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Fracking unlikely to cause dangerous earthquakes

According to claims made by scientists yesterday, at an event organised by London’s Science Media Centre, fracking “will not cause dangerous quakes” and actually “most geologists think [it] is a pretty safe activity.” The head of energy science at the British Geological Survey, Mike Stephenson, said: “We think the risk is pretty low and we have the scientific tools to tell if there is a problem.”

Fracking is well known for its propensity to cause earthquakes, but according to some scientists it is unlikely to produce a seismic event measuring any more than 3.3 on the Richter scale. Earthquakes at the very low end of the Richter scale, such as those typically caused by fracking, cause no damage to property.

Despite such reassurances, global public opinion towards fracking remains mixed at best, with some UK opinion polls showing 68% in favour of a ban on the process. The worries around the potential side effects of fracking are perhaps best shown in the example of Cuadrilla, who suspended their operations in England after two very minor earthquakes (which 2.3 and 1.5 on the Richter scale respectively) were blamed on the company's operations.

A ban on fracking, however, is unlikely and public opinion, at least in the UK, might eventually sway towards the process. The impact of ever-increasing energy prices beginning to be felt by consumers and the recent revelation that UK shale could potentially hold more gas than the entirety of Iraq’s reserves are likely indicators of such a trend.

Published on 12/01/2012


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