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Scientists call for relaxation of fracking earthquake rules

Words: Huw Morris
Fracking / iStock_000048578888

Nearly 50 geoscientists are calling on the government to review the fracking earthquake limit and suggest that it should be relaxed to boost the industry.

The scientists claim the limit, for tremors above 0.5 local magnitude, is “set very conservatively to be triggered by extremely small seismic events”.

They call for a “firm but realistic regularity framework” to support the development of shale gas in the UK.

In a letter to The Times on Saturday, the scientists said the limit “is very far below the levels set in other countries or for other comparable industries in the UK such as quarrying, mining and deep geothermal energy.

“It is widely believed by industry, and among informed academics, to be so low that it threatens the potential development of a shale gas industry in the UK.”

The letter points out that when the limit was set in 2012 the Department of Energy and Climate Change had pledged to review it as experience of fracking in the UK developed.

The scientists urge the government to instruct the Oil and Gas Authority to commission an expert review of the present threshold without delay.

The letter, which has 49 signatories, was coordinated by Leeds University professor of petroleum geoengineering Quentin Fisher and Ernest Rutter, professor emeritus at Manchester University’s school of earth and environmental sciences.

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