On 1st April I reported here that Blackpool, not far from me in north west England, had been shaken by an earthquake. I made rather more of it than was warranted because of the date, and my suggestion that it might be a fulfilment of Mark Stibbe’s prophecy was intended as an April Fool.
Slightly to my surprise this rather small earthquake is back in the news again today, with a suggestion that it was an act not of God but of human beings. The BBC reports that another small earthquake in almost the same place has led to the suspension of test drilling for shale gas in the area. It turns out that the quakes were happening in the same place as the drilling.
This drilling was a pilot project for what is known as “fracking”:
Shale gas drilling, known as “fracking” involves creating tiny explosions to shatter hard shale rocks and release gas underground.
It has proved a controversial process in the US with environmentalists alleging that shale gas leaking into their drinking supply causes tap water to ignite.
I guess it is hardly surprising that setting off small explosions underground can trigger the larger releases of energy known as earthquakes. Presumably they can also set off unpredictable releases of natural gas, like the ones that are said to have contaminated water supplies in the USA. It would certainly be unfortunate if methane were released and ignited on Blackpool beach. And in the town the results could be disastrous.
Clearly the drilling company didn’t really know what they were doing here. It is good that they have stopped drilling until they get proper geological advice.