The Government announced on 2nd November 2019, that there is now a moratorium in place on new fracking for shale gas in the UK.
What does this mean to Frack Free Formby and our loyal followers?
A moratorium is just a pause. The same as the one imposed in 2011 when a 2.3 ML seismic event at the Preese Hall fracking site in Lancashire halted fracking and an investigation was carried out. In 2015 that moratorium was lifted allowing Cuadrilla to apply to frack a second site at Preston New Road, Blackpool (PNR1).
There was again seismic activity at PNR1 in 2018 measuring 1.5m. This well was then decommissioned and the Oil and Gas Authority (OGA) commenced an investigation.
Cuadrilla commenced fracking a second well in 2019 (PNR2) which ultimately resulted in seismic activity of 2.9 ML in August 2019 amongst a whole host of smaller magnitude tremors. As a result the fracking has ceased but flow testing is still underway.
The OGA report published today gives the reasons for the seismic activity in 2018 at PNR1, observing that location of faults in the shale and force of injecting fluid caused the seismic events. The data gathered at the 2018 PNR1 well has been used to model predictions of tremors. The report did conclude the OGA cannot generalise the reasons for seismic activity to any other fracking sites in the UK and geology of the UK is variable. They have been modelling the following:
- Seismic events – 2.8 ML classified in their report as Likely;
- Seismic events – 3.5 ML classified as Possible; and
- Seismic events – 4.5 ML classified as Unlikely
This could indicate that the OGA are looking to justify raising the traffic light system to allow for seismic events of 2.5 ML as being acceptable in the fracking process since they are deemed likely. This would be a significant increase on the current regulatory maximum limit (0.5 ML).
The final conclusions by OGA are that all potential fracking sites are geologically specific and that reducing the injection rates could reduce the possibility of seismic events.
More telling are the comments from Andrea Leadsom in an interview on radio on 2nd November:
“The moratorium is very disappointing. What we are announcing today is a moratorium, it is not the same as a ban. There is no doubt that shale gas has huge potential in the UK. This moratorium will be in place till science can make clear what the seismic activity is likely to be with a greater degree of certainty. It is the seismic activity that is the area we need to closely regulate and we need that certainty. So as the science improves we will be able to look at this again but not for now. The idea of a moratorium is to remove uncertainty and to make clear to businesses that we WONT be bringing forward any applications or any further consent for now.”
In our opinion the government had to act on the OGA report which could not give any reassurance that there is a scientific model that predicts the possibility of seismic activity at any fracking site. Also given there is an imminent general election, it appears that anything that halts fracking could be a potential vote winner. Leadsom’s comments make it quite clear the Conservatives are adamant that fracking for shale gas in England still has “huge” potential.
What does this mean for the current application from Aurora?
This is uncertain, it is unlikely to be approved by Lancashire County Council whilst the moratorium is in place but the company may decide to continue to attempt to receive approval in the very probable event that the moratorium is lifted in future especially if the Conservatives win the General Election on 12th December this year.
We will discuss with the Lancashire County Council Planning team next week in conjunction with our planning advisors and will report any key findings and guidance in due course.
We will continue to fight fracking and be prepared to object to any future applications in our area.
Thanks to everyone who supports Frack Free Formby, and for all the hard work from individuals who have helped us during the campaign to object to the Aurora Planning Application to frack at Great Altcar.