Just a week after the company resumed fracking at its Preston New Road site in the UK, Cuadrilla has temporarily suspended operations after experiencing the largest tremor to date at the location.

The firm announced late on 22 August it would pause work at the site in England’s north-east for 18 hours after recording a tremor measuring 1.55ML on the Richter scale, exceeding the 0.5 limit.

According to Cuardilla, most people in the surrounding area will not have felt what it has labelled a “microseismic” event — the company intends to resume operations on Friday 23 August.

It said in a statement: “We can confirm that a microseismic event measuring 1.55ML on the Richter scale occurred after we had completed the hydraulic fracturing programme for the day at our Preston New Road site.

“Most local people will not have felt it due to its small size — the equivalent ground motion would be similar to a large bag of shopping dropping to the floor.

“Well integrity has been verified and we will now pause operations and continue monitoring for the next 18 hours.

The Preston New Road exploration site is the most regulated and monitored site in Europe and the systems in place are working as they should.

“Minor movements of this level are to be expected and are way below anything that can cause harm or damage to anyone or their property.

“All the relevant regulators were informed and we have verified that the well integrity is intact.”


Largest tremor yet could prove a setback to Cuadrilla’s UK fracking plans

Earlier this month, Cuadrilla announced its intention to write to Lancashire County Council for a “minor variation” to the planning permission contract for its ongoing shale gas extraction project at Preston New Road.

One of the aims of the exercise was to have the November 2019 deadline for fracking its UK site extended until 2021.

In a last-minute bid to encourage a policy change designed to facilitate the practice, it resumed drilling a second well at the location last week after it was forced to abandon the first in the wake of multiple earth tremors.

uk fracking cuadrilla
Cuadrilla’s CEO Francis Egan is committed to seeing fracking become part of the UK’s energy plan for the future (Credit: Cuadrilla)

CEO Francis Egan said: “The current rule requires all drilling and hydraulic fracturing operations to be completed within a period of 30 months from the date of commencement of the drilling of the first well.

“This would in effect require drilling and hydraulic fracturing to conclude by the end of November 2019.

“By the end of November 2019 we are in fact likely to have spent no more than 21 months in total drilling or fracturing on site since the commencement of drilling the first well at Preston New Road.

“Our proposed variation would seek to allow additional time for drilling and hydraulic fracturing operations but not to change either the existing approved work scope to drill and hydraulically fracture up to four wells at Preston New Road or the requirement for the site to be decommissioned and restored by April 2023.”

The UK government has since said it plans to “consider” reviewing the current system for fracking in the UK.