A new study which shows fracking in Lancashire will not cause earthquakes has been hailed as another step to answer fears about the industry.
The report, published by leading universities, has claimed hydraulic fracturing causes tremors no bigger than someone jumping off a ladder.
Francis Egan, boss of Cuadrilla Resources, the company leading the exploration work under the county’s countryside which caused a pair of tremors in 2011, said it would act as “further reassurance” to those people living close to proposed drill sites.
But anti-fracking campaigners have dismissed the fears around quakes as “a red herring”, arguing there are far bigger concerns linked to the burgeoning industry.
Mr Egan said: “In Britain, there is an earth tremor every month, but they are such a small magnitude they are not even noticed. What this research shows is that any tremors caused by the work connected to fracking are so small they are only picked up by geoscientists looking for them.”
He said the largest tremor caused by Cuadrilla’s work on land near Blackpool, which measured 2.3 on the Richter scale, could not damage concrete pipes which contain the equipment used in fracking.
The process involves pumping water and chemicals into the ground to break up shale rock and release gas.
Mr Egan said: “We have logs on the wells, which show it withstood that tremor. It proved the design of the concrete as robust.”
Cuadrilla is carrying out exploration work to assess the amount of natural gas locked in shale rock under the Lancashire countryside.
It has drilling rigs at Singleton and Preese Hall on the Fylde coast, Anna’s Road, near Lytham, and Banks, between Preston and Southport.
Tina Rothery, of Residents’ Action on Fylde Fracking, said the report, published by Durham University’s Energy Institute, was “misleading at best”.
She said: “It focuses on ‘feeling’ earthquakes. Our concerns are far wider reaching. The report implies that an earthquake that isn’t felt, is not something to be concerned about.
“If even mild seismic activity happens, we would like to the likely outcome of damage with 10 wells on a single pad being fracked.”