After a 0.8 tremor was detected at the Little Plumpton fracking site recently (October 26th), a second tremor was recorded within just 24 hours, also measuring 0.8 magnitude.
According to the BBC, both tremors were detected while drilling for shale gas was taking place at the Lancashire site, although neither events were felt at surface. Any tremor that measures 0.5 or above means that work must be stopped temporarily so that certain tests can be carried out.
An Oil and Gas Authority spokesman noted that “minor events” such as these are expected and operations at the site have been designed in such a way as to minimise disturbances
Regarding the first tremor, a spokesman from Cuadrilla commented: “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.”
Also known as hydraulic fracturing, fracking is a technique employed to extract either oil or gas from the earth. Liquid is pumped under the ground to fracture shale rock and release the gas or oil inside – with the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy stating that this could potentially be a “new domestic energy source”.
According to the Health and Safety Executive, the main hazard in fracking is the uncontrolled release of hydrocarbon gas because of a failure in the well structure, which could reach a source of ignition and result in a fire or explosion.
Therefore, ensuring that the well has been properly designed and constructed will reduce the risk of fluid release to as low as is reasonably practicable, although the actual risk level will vary. It’s also possible that fracking fluids or produced water could make its way into the rock strata or at surface, which could have an impact on the environment depending on where water aquifers are located.
Before shale operations can begin here in the UK, operators have to pass stringent health and safety, environmental and planning permission processes and procedures. The HSE must be notified of the well design and operational plans at least 21 days before drilling is due to begin.
The plan will then be fully inspected for its design, construction and maintenance to make sure that all health and safety risks are effectively managed. Further notifications will be required if material changes are introduced, if the well is re-drilled or side tracked, if anything has happened that could lead to loss of well integrity, and during work to abandon the well.
Companies working in the fracking industry would also be wise to review their emergency response procedures so they know what to do in the event of an incident or emergency. We offer a range of emergency & incident response solutions, consultancy and training courses here at HFR Solutions so get in touch with us today to find out how we can help your organisation plan, prepare and response making your business safer now and into the future.