April 20, 2024

U.K. Company Suspends Controversial Drilling Procedure

PARIS — A British company said Wednesday that it would temporarily halt the use of a controversial gas exploration technology after indications that it might have triggered two small earthquakes near a test well in Lancashire, England.

“We take our responsibilities very seriously,” Mark Miller, the chief executive of Cuadrilla, said in a statement, “and that is why we have stopped fracking operations, to share information and consult with the relevant authorities and other experts.”

Cuadrilla Resources, which is exploring for gas in shale formations deep underground, said it would postpone hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking,” operations at the Priest Hall site, near Weeton, Lancashire.

Fracking is a procedure in which water, chemicals and sand are injected deep underground to free oil or gas trapped in dense shale formations.

The technology is widely used in the United States, where it has contributed to a boom in natural gas production. It has been criticized because of the potential for the fracking chemicals to contaminate groundwater.

“We have discussed with Cuadrilla and agreed that a pause in operations is appropriate so that a better understanding can be gained of the cause of the seismic events,” the British Department of Energy and Climate Change said in a statement.

Experts from the British Geological Survey, the government and Keele University are examining the data, “and we will need to consider the findings into the cause of the event,” the department said.

The halt was called after the British Geological Survey recorded an earthquake in the early hours of May 27, at a depth of about 2 kilometers, or 1.25 miles, with a magnitude of 1.5.

“Any process that injects pressurized water into rocks at depth will cause the rock to fracture and possibly produce earthquakes,” the Survey said on its Web site.

Brian Baptie, the top seismology official for the organization, said in a statement that measuring instruments had been installed close to the drill site after a magnitude 2.3 earthquake occurred on April 1.

“The recorded waveforms are very similar to those from the magnitude 2.3 event,” Mr. Baptie said, “which suggests that the two events share a similar location and mechanism.”

The two quakes were barely perceptible to humans.

Industry officials say Europe is a decade or more behind the United States in its effort to recover “unconventional” hydrocarbon fuels like the oil and gas found in shale. Governments and energy companies have seen in the technology a means to reduce the European Union’s dependence on imported oil and gas, but there can be no certainty that exploitable deposits exist without further testing.

Cuadrilla’s announcement came as the French Senate on Wednesday began a debate on a proposed fracking ban. The lower house of Parliament on May 11 passed its own bill, one that would prohibit fracking in the exploration and recovery of oil and gas, and would revoke existing exploration contracts that relied on the procedure. The Senate, though, is considering a measure that would leave open the door to fracking for research purposes.

Article source: http://feeds.nytimes.com/click.phdo?i=4720c879175621c8adb88fce8dd62cc8

Speak Your Mind