UK seismicity has been analysed for the first time to set a national baseline for earthquakes triggered by human activity ahead of any future fracking decisions.
The study reveals that since 1999, an average of at least three onshore earthquakes a year with local magnitude greater than or equal to 1.5 were as a result of anthropogenic activity.
The research – published in academic journal Marine and Petroleum Geology – was carried out by ReFine (Researching Fracking in Europe), an independent research consortium focusing on the issue of shale gas and oil exploitation using fracking methods.
Research lead professor Richard Davies, of Newcastle University, said: “Earthquakes triggered or induced by humans are not a new concept for us here in the UK, but earthquakes related to fracking are.
“Understanding what the current situation is and setting a national baseline is imperative, otherwise how can we say with any confidence in the future what the impact of fracking has been nationwide?
“What this research shows is that in recent years, an average of at least three earthquakes a year, with local magnitudes greater than or equal to 1.5, are as a result of human activity. If widespread exploitation of the UK’s shale reservoirs is granted and numbers consistently rise then, in conjunction with local monitoring data, we should be able to confidently demonstrate a causal link.”