BLACKPOOL, England, June 3 (UPI) -- A controversial shale gas drilling operation in Britain was halted pending investigation into possible connection with earthquakes in the area, officials said.
An earthquake last week near Blackpool occurred at the same time an energy company was injecting fluids under high pressure deep underground to deliberately blast apart the gas-bearing rock in a process known as "fracking," brought to Britain from the United States where it is equally controversial, The Independent reported Friday.
The British Geological Survey said the 1.5-magnitude quake last week was similar to a 2.3-magnitude earthquake in April in the same area, and both may be linked to the experimental fracking for shale gas at Preese Hall on the Fylde coast by the Cuadrilla Resources company.
"It seems quite likely that they are related," said Brian Baptie of the BGS. "We had a couple of instruments close to the site and they show that both events were close to the site and at a shallow depth.
"The timing of these two events in conjunction with the ongoing fracking at the site suggests that they may be related."
Cuadrilla said it may be many weeks before it resumes fracking operations at the site as it investigates with the help of outside experts.
"We've suspended drilling because there was an incident that the BGS recorded," Cuadrilla spokesman Paul Kelly said. "We were aware of it because we have our own monitoring equipment on the site."
Neither earthquake caused any damage, although they were felt by people living nearby because they occurred at a relatively shallow depth, Baptie said.