Fracking in Yorkshire has become a “dead duck” after work on the only currently operational site in the UK in Lancashire was suspended indefinitely following a record-breaking earthquake, a leading campaigner has claimed.
Cuadrilla, which runs the Preston New Road site near Blackpool in Lancashire, has apologised for the impact of the tremor measuring 2.9 on the Richter scale - stronger than those that forced Cuadrilla to suspend test fracking in 2011 and put the country’s shale gas industry on hold for several years.
The firm says it will repair any property damage found to have been caused by the latest and largest tremor at the site on August 26, and wants to continue to frack once it has worked with regulator the Oil and Gas Authority to ensure “the risk of a repeat occurrence has been properly mitigated”.
Preston New Road is currently the UK’s only active shale gas site but seven firms have been granted exploratory licences for different areas of Yorkshire.
More than 80 arrests were made in autumn 2017 in the village of Kirby Misperton in Ryedale as environmental protesters - some of whom were living in a temporary camp on a nearby farmer’s field - attempted to frustrate efforts by a company called Third Energy to start test-fracking in the area.
But the tests never went ahead after the Government ordered a “financial resilience” review of Third Energy and fracking equipment was moved off-site in early 2018.
Eddie Thornton, who was involved in organising the protest camp in Kirby Misperton, said events in Lancashire put the future of fracking in Yorkshire into serious doubt. The suspension of the Preston New Road work comes after new research by scientists suggested that previous projections for the amount of shale gas under the UK may have been "significantly underestimated" - a finding which has been strongly contested by the industry.
“People were very frightened and Cuadrilla have admitted that in their statement," said Mr Thornton. "I don’t see that any industry causing that much fear has a viable future especially when reserves have been downgraded. I don’t see it happening in Yorkshire. I think fracking is a dead duck.”
He added that he believes the situation has shown those who campaigned to stop fracking in Ryedale were justified.
“Our fears have always been based on knowledge of how the industry has operated in other areas,” he said. “I feel grateful I was able to play a part in those impacts not coming to Ryedale. I do feel vindicated. When you can actually quantify the impacts people get much more mobilised and there have been hundreds of people protesting in Lancashire.”
Fracking is designed to recover gas and oil from shale rock using high-pressure water mixture. The Government believes, despite environmentalists’ concerns about the increased use of fossil fuels, as well as chemicals escaping and contaminating groundwater, that “shale gas has the potential to provide the UK with greater energy security, growth and jobs”.
New American owners took over Third Energy’s onshore operations in July, with the company saying it would make an announcement “in the near future” on its plans for Kirby Misperton.
However, the issues in Lancashire have led to growing calls for fracking to be banned in the UK by groups such as Friends of the Earth.
A Cuadrilla spokesman said: “People have asked why we are doing this and our answer remains unchanged, we are exploring for shale gas with the aim to establish a domestic energy supply that the UK really needs.”
Company promises to pay for any damages
Cuadrilla says it will pay for any damage caused to properties near its Preston New Road site by the recent 2.9 earth tremor.
A spokesman said: “We are aware of the concern that this has caused, particularly among residents living close to the site in and around Blackpool. This event lasted for between two and three seconds and was felt by many in the locality.
“We are sorry for any concern this has caused. We are in the process of visiting local people who have raised concerns about minor damage to their property and will repair any damage that is assessed to have been caused by the seismic events.”