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Small Earthquakes

September 1, 2011 9:30 AM
By Peter Black in Glamorgan Gazette

As a regional Welsh Assembly Member representing this area I have been concerned to read newspaper reports regarding a couple of small earthquakes in the Blackpool area.

The reports say that a controversial new drilling operation for natural shale gas in Lancashire has been suspended following a second earthquake in the area that may have been triggered by the process. The earthquake on 27 May near Blackpool occurred at the same time that the energy company Cuadrilla Resources was injecting fluids under high pressure deep underground to deliberately blast apart the gas-bearing rock - a process known as "fracking", brought to Britain from the US, where it has been highly contentious.

This is relevant to this area because a similar operation is being looked into for St John's Colliery in Maesteg, where an application for exploratory drilling has been approved. It also seems to undermine the conclusion by the House of Commons Energy and Climate Change committee that this process is safe.

They said that no evidence was found that the controversial method of extracting underground gas poses a threat to water supplies and objections were described as "hot air". They also said that there would be no disturbance through noise in that area.

Others though think differently. Earthquake experts from the British Geological Survey said that the 1.5 magnitude quake last week was similar to a 2.3 earthquake in April in the same area and that both may be linked to the experimental fracking for shale gas at Preese Hall on the Fylde coast.

Bans on commercial fracking are already in place in France as well as in New York and Pennsylvania States in the USA.

The process involves pumping millions of gallons of water, mixed with rock-dissolving chemicals, into the earth to unsettle rocks and release the gas trapped there.

In my view this is serious enough to suggest that any operation in the Maesteg area should be suspended until more is known about this process and its impact. There is also a case for the Commons Committee to go back to the drawing board and revisit its report.