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Fracking at Little Plumpton suspended after 'micro' earthquake

The earthquake is the largest to be detected since fracking started at the site two weeks ago. Credit: PA

Fracking has been suspended at Preston New Road in Little Plumpton, Lancashire after an earthquake of 0.8 magnitude was detected by the British Geological Survey (BGS).

Operations at the site will be suspended for 18 hours, energy firm Cuadrilla said, adding "seismicity levels will continue to be measured".

It is the largest earthquake detected in the area since fracking was given the go-ahead on October 15.

Tremors reported by the BGS as 0.3 in magnitude were detected last Friday, sparking fresh protests by anti-fracking demonstrators.

Dame Vivienne Westwood and son Joe Corre among the protesters at Preston New Road after fracking was approved at the site. Credit: PA

A statement on Cuadrilla's Twitter account said that a "micro seismic event" was detected just after 11.30am on Friday.

The statement said the company was hydraulically fracturing shale rock at the time and that the seismicity was classed as a "red event".

It added: "Micro seismic events such as these result in tiny movements that are way below anything that would be felt at surface, much less cause any harm or damage."

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Work at the site is expected to begin again in the morning, Cuadrilla said.

Fracking is the process that involves drilling into the ground, then pumping in water and chemicals to release gas.

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Anti-fracking campaigners have expressed concerns that the process will cause earthwquakes and contaminate local ground water.

Opponents also claim that the process is not compatible with efforts to tackle climate change.