02 November 2019 00:36

The government approves fracking for shale gas at the Preston New Road site near Blackpool.

Fracking in England has been banned after new research raised fresh fears over the risk of earthquakes. Prime Minister Boris Johnson said he had "very considerable anxieties" about fracking, which is a controversial method of extracting shale gas. The government has withdrawn support and has said it will block further proposals to change the planning process for fracking sites. The UK government has previously supported shale gas exploration and fracking, which it considered a means to produce a domestic, low-carbon fuel alternative. The decision comes after a report by the oil and gas authority (OGA) found it is not currently possible to accurately predict the likelihood of strength of earthquakes linked to fracking operations.

There have been a series of seismic tremors at a fracking site in Lancashire this year, including a a 2.1-magnitude tremor was reported at Cuadrilla's site near Blackpool in August - days after a 1.55-magnitude movement. There have been regular protests at the Lancashire site. The government's moratorium will remain in place until compelling new evidence shows it is safe. Andrea Leadsom, minister for business, energy and industrial strategy, said the government had been advised that the size, and frequency, of seismic tremors could not be predicted using existing scientific tools. "We can no longer be certain of the safety of shale gas exploration," Ms Leadsom said, "and we always want to be led by the science.

The government's moratorium will remain in place until "compelling new evidence shows" it is safe, Ms Leadsom added. Only one, Cuadrilla, currently has an active site in Lancashire. But the series of tremors there in August meant that fracking was suspended, pending investigation and review. The government lifted a previous, year-long moratorium on fracking in 2011. But fracking has become a politically sensitive issue in recent months, with Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn saying he would not hesitate to implement a full ban if his party were elected into power.

Fracking supporters say the government's new moratorium is an over-reaction. But anti-fracking campaigners say the moratorium is good news for communities who have long campaigned for sites to be shut. "This industry is poisonous, it's toxic, it contributes significantly to climate change it has no place in our communities, " Eddie Thornton, who lives near a proposed fracking site in North Yorkshire, told Sky News. He says, "The moratorium represents a significant victory for communities like mine up and down the country that have been fighting fracking for so long." Published at 9:10pm 1st November 2019. (Updated at 11:42pm 1st November 2019) Fracking has long been a controversial practice in the UK, with environmental campaigners picketing sites for years. Attempts to establish a UK shale gas industry were mired by setbacks as concerns were raised over the fracking process's safety and environmental impact. Now the government has decided to ban the process, Sky News takes a look back at the issue over the years. Fracking hits the headlines in 2011 when two tremors in April and May are linked to Cuadrilla's work in the Blackpool area. Drilling is halted following the magnitude 2.3 and 1.5 quakes, which a report says are highly likely to have been caused by the fracking process. The ban on fracking is lifted by the government in December, subject to regular seismic risk assessments. Environmental campaigners protest for weeks against exploratory drilling plans in the small West Sussex village of Balcombe. David Cameron, who is prime minister at the time, announces £1.7m for councils which agree to drill for shale gas. He says the government is "going all out for shale" as campaigners argue the plan amounts to bribery. Cuadrilla says it will resume drilling at two locations - Roseacre Wood and Preston New Road. It plans to drill up to eight holes in a search for shale gas reserves. The company says it will apply for planning permission to drill, hydraulically fracture, and test gas flows at the two sites. Planning officers recommend that Cuadrilla's plans to resume drilling are rejected, a move welcomed by environmental campaigners. The government approves fracking for shale gas at the Preston New Road site near Blackpool. Protests erupt at the Preston New Road fracking site as campaigners rally against the drilling. Scotland announces an immediate ban on fracking following a two-year consultation into its potential impacts. Just as Cuadrilla is about to begin its first commercial fracking on UK soil, an emergency injunction filed by a local campaigner halts the process. The injunction against the council is filed by retired businessman Bob Dennett, who claims emergency response planning and procedures at the Preston New Road site are inadequate. A judge later rules there is "no evidence" to show fracking poses more than a "medium risk", allowing Cuadrilla to begin the drilling for shale gas. The company begins work but the process is halted once again when a magnitude 0.8 earthquake is recorded. Cuadrilla says it has produced the first shale gas from its site in Lancashire. The company says it is "significant and indicative of the potential of the shale". Cuadrilla is forced to pause operations once again when a 1.5 magnitude tremor is recorded. Greater Manchester says it will ban fracking across all 10 of its local councils. A record-breaking tremor of magnitude 2.9 is felt near the site, rattling doors and windows. November 2019 The government announces it will ban fracking.