Fracking 'should resume'

A controversial gas drilling technique which was stopped after triggering earthquakes near Blackpool is likely to be re-started - but with rigorous controls.

Latest ITV News reports

US government geologists report increase in earthquakes around fracking areas

US government geologists have reported that the number of earthquakes in the central United States rose "spectacularly" near where oil and gas drillers fracked.

The average number of earthquakes of magnitude 3 or greater in the US mid-continent - an area that includes Arkansas, Colorado, Oklahoma, New Mexico and Texas - increased to six times the 20th century average last year, scientists at the US Geological Survey said in an abstract of their research.

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Earthquakes measured around the UK

by Rupert Evelyn: ITV News Reporter

I am currently at a fracking site in Lancashire. There is fear about potential earthquakes caused by the method. As an aside, England has had two earthquakes in the last 4 days.

According to the British Geological Survey, on Sunday an earthquake in Cumbria, 50 miles from here, measured 2.0 on the Richter scale.

'Fracking can drive down UK energy prices'

Simon Walker, the Director General of the Institute of Directors, has welcomed today's report on fracking - the process of extracting natural gas from shale formations:

Shale gas is a plentiful, low cost fuel that offers a great opportunity to fill the energy gap left by the closure of coal fired power stations and the unreliability of renewables. Fracking has helped drive down American natural gas prices to a quarter of UK levels, and this decision means British business could gain those same benefits.

CBI: Fracking makes sense if safety upheld

The UK's biggest business lobbying group, the Confederation of British Industry (CBI), has welcomed today's report on fracking in the UK:

The Government has signalled that gas should play a big part in moving to a low-carbon economy, so it makes sense to explore new gas sources here, rather than increasingly depend on sources from elsewhere in the world.

Provided safety standards are observed, shale gas [fracking] could unlock significant new infrastructure investments, help meet our carbon reduction goals and create many new jobs around the UK.

– Rhian Kelly, CBI Director for Business Environment policy

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Blackpool Green Party condemns fracking report

The Blackpool branch of the Green Party has called for a moratorium on drilling at the Bowland basin site near Blackpool, where there were two earthquakes in April and May 2011. It released this statement in response

The pollution has many different ways of getting into the ground, gas is dissolved in water and can find its way into the water course. There has been little interest at any level of government in public safety and the impact on the Lancashire countryside.

– Philip Mitchell, chairman, Blackpool Green Party

What is fracking?

Fracking comes from the term hydraulic fracturing and is a process used to extract natural gas from the ground. This video explains the process and was produced by Cuadrilla Resources, the company that drilled the sites in Blackpool that caused two earthquakes in April and May last year.

Environmental groups contest some of the claims in this video. You can read their views here and here.

Environmental group: Fracking report too narrow in scope

Andy Atkins, Executive Director of the environmental charity Friends of the Earth, has told The Guardian that the government-commissioned report into fracking was too narrow in its scope as it only addressed earthquakes:

We don't need earth tremor-causing fracking to meet our power needs – we need a seismic shift in energy policy. There should be a full scientific assessment of all the impacts of fracking – a short consultation on one of the problems is completely inadequate.

The facts on earthquakes in the UK

Large earthquakes are extremely rare in the UK, but not unknown. The British Geological Society has produced this interactive timeline. Here are some facts about earthquakes in the UK:

  • The largest earthquake on record was in 1931 and had a magnitude of 6.1
  • 20 to 30 earthquakes are felt by people each year
  • Magnitude 4 earthquake happen roughly every two years
  • Research suggests magnitude 6.5 is biggest earthquake possible
  • The most damaging earthquake was in the Colchester area in 1884. 1,200 buildings suffered damage.
  • To put it into perspective, Japan's recent tsunami was caused by a magnitude 7.5 earthquake
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