The ongoing battle between researchers and the natural gas and oil industries over whether or not hydraulic fracturing (fracking) is definitively leading to an increase in earthquake activity has steadily tilted toward indisputable evidence of fracking’s detrimental impact.
In an article entitled “Oklahoma Breaking Records For Earthquake Activity – Fracking?” I presented evidence from the U.S. Army, U.S. Geological Survey, the Oklahoma Geological Survey and the Geological Society of America, which suggests that it is becoming conclusive that fracking causes earthquakes. Furthermore, studies also indicate that even when fracking is halted, earthquake activity can continue and earthquake magnitude can increase over time.
Ohio has become a prime source of data over the past couple of years; the state already is on the map as one of the 6 states where earthquakes are a new feature of reality. And it’s one state where mainstream geologists and seismologists are now confirming the link between fracking and earthquakes that we have been suspecting all along. Moreover, the latest comments from scientists highlight a lack of any semblance of the precautionary principle employed by those in the fracking business, or those responsible for its oversight.
Geologists in Ohio have for the first time linked earthquakes in a geologic formation deep under the Appalachians to hydraulic fracturing, leading the state to issue new permit conditions Friday in certain areas that are among the nation’s strictest.
While earlier studies had linked earthquakes in the same region to deep-injection wells used for disposal of fracking wastewater, this marks the first time tremors in the region have been tied directly to fracking, Simmers said. The five seismic events in March couldn’t be easily felt by people.
Glenda Besana-Ostman, a former seismologist with the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, confirmed the finding is the first in the area to suggest a connection between the quakes and fracking. A deep-injection wastewater well in the same region of Ohio was found to be the likely cause of a series of quakes in 2012. (emphasis added)
A later study appeared in Seismological Research Letters which confirmed that 400 small earthquakes were triggered in 2013 along a previously unmapped fault in Harrison County, Ohio, marking the first recorded seismic activity in the area.
They would state:
“Hydraulic fracturing has the potential to trigger earthquakes, and in this case, small ones that could not be felt, however the earthquakes were three orders of magnitude larger than normally expected,” said Paul Friberg, a seismologist with Instrumental Software Technologies, Inc. (ISTI) and a co-author of the study.
The earthquakes revealed an east-west trending fault that lies in the basement formation at approximately two miles deep and directly below the three horizontal gas wells.
The micro-seismicity varied, corresponding with the fracturing activity at the wells. The timing of the earthquakes, along with their tight linear clustering and similar waveform signals, suggest a unique source for the cause of the earthquakes—the hydraulic fracturing operation. The fracturing likely triggered slip on a pre-existing fault, though one that is located below the formation expected to confine the fracturing, according to the authors. (emphasis added)
In addition to the admission that there is definitive proof now that fracking causes earthquakes – even when it was considered a conspiracy theory to suggest this a few years ago – is the second tacit admission that there are unknown faults in these areas, and they have gone ahead with subsequent fracking operations anyway, obviously knowing that their geological mapping information is incomplete. Yesterday, the Bulletin of the Seismological Society of America, issued this report:
A new study links the March 2014 earthquakes in Poland Township, Ohio to hydraulic fracturing that activated a previously unknown fault. The induced seismic sequence included a rare felt earthquake of magnitude 3.0, according to research published online by the Bulletin of the Seismological Society of America (BSSA).
It remains rare for hydraulic fracturing to cause larger earthquakes that are felt by humans. However, due to seismic monitoring advances and the increasing popularity of hydraulic fracturing to recover hydrocarbons, the number of earthquakes – felt and unfelt – associated with hydraulic fracturing has increased in the past decade.
“These earthquakes near Poland Township occurred in the Precambrian basement, a very old layer of rock where there are likely to be many pre-existing faults,” said Robert Skoumal who co-authored the study with Michael Brudzinski and Brian Currie at Miami University in Ohio. “This activity did not create a new fault, rather it activated one that we didn’t know about prior to the seismic activity.”
That right there is classic doublespeak.
…The seismic activity outlined a roughly vertical, east-west oriented fault within one kilometer of the well. Industry activities at other nearby wells produced no seismicity, suggesting to the authors that the fault is limited in extent.
Maybe this time – just frack and find out apparently.
“We just don’t know where all the faults are located,” said Skoumal. “It makes sense to have close cooperation among government, industry and the scientific community as hydraulic fracturing operations expand in areas where there’s the potential for unknown pre-existing faults.”
In addition to the horrendous environmental impact that has people shooting flames from their water taps, the threat of fracking-induced earthquakes is equally evident. The data is now beyond undeniable showing that there are a range of negative consequences associated with this activity.
Fracking serves as yet another example of the worst that science and business has to offer – the mentality that puts experimentation for profit ahead of full due diligence and an overarching concern for the planet and those who live in these areas. Apparently we’re just expected to wait and see what gets uncovered next as the drilling continues.
Recently by Kevin Samson: