Fracking investor Riverstone sells stake in Cuadrilla

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image captionFracking at Cuadrilla Resources site in Lancashire in August caused a 2.9 magnitude earth tremor

A major investor in the UK's only fracking firm Cuadrilla has sold its 45% stake in the company.

The sale by private equity firm Riverstone means Australian mining firm AJ Lucas, already Cuadrilla's largest shareholder, now has a 93% stake.

The remaining 7% is primarily owned by current and former employees.

Last year the government suspended all fracking amid renewed concerns about earthquakes in Lancashire.

Cuadrilla has struggled to produce and sell natural gas amid tight UK government regulation which requires drilling to stop if it causes earth tremors above a 0.5 magnitude.

But an earthquake measuring 2.9 at the firm's Preston New Road site led to a review by the Oil and Gas Authority which concluded it was not possible to predict the probability or size of tremors caused by the practice.

In November, the government launched a moratorium halting fracking and exploration with immediate effect, and also warned shale gas firms they would not support future fracking projects.

AJ Lucas said it believed the moratorium will eventually be lifted but added it envisages "limited, if any, operational activities", at the suspended Lancashire site in 2020.

Cuadrilla said it believed there are significant shale gas reserves beneath Lancashire and was "providing the appropriate data, analysis and technical expertise" for a resolution which it believes would allow shale gas exploration in the UK.

"We continue to believe that indigenous gas production is preferable to importing increasing quantities of overseas gas with up to double the pre-combustion emissions and no economic benefit for UK workers, businesses or communities."

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