Cuadrilla has launched a new function on its ePortal to enable the public to view records of daily seismic monitoring around its Preston New Road shale gas exploration site and the surrounding area in Lancashire. The new tool also documents incidents of naturally occurring seismicity across the NorthWest since late 2017 and this will be updated weekly.
The new pages on the ePortal include a local map view so that people can look at a bird’s eye view of the operational area, which is approximately 4.8km² around the Preston New Road site, including any seismicity occurring within that area, the magnitude of the seismicity and its depth. The Oil and Gas Authority regulates seismicity associated with hydraulic fracturing and a description of this regulatory process and the actions required at differing thresholds of any seismicity induced by fracturing can also be found on the e-portal. Hydraulic fracturing operations are to be temporarily paused if a seismic event of 0.5ML (Local Magnitude) or above, induced by fracturing, occurs. An event of 0.5ML cannot be felt at surface.
Francis Egan, CEO of Cuadrilla, said:
“We were the first onshore oil and gas operator in the UK to launch an ePortal last year. This has allowed the public to view the results of the very comprehensive environmental monitoring programme at our Preston New Road exploration site. As we prepare to carry out hydraulically fracturing of the shale rock around the site’s horizontal wells, this additional reporting will help reassure people that monitoring is in place to ensure that operations will continue to be conducted in a safe and responsible manner. In fact, the data already shows that naturally occurring seismic events of 1.5ML to 2.0ML, which are rarely felt at surface, occur relatively often across the North West. Once we start hydraulically fracturing our limit to temporarily pause operations, in the event of a seismic event induced by fracturing, is significantly lower, at 0.5ML, than the existing background seismic events of 1.5ML and above.”
Members of the public can also view contextual and historic seismic data on the portal. This includes the results of a recent investigation by the University of Liverpool’s seismology department research group, led by Dr Ben Edwards, into earth movements induced by everyday human activity in the Blackpool area. Their examples including vibrations from passing traffic, such as a bus, cars passing and a tram. The team discovered that standing beneath “The Big One” rollercoaster is comparable to ground vibrations felt directly above a 1.8ML earthquake occurring at a depth of 2km below ground and that the ground vibrations felt when standing 2m away from a passing tram are the same as standing directly above a 2.0ML seismic event.
Dr Edwards from the University of Liverpool explained:
“As part of our commitment to improve scientific understanding and public perception of natural and potentially induced micro-seismicity the University of Liverpool has been monitoring seismic activity across the Preston-Blackpool region using a network of high-sensitivity seismometers. We were pleased to be asked to help improve public understanding of the effects of minor seismicity that may be detected. As seismic events of less than less than 1.5ML are unlikely to be widely felt, and only just felt by some people very close to the epicentre, it can be hard to comprehend what minor or micro seismicity corresponds to in terms of everyday experiences of ground motion. We hope that these everyday examples will help explain this.”
The ePortal, which was launched in April 2017, will continue to allow users to look at data collected at a variety of monitoring stations around the site, put in place to monitor ground and surface water and air quality measurements, as well as information on the traffic flows of heavy goods vehicles to and fromthe exploration site and noise levels.
The ePortal can be accessed here.