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News : Innovation Last Updated: Jun 3, 2011 - 7:19 AM


UK shale gas exploration company suspends fracking after 2 small Lancashire earthquakes
By Michael Hennigan, Founder and Editor of Finfacts
Jun 2, 2011 - 6:35 AM

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Cuadrilla Resources drill rig at Preese Hall, Lancashire, England.

A UK shale gas exploration company said on Wednesday that it would temporarily suspend the fracking exploration technology after 2 small earthquakes near a test well in Lancashire.

Fracking is a procedure where water, chemicals and sand are injected underground to free oil or gas trapped in shale formations.

The British Geological Survey said: "We have recently recorded magnitude 1.5 (27 May) and magnitude 2.3 (1 April) earthquakes in the Blackpool area near to the Preese Hall shale gas drilling site operated by Cuadrilla Resources.

The 27 May earthquake was felt by at least one person in Poulton-Le-Fylde.

Analysis of data from two temporary instruments close to the drill site, installed by BGS after the magnitude 2.3 earthquake on 1 April, places the epicentre of this event within 500 metres of the Preese Hall site and gives a depth of approximately 2 km.

The recorded waveforms are very similar to those from the magnitude 2.3 event on 1 April, which suggests that the two events share a similar location and mechanism."

Cuadrilla Resources said it has postponed fracking operations on its site at Weeton, near Poulton in Lancashire. The company decided on this action while it interprets seismic information received from monitoring information located around the site, following a small seismic event in the Blackpool area recorded at approximately 0.48 am on Friday, 27 May, 2011.

Experts from Keele University operate the monitoring equipment independently and the recorded information is being shared with the British Geological Survey and the Department of Energy and Climate Change.

"We take our responsibilities very seriously and that is why we have stopped fracking operations to share information and consult with the relevant authorities and other experts. We expect that this analysis and subsequent consultation will take a number of weeks to conclude and we will decide on appropriate actions after that," said Mark Miller, CEO of Cuadrilla Resources.

Cuadrilla Resources is a UK company headquartered in Lichfield, Staffordshire.

It was formed in September 2007 as a privately held exploration and production company focused on bringing together leading unconventional oil and gas explorers, developers and technologists to unlock untapped unconventional resource plays in selected parts of Europe.

Extracting natural gas from shale could do more to aggravate global warming than mining coal, according to a Cornell study published in the May issue of Climatic Change Letters (105:5).

Natural gas is mostly methane, which is a much more potent greenhouse gas, especially in the short term, with 105 times more warming impact, pound for pound, than carbon dioxide (CO2), ecologist Prof. Robert Howarth said, adding that even small leaks make a big difference. He estimated that as much as 8% of the methane in shale gas leaks into the air during the lifetime of a hydraulic shale gas well -- up to twice what escapes from conventional gas production.

"The take-home message of our study is that if you do an integration of 20 years following the development of the gas, shale gas is worse than conventional gas and is, in fact, worse than coal and worse than oil," Robert Howarth told the Cornell Chronicle. "We are not advocating for more coal or oil, but rather to move to a truly green, renewable future as quickly as possible. We need to look at the true environmental consequences of shale gas."

Howarth, the David R. Atkinson Professor of Ecology and Environmental Biology, Tony Ingraffea, the Dwight C. Baum Professor of Engineering, and Renee Santoro, a research technician in ecology and evolutionary biology, analyzed data from published sources, industry reports and even PowerPoint presentations from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

They compared estimated emissions for shale gas, conventional gas, coal (surface-mined and deep-mined) and diesel oil, taking into account direct emissions of CO2 during combustion, indirect emissions of CO2 necessary to develop and use the energy source and methane emissions, which were converted to equivalent value of CO2 for global warming potential.

The study is the first peer-reviewed paper on methane emissions from shale gas, and one of the few exploring the greenhouse gas footprints of conventional gas drilling.

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