Blackpool, England, is a seaside town on England's west coast on the Irish Sea. In April and May, the site for a nearby hydraulic fracturing operation endured two small earthquakes. In a surprising move, said Tree Hugger, Cuadrilla Resources, the firm responsible for the fracking, admitted to causing the quakes.
In the race to obtain gas, many companies have taken to tampering with large underground deposits, using a process called hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, to retrieve it. The method involves pumping large amounts of water into the ground at high pressure, and, as has been proven on several occasions, it is not safe for people or for the environment.
Though the pumping process allows most of the gas to be collected, much of it finds its way into groundwater or waterways. Foul smells reported in home tap water and the presence of harmful chemicals like benzene in wells near drilling sites are only a few examples of the onset of problems caused by fracking.
The latest example is the ongoing string of earthquakes caused by careless drilling throughout the U.S.
Now, in England, the same problem is occurring, but fracking company Cuadrilla is doing something unorthodox by taking full responsibility for its actions.
In a press release issued by the company, they admitted that it was "highly probable that the hydraulic fracturing of Cuadrilla's Preese Hall-1" triggered "a number of minor seismic events."
The firm cited an "unusual combination of geology at the well site," as well as "the pressure exerted by water injection as part of operations." They went on to remark that the "combination of geological factors was extremely rare," and that the drilling-induced tremors "would be unlikely to occur together again at future well sites."
Meanwhile, on Nov. 5, a magnitude 5.6 earthquake busted water pipes and ravaged a highway in Oklahoma, part of a steady three-year-long rise in tremors in the state, reported Scientific American. And while seismologist Austin Holland believed that a series of small quakes in the state's center was triggered by nearby fracking, researchers so far were skeptical of fracking being the culprit behind the Nov. 5 incident.
And yet, hydraulic fracturing is certainly not helping the situation.
The U.S. Geological Survey released a report linking the smaller quakes in Oklahoma to a fracking operation in the area.
Said the report, "After hydraulic fracturing began, small earthquakes started occurring, and more than 50 were identified, of which 43 were large enough to be located. Most of these earthquakes occurred within a 24-hour period after hydraulic fracturing operations had ceased. There have been previous cases where seismologists have suggested a link between hydraulic fracturing and earthquakes, but data was limited, so drawing a conclusion was not possible for those cases."
In England, Cuadrilla suspended its operations in the area after the earthquakes struck.
According to News Inferno, Nick Molho, head of energy policy at World Wide Fund for Nature-U.K., said, "These findings are worrying and are likely to add to the very real concerns that people have about fracking and shale gas."
The WWF-U.K. is currently pursuing a moratorium on shale gas exploration until the full environmental aftereffects can be ascertained.
Photo: Several activists protest fracking outside the Philadelphia convention center, arguing that the process has polluted air and water and made people sick. Mark Stehle/AP