Shale Firms Wants Fewer Fracking Limits
Both Cuadrilla and Ineos Shale have called on the government to raise the threshold for seismic tremors so that drilling can continue uninterrupted. Current British rules oblige companies to cease fracking activity for 18 hours after causing a tremor measuring more than 0.5 on the Richter scale.
Shale gas is unlikely to be developed in Britain unless the “strict limits” on earthquakes are eased, Ineos director Tom Crotty has said, adding that “it would be difficult to see the industry develop successfully with a 0.5 operating limit.” His comments were made shortly before Cuadrilla was required to stop its drills in Lancashire, England, late last year, after its drilling caused a tremor measuring 1.5.
Over the past three months Cuadrilla, which is currently the only company actually engaged in fracking in the UK, has been forced to halt exploration in Lancashire six times after tremors exceeded the 0.5 threshold.
Crotty said Ineos believes the earthquakes to date have had little impact on safety, stressing at the same time that the UK’s shale gas resources “will be required” as gas imports have increased each year.
Ineos has bought up shale gas licenses across the UK, including in Scotland, where a now permanent moratorium – which the British arm of the Swiss-based group is challenging – prevents any exploration activity.
Drilling for shale gas was banned across the UK on from 2011 until 2018, as the government declared a moratorium following earth tremors touched off by Cuadrilla’s exploration activity in Lancashire. In July 2018, the government gave the all clear for the company to resume exploration at the same site after fracking opponents lost a legal challenge.
According to reports, other drilling companies are poised to kick-start fracking across England in the early months of this year, with iGas looking to begin exploration at Mission Springs in north Nottinghamshire after failing to find gas at another nearby site and OKOG and partners expected to announce the results of flow testing at Horse Hill in Surrey.
Ineos is expected to begin work at one or both of its exploration sites in Derbyshire and South Yorkshire sometime this year. After months of resistance, shortly before Christmas the UK charity National Trust reluctantly dropped its challenge to the chemical producer’s beginning seismic testing at the charity’s Clumber Park heritage site in Nottinghamshire’s legend-steeped Sherwood Forest.