Large Earthquake Occurs Near Fracking Investor Engie’s New Gas Platform
Less than a month after the largest new gas field in the UK North Sea was brought online by fracking investor Engie (formally GDF Suez) the largest UK earthquake in almost a decade has struck within miles of the new platforms, and was felt onshore 100 miles away. The Cygnus field began producing gas just before Christmas and Engie have been bragging that the new Cygnus field will produce 5 percent of UK North Sea gas this year.
The magnitude 3.8 earthquake happened at 6.50pm on Tuesday a few miles to the south west of the Cygnus Alpha and Bravo platforms, where 10 wells have already been drilled and more are planned. Whether this earthquake was induce by Engie’s activity is an open question (though the coincidence is striking) but it is a timely reminder of the potential consequences of threat posed by increasingly extreme oil and gas exploitation. Unconventional oil and gas extraction (fracking) in the US and Canada has resulted in large numbers of earthquakes, causing significant damage.
Even conventional oil and gas production has been often known to cause earthquakes. On 7th May 2001 a magnitude 4.1-4.4 earthquake shook platforms in the Ekofisk oil field, in the southern North Sea. The earthquake was determined to have been induced by stress changes caused by water injection at the field. The largest known earthquakes linked to oil and gas production were magnitude 7.0 earthquakes in 1976 and 1984 in Gazli, Uzbekistan which were linked to production from a nearby gas field. Ongoing earthquake activity associated with production at the Groningen gas field in the Netherlands has damaged many buildings in the area.