Last week saw a number of significant events in the world of fracking, including the release of a report into the Blackpool earthquakes, the occupation of Cuadrilla’s drilling rig there, protests at a London fracking summit, and the first fracking licence awarded in Scotland.
On 2 November, mining company Cuadrilla Resources announced the conclusion of its investigation into the mini-earthquakes in Blackpool earlier this year, which had forced them to stop fracking operations (see Corporate Watch’s previous article here).
The company’s report said it was “very probable” the tremors were due to fracking, with one of the authors adding that Cuadrilla’s activities were responsible for over 50 seismic events in the area.
As it was being published, nine activists from the Frack Off network stormed and occupied Cuadrilla’s drilling rig in Blackpool, while 75 others held a ‘frackmob’ to disrupt the Shale Gas Environmental Summit, an industry ‘greenwash’ event in London (see here).
Colin Eastman, one of the rig occupiers, said: “Conventional fossil fuels have begun to run out and the system is moving towards more extreme forms of energy like fracking, tar sands, and deep water drilling. The move towards ‘extreme energy’ is literally scraping the bottom of the barrel, sucking the last most difficult to reach fossil fuels from the planet at a time when we should be rapidly reducing our consumption altogether and looking for sustainable alternatives. In the UK, fracking for shale gas is planned alongside, not instead of, extraction of conventional fossil fuels like coal.”
Cuadrilla’s announcement follows an earlier report from the British Geological Survey linking fracking to the Blackpool tremors. In response to the new findings, the company has promised to modify the amount of fluid it uses in the fracking process and install a seismic early warning system. The Department of Energy and Climate Change said: “The implications of this report will be reviewed very carefully before any decision on the resumption of these hydraulic fracture operations is made.”
In Scotland, the first fracking licence issued by the Scottish Environmental Protection Agency (SEPA) was awarded to Greenpark Energy for their site in Canonbie in Dumfries and Galloway.
More licences* are expected to be awarded soon, with Malcolm Roberts, a principal policy officer at SEPA, commenting that fracking was likely to become more widespread in Scotland in coming years.
However, SEPA told Corporate Watch that while Greenpark Energy had submitted an application for a site and been granted a licence, it had since indicated it will not be taking it up as it was not in a position to carry out the procedure at present, suggesting it may be wary of attracting the kind of negative attention Cuadrilla has received. Greenpark Energy were unavailable for comment.
In other developments, shale gas drilling has started in Poland and Europa and Egdon Resources are considering the potential for shale gas extraction in their reserve in the Humber Basin, which has the same geology as Cuadrilla’s reserve in Lancashire.
* Under the Water Environment (Controlled Activities) Scotland Regulations 2006 (commonly known as the Controlled Activity Regulations or CAR)