London suspends hydraulic fracturing for fear of earthquakes

The experiment, which aimed to reduce the UK's dependence on gas, would have "unacceptable consequences for the local population," according to a report.

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The end of hydraulic fracturing is approaching in the United Kingdom. Business and Energy Minister Andrea Leadsom announced the suspension of this shale gas extraction experiment on Saturday (November 2nd), saying that she had made the decision following a report. of the sector regulator, The Oil and Gas Authority (OGA). The latter studied recent seismic activity near a site where hydraulic fracturing is practiced, at Preston New Road in Lancashire (North West England).

"After reviewing the report of the OGA (…), it is clear that we can not exclude new unacceptable consequences for the local population", said in a statement Mme Leadsom. "For this reason, I concluded that we should establish a moratorium on hydraulic fracturing in England with immediate effect. "

Government says it will not give consent to new hydraulic fracturing projects "Unless new convincing evidence is provided".

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News that is good news for environmental NGOs

The process of hydraulic fracturing consists of creating underground cracks and infiltrating a mixture of water, sand and chemicals to allow the extraction of gas or oil captured in the rock. The technique is controversial because of its environmental impact and provoked a strong protest from the concerned populations and environmental activists.

The Greenpeace association has therefore welcomed the announcement of the government, welcoming "The great merit of grassroots activists everywhere in the country". "The government's big gamble on hydraulic fracturing is a fiasco"said Rebecca Newsom, program manager at the NGO, quoted in a statement.

The Executive Director of the Environmental NGO Friends of the Earth, Craig Bennett, welcomed the moratorium he described as "Immense victory for the people and for the environment". "For nearly a decade, local people all over the country have been fighting David against Goliath against this powerful industry"he said, hoping that a law would make the ban on hydraulic fracturing permanent.

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Delay due to overly strict regulations

The United Kingdom had supported this experiment in the hope of reducing its reliance on gas, imported mainly from Norway and Qatar. The Conservative government had expected in 2016 that twenty wells could be opened by mid-2020. However, to date, only three wells have been drilled, with no shale gas exploitation having begun and without the authorities knowing what quantities could be extracted in the long term, a report from the National Audit Office recently underlined. (NAO), body responsible for controlling public expenditure.

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According to the NAO, industry professionals explained the delay in overly strict UK regulation of seismic tremors induced by hydraulic fracturing. This regulation provides, among other things, to suspend fracking temporarily, when an earthquake greater than 0.5 on the Richter scale occurs as a result of the extraction operations.

It was also after a shock last August that the company Cuadrilla decided to suspend indefinitely its drilling of Preston New Road, near Blackpool, which was the only project underway in the United Kingdom.

The NAO also pointed out that hydraulic fracturing is costly for local authorities and law enforcement officials because of the many demonstrations they cause, the disruption of road traffic and the need to ensure safety on the roads. sites.


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