A recent study completed by the National Research Council states that earthquakes are not associated with fracking. The controversial practice of “fracking”—extracting natural gas from below the earth’s surface by injecting fluids—has caused a stir in areas in which it has occurred.
According to the Seattle Times, it does not pose a high risk for triggering earthquakes large enough to feel, but other types of energy related drilling can make the ground noticeably shake. Drilling or mining underground creates some level of seismic activity, however, fracking does not produce dangerous seismic activity. Even the man-made tremors large enough to be an issue are rare.
Human activity has only been shown to trigger 154 earthquakes in more than 90 years of monitoring. Most of these quakes were moderate and small, and only 60 of these quakes occurred in the United States. Man-made drilling can trigger shaking because it changes the crucial balance of fluid into and out of the subsurface which ultimately affects the pore pressure of the soil. While waste water disposal wells pose more seismic risks, the report said cases of these wells causing earthquakes have been rare and less than 5.0 in magnitude.
“There’s a whole bunch of wells that have been drilled, let’s say for wastewater and the number of events have been pretty small,” said report chairman Murray Hitzman, a professor of economic geology at the Colorado School of Mines. “Is it a huge problem? The report says basically no. Is it something we should look at and think about? Yes.”
Most “tremors” are caused by gas and oil drilling the conventional way—damming rivers, deep injections of wastewater, and flooding. Only two “tremors” have been linked to hydraulic fracturing—a 2.8 tremor in Oklahoma and a 2.3 tremor in England.
The United States is thirsting for more energy and newer technologies. Advances in hydraulic fracturing have dramatically increased U.S. oil and gas production from shale formations. But with this in mind, it is important to monitor the injection wells and consider potential repercussions before starting to drill.
The National Research Council states that no one has been killed, nor has there been any major damage from the man made earthquakes in the U.S.