UK to resume fracking with control measures
The UK's Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) announced on 13 December that hydraulic fracturing can resume although the practice will be subject to new controls.
The new controls announced by DECC secretary Edward Davey aim to mitigate the risk of seismic activity during fracturing operations.
DECC will require operators to review available information about faults in the area of proposed well sites; monitor seismicity before operations commence; conduct real-time seismic monitoring during operations; and be cautious about the amount and duration of fluids used during fracturing operations. Operators will also be required to submit a progressive fracking plan.
In April and May 2011, two seismic tremors were detected while Cuadrilla Resources conducted exploratory fracking for shale gas in Preese Hall, Lancashire. The incidents caused a moratorium in Britain until an investigation could be completed. The investigation found that the tremors were caused by movement of frac fluid into and along a fault that was already under stress. Davey said there are many other similar faults that have unrelieved stress in the Lancashire area.
DECC will enact a "Traffic Light" system as a remedy. For Cuadrilla's operations in Lancashire, a "red light" or halt in operations will be triggered by seismic activity measured at magnitude 0.5.
Cuadrilla welcomed DECC's announcement, calling the return to fracking a "turning point" for the UK's energy future.
"Our exploration has shown that under Lancashire there is a belt of gas-filled shale over one mile thick," said Caudrilla CEO Francis Egan. "Today's decision will allow continued exploration and testing of the UK's very significant shale resources in a way that fulfils the highest environmental and community standards."
Caudrilla said it is ready to proceed with plans to frac and flow test wells in Lancashire in 2013.