“The way we describe earthquakes is a bit like an epidemic,” said Ellsworth. “One earthquake has the potential to trigger others.” Source
Texas had 16 earthquakes of magnitude 3.0 or greater, ranking it eighth for 2013. In 2009, it had two quakes of that strength. There have been many more quakes than that around Azle, Texas, but most were below magnitude 3.0. Source – EE News
Prior to the fracking boom, Texas was one of the least likely places in the United States for earthquakes.
Man-made earthquakes are nothing new.
We have known since 1870, that man’s actions can cause earthquakes. We have known since the 1960s that injection can cause man-made earthquakes. Extraction of hydrocarbons also causes earthquakes.
The Dallas Morning News reported…
…but that is not true. What is new is the frequency of these man-made earthquakes and the “remarkable increase” in man-made earthquakes coincides directly with the fracking boom according to a USGS team.
It should not be a surprise to anyone who has been paying attention that Texas has become a top earthquake producer because Texas is the top oil and gas producer. Earthquakes follow oil and gas production.
In 2000, Schlumberger, the biggest fracker, published a report titled Seismicity in the Oil Field. Here is a bit from that report
If the stress change is big enough, it can cause an earthquake, either by fracturing the rock mass—in the case of mining or underground explosions—or by causing rock to slip along existing zones of weakness. The situation in regions of hydrocarbon recovery is not always well understood: in some places, extraction of fluid induces seismicity; in others, injection induces seismicity. In many areas where the rock is not under large tectonic stresses, the seismic energy released during induced events is low—typically of magnitude 0 to 3—and not even felt on the earth’s surface. However, if the rock mass is already under large tectonic stresses, the energy added by man’s endeavors can have a destabilizing influence. Even minor actions can trigger strong seismicity.
Some 40 examples are known in which reservoir production caused significant changes in the seismic activity of a neighboring region.
I highlighted underground explosions because most people don’t realize it but fracking requires underground explosions. They have to blow holes in the drill pipe and shatter the shale before they can frack and that takes explosives, which they haul through our streets. You can watch a 2 minute movie about perferation HERE and read a list of what might be in a perf gun (11 pages of skull and crossbones)
Recap: Injection, extraction and underground explosions all can cause earthquakes. We’ve known this for a long, long time.
There may be many kinds of injection but I’m going to talk about these three kinds:
- Fracking injection – one well requires millions of gallons of water, thousands of tons of sand and thousands a gallons of chemicals all injected under very high pressure, 5,000 to 8,000 pounds-per-square-inch (PSI).
- Waste disposal injection – one disposal well injects under lesser pressure the massive amounts of waste fluids the from many fracked wells.
- Enhanced recovery injection – this kind of injection has been linked to earthquakes but I know less about it than the other kinds. Enhanced Oil Recovery (EOR) is used to create pressure in a formation
As I’ve said before: Industry has done such a splendid job of propaganda that the media and public believe the only injection that causes earthquakes is waste injection. If you understand the fracking process and think logically about it, you will see that we are redistributing massive amounts of liquids and solids and causing imbalances. See these diagrams drawn by a petroleum engineer. Diagram.
Who’s your fracking daddy?The oil and gas industry has narrowly defined fracking to mean only the moment they inject their fluids into the hole and fracking is over when they pull out. They are trying to dodge responsibility for the whole realm of descendant problems their actions create.
The industry is like deadbeat dads who, in this case, inject toxic fluids into a hole in the ground and walk away from responsibility for the consequences.
The public ends up paying while industry walks away with their profit.
— Steve Everley (@saeverley) January 19, 2015
I’ve written a great deal about earthquakes for a long time. But, as fracking expands and the “remarkable increase” in man-made earthquakes continues, new people become interested. So I guess I’ll have to keep writing about earthquakes for no telling how much longer.
Update: The epidemic continues with 4 earthquakes (so far) today. See the list of reported earthquakes on this post.