Earthquakes which sparked mass protests ‘weren’t caused by oil extraction’

The earthquakes weren't caused by oil drilling (Getty)

Earthquakes which rocked the area near Gatwick Airport - known as the Surrey Swarm - sparked protests, but were not actually caused by nearby oil drilling.

Scientists have found no evidence suggesting that nearby oil extraction and drilling was connected to the ‘Surrey Swarm.

The series of 34 quakes, reaching magnitudes of up to 3.2 on the Richter scale, shook homes and panicked residents within a few miles of two active oil extraction sites at Brockham and Horse Hill in Surrey.

The British Isles do not lie along a tectonic plate boundary and earthquakes are rare - hence some suggested that the shocks were triggered by nearby drilling and extraction.

But scientists at Imperial College London believe natural causes were behind the quakes and said their closeness to drill sites was ‘probably a coincidence.’

View from above of the runway and terminals at London's Gatwick Airport in Sussex, England.  The airport management would like to expand to two runways.
The earthquakes occurred near Gatwick Airport in Surrey (Getty)

The first in-depth study of the quakes found no direct link between oil extraction and earthquakes in the region.

Study Lead author Dr Stephen Hicks, of Imperial's department of earth science and engineering, said: 'The quakes seem to have occurred naturally and our findings suggest their closeness to oil extraction sites is probably a coincidence.

'This is not the first time earthquakes have come seemingly from nowhere and without human input.

'The swarm, like most natural earthquakes in the UK, could have been caused by ongoing collision of the African and Eurasian tectonic plates in the Mediterranean Sea - the UK's nearest plate boundary - which stresses the crust and causes earthquakes across Europe.'

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The Imperial team tracked the timing, strength and distribution of the earthquakes by using seismometers to measure vibrations in the ground.

They also mapped the distances between the quakes and the extraction sites and examined the depth at which they occurred.

Results showed the quakes were distributed in a tight cluster more than 3km away from the extraction sites which researchers said was too far away to link them with fracking.

Dr Hicks said: 'It would be unprecedented for this type and scale of oil extraction to affect sites more than a kilometre away.'

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