* UK shale gas exploration can resume with proper monitoring
* DECC holds six-week public consultation on fracking report
* Shale gas firms to use "traffic light" tremor warning
By Alessandra Prentice
LONDON, April 17 The UK government on Tuesday
backed the exploration of shale gas nearly one year after it
temporarily banned the drilling method which triggered two
earthquakes in Britain but that has also revolutionised the U.S.
An expert report commissioned by the government said shale
gas fracking, a process where pressurised water and chemicals
are pumped underground to open shale rocks and release trapped
gas, was safe to resume with tighter rules on seismic monitoring
and drilling surveys.
"The risk of seismic activity associated with hydraulic
fracking operations is small and the probability of damage is
extremely small - we suggest fracking can continue under our
recommendations," one of the report's authors, the British
Geological Society's Brian Baptie, said at a briefing.
The energy ministry is inviting public comment on the
report's findings over the next six weeks, after which it will
issue its final ruling on the future of UK shale gas
The experts published their findings after reviewing a
series of post-earthquake studies published by Cuadrilla
Resources, a UK firm which was forced to halt its shale gas
operations near Blackpool in northwest England after fracking
triggered small earthquakes in May 2011.
They also recommended the use of a "traffic light" control
system, where operations are suspended if a red light indicates
seismic activity at a threshold of 0.5 or above, well below a
level which could cause structural damage on the surface.
The tremors measured near Blackpool last year reached a
level of around 2 .
While the report agreed with Cuadrilla's investigations as a
whole, it said there was not enough data to confirm the
company's claim that it was unlikely similar earthquakes would
In the U.S. the exploration of shale gas has pushed gas
prices to 10-year lows and companies such as Cheniere Energy
are gearing up to export the excess fuel.
Activists on both sides of the Atlantic have lobbied
politicians to ban fracking on environmental concerns, including
the dangers of pollution of ground water and leakage of gas into
France, which has some of Europe's largest shale gas
reserves, last year banned the use of fracking on worries about
In the UK, Cuadrilla has said its site near Blackpool had
200 trillion cubic feet of gas in place - enough to cover UK
demand for generations, although experts have cast doubt on the
(Editing by Karolin Schaps)