Firms say regulations forcing operations to stop if they trigger tremors greater than 0.5 magnitude threaten viability
'The UK’s nascent fracking firms are headed for a crunch moment that will determine whether the industry has a future, according to observers and insiders.
The past fortnight has seen a concerted lobbying drive by two of the leading shale companies calling for the government to review rules on earthquakes caused by their operations.
The country’s richest person, Jim Ratcliffe, founder of the petrochemicals firm Ineos, branded the regulations “absurd” and “unworkable”, and implied the government should consider limits closer to those in the US.
Cuadrilla said it had only been able to frack 5% of its well near Blackpool because of the rules, and warned commercial fracking was not viable under the UK’s regulatory regime. Last week it also had a planning appeal for a second site rejected.
Neither firm has gone as far as saying it would pull the plug. But it is clear the sector is at an impasse and cannot proceed without a rethink by ministers and the Oil and Gas Authority (OGA), the industry regulator.
Both the government and the OGA have said they had no plans for a review of the “traffic light system”, which forces firms to stop fracking if they trigger tremors of greater than 0.5 in magnitude.
Claire Perry, the energy minister, has said repeatedly in the past few months that there were no plans for a review. But she has previously privately said the threshold could be “adjusted upwards” as the industry gains experience.'
Read more: Oil and gas companies UK fracking industry pushes for review of earthquake limits