farm developments based on current policy, both onshore and offshore.
No doubt - and hopefully - lawyers will be looking at this decision to see how it can be applied to fracking.
Preliminary results of study of health in Pennsylvania suggested air problems near fracking were more prevalent than water problems.
BHP Billiton settles with houseowners over earthquake damage caused by fracking waste water injection wells
Any opinions here not quotes from the
week's news reports are my own. Alan Tootill
News As It Came In
hyperlinks to original stories
Pennsylvania Fracking Study Preliminary Results Released
Prof Robert Mair: Here are the facts about fracking
So runs the Telegraph headline. But the professor doles out half-truths an falsehoods
Telegraph reports some splits in the Tory ranks over fracking
Reuters: Arkansas lawsuits test fracking wastewater link to quakes
South Texas earthquakes likely triggered by shale boom, researchers say
Ecologist: ANTI FRACKING SPECIAL REPORT: UK
Statement on SW Pennsylvania health report
Energy round-up: breaking through the government’s fracking mantra
Fracking battle lines drawn in Scotland
Tory MPs Attack 'Disastrous' Prospect Of Local Shale Gas Exploration
COLUMN-Fracking fears expose confusion about risk: Kemp
PCC 'optimistic' for fracking protest costs assistance
Rochdale - Hands off: Fracking firms are warned
Chester: Fracking may be on its way
Fracking on the agenda for East Ayrshire?
Exclusive: UN ruling puts future of UK wind farms in jeopardy
BHP Billiton settles with houseowners over fracking damage
Stoke-on-Trent City Council wants to team up with a private sector partner to exploit coal bed methane (CBM) reserves
Wrecking the Earth: Fracking has grave radiation risks few talk about
Local residents and officials speak out about the potential of fracking coming to the Cotswolds
Balcombe Villagers Sign Pro-Fracking Letter Amid Ongoing Protests
Tony Juniper in Guardian: We must protect nature to conserve peoples' wellbeing
George Monbiot in Guardian: Fracking debate brings climate change closer to home
Portsmouth: Campaign over fracking steps up at meeting
Review of Balcombe policing
Fracking fears around Royston
Fracking fears in North Hertfordshire
Surrey MPs: Fracking cannot be ignored
Huddersfield Examiner takes a long look at fracking
Lush boss Mark Constantine: Why we're using bumper profits to help fund the anti-fracking campaigners
Balcombe anti-fracking protesters put on music event
Ohio shale gas still not creating promised jobs