Hydraulic fracturing or fracking, is a much debated method of pumping a chemical cocktail mixed with water into the earth to break up rock and release trapped natural gas using the pressurized chemical liquid. The fracking process has been linked to a number of health and safety problems ranging from contaminated water wells to methane leaks. Earthquakes had been associated with areas around fracking sites; however there was no definitive proof that the fracking process was directly connected to the quakes. Now there is.
Scientists looked at three major quakes in 2011 and 2012: the Tohuku-oki quake in Japan in 2011 (magnitude 9), the Maule quake in Chile in 2011 (an 8.8 magnitude), and the Sumatra quake in Indonesia in 2012 (an 8.6). The results of the study was that as much as 20 months later, those major quakes triggered smaller quakes in places in the Midwestern United States (we are talking hundreds of miles away here) where fracking fluids have been pumped underground for gas extraction.
Scientists knew that areas where naturally occurring high subsurface fluid existed there was an increased risk of earthquakes. This makes sense, think of the fluid like a WD 40 allowing the earth’s plates to slide easier.
Now with fracking, humans are injecting highly pressurized fluid into the earth (subsurface) and causing the same lubricating and sliding effect. The problem is these are areas that were not prone to earthquakes before the fracking began and certainly were not impacted by earthquakes taking place on another continent. Now these areas are feeling the effects of a new manmade problem. The study looked closely at Prague, Oklahoma and linked the increased tremors in Prague, which has a number of fracking wells nearby, to Chile’s February 27, 2010, quake.
Andrew Meggison was born in the state of Maine and educated in Massachusetts. Andrew earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Government and International Relations from Clark University and a Master’s Degree in Political Science from Northeastern University. Being an Eagle Scout, Andrew has a passion for all things environmental. In his free time Andrew enjoys writing, exploring the great outdoors, a good film, and a creative cocktail. You can follow Andrew on Twitter @AndrewMeggison