Fracking firm Cuadrilla has once again halted operations at its site near Blackpool after recording the 17th earth tremor since drilling re-commenced nine days ago.
The energy firm said a seismic event close to 0.8 on the Richter magnitude scale was detected just after 11.30am on Friday – making it the biggest tremor since courts cleared the way for drilling to continue.
Activity at the Preston New Road site, which lies just a few miles from the Lancashire seaside resort, has prompted 17 earthquakes since 15th October, according to the British Geological Survey.
Friday’s incident will see operations paused for the rest of the day, Cuadrilla said. The firm has informed regulators and is confident that the integrity of the well is in tact.
A spokesperson said: “Work will now pause for at least 18 hours and is expected to recommence in the morning.”
Cuadrilla was forced to abandon fracking at the site in 2011 after two tremors measuring 2.3 and 1.5 on the Richter scale, respectively.
Fracking involves injecting liquid at very high pressure into subterranean rocks to force open fissures and release shale gas stored below.
The earlier tremors, combined with technical problems and delays, led to a seven year hiatus on Cuadrilla’s Lancashire operations as campaigners explored legal challenges.
While fierce opposition from environmental activists prompted a court battle, a last-minute attempt to block the recommencement of fracking failed earlier this month.
The campaign to stop fracking could be boosted by the continued seismic activity.
Manchester’s metro mayor, Andy Burnham, said in response to Friday’s tremor: “The earth is telling us something. Stop this process now.”
The Guardian newspaper reported on Friday that the energy minister, Claire Perry, hosted a private meeting with fracking firms in which she told bosses the government wanted to export its approach to fracking worldwide.