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Surrey Quakes Caused by Oil Drilling? Not True, Study Shows

It turns out that you really can’t blame the oil industry for everything. The UK oil industry has been saying for quite some time that earthquakes—even ones in the same general vicinity as oil drill sites—aren’t always the result of their drilling activity. Despite this self-serving statements to that effect, it turns out that may be true, according to a new study by the Imperial College of London, University of Bristol, and the British Geological Survey as cited by the BBC.

A study of 34 earthquakes known as the “Surrey swam”, which occurred between April 2018 and May 2019, determined that the quakes were natural events, and that “their closeness to oil extraction sites is probably a coincidence,” according to lead author Dr. Stephen Hicks.

The study reviewed the nature of the earthquakes. There are two types, the study explained: quakes that move the rocks on either side of the fault horizontally, and ones that move the rocks vertically. The latter is caused by oil extraction, where the former is a natural occurrence. 

The Surrey swam quakes were caused by horizontal movement, and therefore unlikely to be caused by oil extraction.

Other considerations that the study took into effect were how deep the quakes were and the location of the quakes. Both criteria pointed to natural quakes.

The quakes had previously been blamed on oil extraction.

Last April, after the Easter quake in Surrey, UKOG insisted there was no correlation between its drilling activity at Horse Hill and the quake. At the time, members of the Green Party had called for a suspension of all oil exploration in that area, pending an investigation.

The BGS at the time disclosed that there was, in fact, a link between oil exploration and earthquakes in general in some cases, but stopped short of blaming the oil industry for the April quake. The Horse Hill 1 site, the BGS pointed out at the time, had been drilled and tested in 2016 or before.

By Julianne Geiger for Oilprice.com

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