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Study finds that the UK experiences three earthquakes a year due to human activity - 9th September


New research is the first of its kind to set a national baseline and will detect any rise in earthquakes following an expansion of shale gas exploration in the future. The majority of the tremors in recent decades resulted from coal mining, but fracking exploration caused two small earthquakes in 2011.

“Understanding what the current situation is imperative, otherwise how can we say with any confidence in the future what the impact of fracking has been nationwide?” said Professor Richard Davies, at Newcastle University, who led the research which is published in the journal Marine and Petroleum Geology.

Earthquakes caused by collapsing mines or fracking are usually small, with many going unnoticed by people. But the largest ones can cause anxiety for local people and damage to fragile structures.

While earthquake activity has fallen in recent decades, the UK government’s determination to push ahead with shale gas exploration has raised the prospect of it increasing once again. In 2011, Cuadrilla’s exploration at Preese Hall in Lancashire, led to a 2.3 magnitude earthquake, followed two months later by a second earthquake. Fracking was then suspended until new regulations were implemented to limit the risk of earthquakes.

“Worldwide, the biggest published example of a fracking earthquake to date is 4.4 in magnitude, recorded in Canada in 2014, although an event of this size in the UK is highly unlikely,” said Prof Davies.

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