'Fracking' blamed for UK quakes
A controversial drilling technique to extract gas from the ground was the "highly probable" cause of earth tremors across a county, a report has said.
Fracking, which involves hydraulic fracturing of shale rock using high pressure liquid, led to the tremors which hit Lancashire earlier this year. The first, of magnitude 2.3 on the Richter scale, hit the Fylde Coast on April 1 followed by a second of magnitude 1.4 on May 27.
Environmental campaigners and local residents have called for an immediate halt to the exploration work, which could lead to vast untapped gas reserves.
Energy firm Cuadrilla, which is conducting the explorations, said there was no threat to people or property and pledged to implement an early detection system.
Protesters from the campaign group "Frack Off" earlier stormed their rig at Hesketh Bank, near Banks in Southport, to make their views known.
Cuadrilla commissioned the independent report to investigate links between the tremors and fracking work at its Preese Hall-1 well, between Blackpool and Preston. It concluded that it is "highly probable" that the fracking at Preese Hall-1 site triggered the seismic events but added the tremors were due to "an unusual combination of factors".
"This combination of geological factors was rare and would be unlikely to occur together again at future well sites", the report said.
Mark Miller, chief executive officer of Cuadrilla, said: "We unequivocally accept the findings of the independent report and we are pleased that there is no threat to people or property in the local area from our operations. We are ready to put in place the early detection system that has been proposed in the report so that we can provide additional confidence and security to the local community."
The Department of Energy and Climate Change said the report will be considered "very carefully" alongside the "highest standards of safety and environmental protection".
Environment groups added that the report's findings raised "very real concerns". Friends of the Earth's Tony Bosworth said: "An early seismic detection system won't be enough to make local people feel safe - there should be no more fracking in Britain until the health and environmental impacts are fully understood."