The Daily Telegraph

Truss urged to increase earth tremor limits to kick-start fracking

- By Matt Oliver

LIZ TRUSS is being urged to relax the limits on earthquake­s caused by fracking as part of plans to kick-start an energy revolution.

The Prime Minister is already poised to end the moratorium on fracking within days in a bid to make Britain energy independen­t by 2040.

But companies say that this alone will not be enough to unlock Britain’s potentiall­y vast shale gas reserves. The Daily Telegraph understand­s fracking businesses are lobbying for the limits on seismic activity to be substantia­lly increased to help boost the industry.

Current rules require drilling to stop if it causes tremors of 0.5 or more on the Richter scale.

Experts say tremors at this level occur naturally and often, at a magnitude so low it is impercepti­ble to people above ground. They believe that the current limit blocks any realistic possibilit­y of exploiting shale resources commercial­ly.

Fracking companies want parity with other industries, for example geothermal energy, which is allowed to create earthquake­s of higher magnitudes than 0.5. In the United States, frackingre­lated tremors of up to 4-magnitude are allowed.

According to the Royal Society, tremors of up to magnitude 2 are not generally felt by people above ground and fracking is not expected to cause tremors of more than magnitude 3.

A report by the society in 2012 said fracking would be less disruptive than coal mining had been historical­ly.

It said magnitude 3 tremors were typically “felt by few people at rest or in the upper floors of buildings; similar to the passing of a truck”.

However, when Cuadrilla’s test operations in Lancashire caused a magnitude 2.9 tremor three years ago, residents nearby complained that their homes had been shaken, with some saying objects had fallen off of shelves.

Prof Richard Davies, a leading petroleum geologist at Newcastle University, said fracking had so far “not been a major source of earthquake­s” and that coal mining had caused “many times more”.

He said the question of whether the UK’S resources were commercial­ly exploitabl­e remains unproven, but that restrictio­ns on seismic activity prevented “a proper test”.

Fracking companies are also pushing for ministers to have the power to approve projects, instead of local councils, by designatin­g them as “nationally significan­t infrastruc­ture”.

One source claimed this was “the only way we will ever get gas out of the ground and into people’s homes”.

Fracking involves shooting a mix of water, sand and chemicals at rocks undergroun­d to retrieve the oil and gas trapped inside them.

In the US it is credited with unlocking a lucrative shale boom that reshaped global markets and helped America achieve energy independen­ce.

It has been estimated that some 1,300 trillion cubic feet of shale gas may lie beneath the UK – enough to meet the country’s needs for decades.

A moratorium on fracking has been in place since 2019, but Ms Truss is expected to lift the ban via a written ministeria­l statement as early as next week.

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