The injection of fluids during hydraulic fracturing can result in increased seismic activity. Although global experience to date suggests that induced earthquakes large enough to be felt by people are rare, there are a few high profile examples, e.g. Blackpool 2011, that show that such earthquakes do occur. Safe shale gas operations depend on a robust characterisation of the background seismicity and measurement of earthquakes when operations start.
The monitoring of background seismicity in the Lancashire area has involved installation of a network of seismic stations in the vicinity of the proposed shale gas wells. Real time seismic data are being collected from the array of stations to help characterise current levels of seismic activity.
This will help to quantify the incidence and scale of human induced seismicity in the event of shale gas exploration and production. The proximity to Blackpool and Preston means that this area of Lancashire has a very noisy background seismicity.
Contact BGS enquiries for further information.