Fracking has been stopped at the UK’s only shale gas exploration site after the largest-ever tremor was recorded at the facility, according to energy firm Cuadrilla.
The Labour Party and environmental campaigners have renewed calls for fracking to be banned following what Cuadrilla called a “micro seismic event” at their site near Blackpool, which registered at 1.55 on the Richter scale.
Fracking was paused there on Wednesday evening for a minimum of 18 hours, although the company have said they expect operations not to resume until Friday at the earliest.
Most people who live near the Preston New Road facility would not have noticed the movement, which would have felt similar to someone dropping a large bag of shopping on the floor, a Cuadrilla spokesman said.
“Minor movements of this level are to be expected and are way below anything that can cause harm or damage to anyone or their property,” he said, adding that the “integrity” of the site has been confirmed by regulators.
In response to the latest incident, shadow business secretary Rebecca Long Bailey called for the practice to be banned, saying fracking causes air and water pollution and contributes towards climate change.
Environmental campaign group Friends of the Earth said in 60 days of fracking last year there were 57 tremors in Lancashire.
It is “obvious” fracking cannot be carried out without triggering earthquakes, according to Jamie Peters, a campaigner for the organisation.
He added: “Even small vibrations at ground level can be the sign of far more damaging impacts deep underground.”
The Government has argued that the extraction of shale gas through fracking could support the UK’s transition to net zero greenhouse gas emissions.
The movement, recorded at 8:46pm on Wednesday, was stronger than a 1.5-magnitude tremor which halted work at the shale site in December.
Both of these are considered “red events” under the traffic light system for monitoring seismic events during fracking, and pausing work for 18 hours is the routine response for any tremor over 0.5.
A number of tremors have been detected at the site since the controversial fracking operation began in October last year.
A spokesman for the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy said: “These are very minor seismic events – thousands of which occur unnoticed in the UK every year – and are highly unlikely to be felt at the surface.
“These pauses in hydraulic fracturing allow regulators to carry out comprehensive safety checks. Our world leading regulations are the result of decades of UK expertise in oil and gas exploration, and are ensuring operations continue in a safe and environmentally responsible way.”