News Feature | July 24, 2014

More Evidence Links Fracking Operations To Earthquakes

Sara Jerome

By Sara Jerome


New research adds support to the alleged link between fracking and earthquakes. 

"The massive increase in earthquakes in central Oklahoma is likely being caused by the injection of vast amounts of wastewater from oil and gas operations into underground layers of rock," an announcement from the University of Colorado said, citing a new study. "Under high pressure, fluids can seep into existing faults and pry apart the rocks, allowing them to slip past each other more easily and cause earthquakes."

The study, published in the journal Science, measured how much pressure is building up underground as a result of injected wastewater. The study is groundbreaking because previous research has largely relied on measures of the proximity of fracking sites to earthquakes. 

From the abstract, per KRDO: "Subsurface pressure data required to unequivocally link earthquakes to injection are rarely accessible. Here we use seismicity and hydrogeological models to show that fluid migration from high-rate disposal wells in Oklahoma is potentially responsible for the largest swarm."

The number of recent earthquakes in Oklahoma has raised major concerns about the safety of fracking. 

"So far this year, Oklahoma has had more than twice the number of earthquakes as California, making it the most seismically active state in the continental U.S. As recently as 2003, Oklahoma was ranked 17th for earthquakes. That shift has given rise to concern among communities and environmentalists that injecting vast amounts of wastewater back into the ground is contributing to the rise in Oklahoma’s quakes. The state pumps about 350,000 barrels of oil a day, making it the fifth largest producer in the U.S.," Bloomberg reported.

Energy From Shale, a pro-fracking advocacy group, points to separate studies in response to concerns about the effects of fracking on earthquakes.  

"An Oklahoma Geological Survey study on seismicity near hydraulic fracturing activities concluded that it was  'impossible to say with a high degree of certainty whether  or not these earthquakes were triggered by natural means  or by the nearby hydraulic-fracturing operation,'" the group said.

For more oil and gas news, check out Water Online's Produced Water Solution Center

Image credit: "Earthquake damage - roads," martinluff © 2010, used under an Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic license:

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