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Fracking ‘not a significant cause’ of earthquakes felt on surface: study

A British study says most hydraulic fracking activities release the same amount of energy ‘as jumping off a ladder’.

Image: Calin Tatu via Shutterstock

NEW BRITISH RESEARCH has found that the controversial method for extracting natural gas, known as ‘fracking’, is not a significant cause of earthquakes.

The study, published this week, said that most fracking activities release the same amount of energy as somebody falling off a ladder.

The Energy Institute at Durham University, which carried out the study, said that while the technique does have the power to ‘reawaken’ dormant fault lines, fracking was an insignificant source of earthquakes when compared to activities like mining or filling reservoirs.

Out of 198 examples of ‘induced’ seismic activity gtom 1929 – that is, earthquakes which were trigged by human activity – the study could identify only three quakes, anywhere in the world, which had been directly caused by fracking.

BBC News, reporting the study, said the most significant one of those was an earthquake of magnitude 3.8 in Canada in 2011.

‘Fracking’ is a relatively young technology which involves pumping a mixture of water, sand and chemicals into the ground at a high pressure. This forces cracks in rocks and release the gas stored within them.

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Aside from the risk of seismic activity, opponents of the practice also argue that it can cause methane leaks, affect water supplies, and contaminate the soil below the surface.

It has also been argued that some of the chemicals used in fracking can be carcinogenic at high levels.

The Irish government has allowed preliminary tests in Counties Leitrim and Clare. Last month’s UK Budget included tax incentives for fracking in that jurisdiction, with a site in Co Fermanagh one of the most prominent areas earmarked for exploration.

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Gavan Reilly

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