The UK government is hazardously pressing forward with an elimination of the last shreds of democracy, in a backwards battle to force fracking onto unwilling communities.

The Tories’ latest plans came in the form of a new and highly-flawed ministerial statement last week, with Greg Clark announcing impending consultations on whether fracking should be a) considered as permitted development and b) treating it as National Significant Infrastructure Projects. This basically translates to all fracking planning applications being decided by central government planning inspectors, thus bypassing local government, communities and democracy.

However, a fly in their poisoned ointment has just landed. Today sees the Parliamentary launch of a new report: ‘Fracking and Historic Coal Mining: their relationship and should they coincide?’. It was written by Keele University’s Professor of Applied and Environmental Geophysics, Peter Styles – the former DECC and Prime Minister David Cameron’s seismology and fracking advisor to Downing Street.

Fracking Earthquakes

Professor Emeritus Peter Styles

Previous Coal Mining Areas Should Not Be Fracked

Professor Styles’ analysis shows that up to half of England’s license areas for fracking operations could trigger serious earthquakes, specifically, fracking within former coal mining areas. Professor Styles suggests that historical coal mining data has been overlooked or worse, ignored. The probability of induced seismicity on faults that have already seen geological movement from coal mining has not been implemented by fracking companies or regulators.

In April 2011, Cuadrilla caused two earthquakes in Lancashire, when they failed at the UK’s first and only attempt of hydraulic fracturing. The first stage of the fracking process appeared to be without incident. However, the second stage resulted in 52 seismic events, of which only the first to be noticed was a tremor measuring 2.3 magnitude. Professor Styles had already issued warnings to Cuadrilla over their lack of local seismic monitoring, but the company had ignored him. Cuadrilla caused a well deformation and their failure was described by the then Energy Minister, Charley Hendry, as having exposed “weaknesses in Cuadrilla’s performance as a licensee”.


In his report, Professor Styles has called for the government to immediately adopt his best practice recommendations: planning applications for any fracking sites should include all available, high-resolution and carefully mapped data.

His call also urges the government to immediately act on implementing the recommended safety points into the National Planning Policy Framework on fracking applications: 

  • A 500-metre buffer zone be implemented between former mine workings and current and future energy extraction technologies (based on the 2004 recommendations) 
  • An 850-metre buffer zone between fracking operations and any significant natural fractures or faults (based on the 2015 and 2018 recommendations)

Additionally, Professor Styles has expressed doubts over the industry’s technical capability of identifying existing faults or fractures that are likely to lead to seismic events. He believes that the seismic surveying equipment used by the fracking industry is incapable of detecting all faults. Equipment with a 5X greater magnification ability is needed.

Historic mining data shows accurate locations of fault lines that are capable of triggering earthquakes over a 0.5 magnitude: under current regulations, these would shut down fracking operations. He stated:

“Unfortunately the physics of it means you cannot see those faults with the (survey) waves that you put into the earth.

“To date, it does not appear that any proper industry or government due diligence has taken place with regards to fault lines mapped.”

“We have forgotten about mining. Mining has not forgotten about us.”

The report also highlights a potentially dangerous fault line within just ten metres of the INEOS’s proposed fracking site at Harthill, south of Sheffield: on the basis of this, the license areas held by INEOS are now questionable on grounds of safety and should not be fracked.

Professor Styles’s report also stated that the fault maps created by the British Geological Survey are “excellent, but are limited” and that there are serious issues regarding the scale of faulting that is highlighted. He said:

“As I have previously explained in detail surface seismic reflection cannot resolve the scale of faulting which might give rise to seismic events which would curtail shale gas operations.”


Baroness Lynne Featherstone, the Liberal Democrats’ spokesperson on fracking said:


“This report asks some serious questions of the government and the fracking industry. Ministers must take heed and listen to the growing weight of evidence on fracking and, at the bare minimum, implement a moratorium on fracking in coal mining areas and review fracking across the UK.”




Campaigner, Joe Corré commented on the report’s implications, stating:

“The government are behaving like ideological fanatics on fracking. They have been working in such close collusion with the Industry that they cannot see past the ends of their noses.

“England is now surrounded by countries that have banned fracking or have moratoriums in place because they have looked at all the evidence available and acted responsibly.

“Theresa May’s Government has recently announced its desperate plan to push fracking through via central government and permitted development, attempting to wipe out all local democracy and resistance out of the way.

“This is so that the likes of INEOS, owned by Britain’s richest man, Jim Ratcliffe, can make millions of tonnes of more polluting plastics from fracked gas.

“Energy Security doesn’t really fit with the reality of fracking for plastic, so the new PR buzzword is Energy Diversity.

“We have been repeatedly assured by the government that our ‘regulations’ are the best in the world, ‘Gold Standard’.

“People at a local level have nothing to worry about and local councils and democracy will be excluded from decisions. Professor Peter Styles report shows beyond any doubt that our Regulations are a farce. The fracking industry, with the help of their government friends, are about to stampede all over this beautiful country and they haven’t even bothered to consider the highly accurate and available data from our coal mining history.

“The North of England, in particular, is riddled with old mine workings and fault lines already severely weakened by coal extraction, right beneath where they intend to frack.

“I hope finally, that with this report the government starts to act responsibly and exercise their duty of care. A moratorium should be put in place immediately and a full public investigation into all the available evidence on fracking should be carried out as Scotland and our neighbours have done.”

Fracking Viability?

The feasibility of fracking in the UK is now under further scrutiny, with Professor Styles declaring:

“It would be prudent of the government to reduce the estimates of exploitable onshore frackable gas by half.”

Talk Fracking strongly supports calls for an immediate moratorium, in light of this new and implicating report. Professor Styles’ work exposes the fact that historical geological fault data is being ignored by both government regulators and industry, therefore rendering the existing seismic data currently available, geologically useless.