|Cuadrilla drilling rig at Banks in Lancashire|
The two earthquakes that occurred on Sunday morning 25 August 2013 have been confirmed as the largest in the area since 1843, according to the British Geological Survey. Their epicentres were in the same area of the Irish Sea that suffered tremors directly linked to shale gas fracking in 2011.
The BGS recorded a magnitude 3.2 ML earthquake at 10.58am, preceded by a magnitude 2.4 ML foreshock at 6.37am in the same location off the Fylde Coast, 25 kilometres west of Fleetwood, Lancashire.
The tremors were felt up to 80 kilometres from the epicentre, with reports from worried members of the public received from the Lancashire coastal towns of Fleetwood and Blackpool and the surrounding communities, up to Barrow-in-Furness.
Suggestions that the shocks were caused by seismic testing in the area have been dismissed. Last week Energy firm Halite, wrapped up its exploratory work, which involved a series of controlled explosions to test the nature of the bed rock in Over Wyre.
Halite is seeking planning consent to build a 19-cavern Underground Natural Gas Storage Facility at Preesall in Lancashire, where Cuadrilla are also seeking drilling licenses. Keith Budinger, chief executive of Halite Energy, said: “The tremors were nothing to do with our work, it’s just too shallow.”
In November 2011, the UK Government threatened to call a halt to controversial gas drilling in the area after independent geology reports confirmed a series of earthquakes the previous summer were linked to the shale gas extraction. Geologists reported the epicentre of one 1.5 magnitude quake on May 27 2011 was within 500 yards of the well of the fracking operation and the second 2.3 tremor on April 1 originated less than two miles away.
Cuadrilla counting on extracting cash from Lancashire assets
Drilling company Cuadrilla are hoping that the setbacks they have experienced from massive public opposition in Sussex will not be repeated in Lancashire, where (according to the Guardian) they plan to reopen their operations shortly.
The Sydney Morning Herald reports that Cuadrilla's parent company AJ Lucas Group has had to scale back its operations to focus on the most profitable business lines, as details of the company's dire financial position were disclosed on Friday night in preliminary accounts (yet to be signed off by the auditor) showing a widened loss of $127 million.
The company took into account the continuing support of substantial shareholder and lender Kerogen in assuming it was a going concern for accounting purposes, as well as recent contract wins and the prospect of further cash from its British Bowland prospect asset. (The Lancashire fracking site is known as 'British Bowland' in the trade). Shareholders are being asked to vote on extending AJ Lucas' debt liabilities to Kerogen for three years until early 2017 - an agreement that AJ Lucas said would leave it without material borrowings falling due for 3½ years.
The news that Cuadrilla is counting on an early reopening of its Lancashire operations sparked a demonstration by Greenpeace outside Lancashire County Council's offices in Preston yesterday. Protesters opposed to fracking set up a mock drilling rig outside the LCCs headquarters.
Greenpeace said Lancashire is widely seen as the test case for whether fracking goes ahead nationally. A spokesman for Lancashire County Council said no decision on fracking applications will be made by councillors until November at the earliest.
Preesall: Radioactive Contamination in Water
In June 2013 Preston Council's Environmental Scrutiny Committee were finally informed (see Lancashire Life report) by government scientist John Arnott of the Department of Energy and Climate Change that flow back water from the Cuadrilla site in Preesall had become mildly contaminated with radioactivity due to their operations. The site was abandoned following the earthquakes in 2011 but Cuadrilla's first applications to restart operations will be in Preesall and Singleton.
Lancaster Fights Fracking - New Group
Lancastrians who travelled to Balcombe to support the protests there have returned to revitalise the campaign group in Lancaster, one of the many local community groups opposed to fracking that have sprung up all around the Bowland shale gas extraction area.
• You can find out more about their planned activities by visiting their facebook page at: https://www.facebook.com/groups/624416087591312/