News / Science & Technology

    Man-Made Earthquakes on the Rise

    FILE - A crew works on a gas-drilling rig at a well site for shale-based natural gas in Zelienople, Pennsylvania, June 25, 2012. There has been a dramatic rise in earthquakes associated with wastewater from oil and gas drilling sites.FILE - A crew works on a gas-drilling rig at a well site for shale-based natural gas in Zelienople, Pennsylvania, June 25, 2012. There has been a dramatic rise in earthquakes associated with wastewater from oil and gas drilling sites.
    x
    FILE - A crew works on a gas-drilling rig at a well site for shale-based natural gas in Zelienople, Pennsylvania, June 25, 2012. There has been a dramatic rise in earthquakes associated with wastewater from oil and gas drilling sites.
    FILE - A crew works on a gas-drilling rig at a well site for shale-based natural gas in Zelienople, Pennsylvania, June 25, 2012. There has been a dramatic rise in earthquakes associated with wastewater from oil and gas drilling sites.

    Related Articles

    Putin's Asian Oil Drive Brings Pain to European Refiners

    Refineries seeing their bills soar by billions of dollars a year as Russia shifts oil exports, driving up values of Urals

    OPEC Sees Oil Demand Decline Again

    Independent producers gaining market share

    North America Rapidly Reshaping World Oil Market

    Report by Paris-based IEA says increased production in US, Canada to dramatically transform commodities markets over next five years

    Video Fracking Could Lead to Big Profits for Some Companies

    Private companies are now rushing into the relatively new market for recycling drill site water
    The number of earthquakes in the central and eastern United States has increased dramatically over the past few years, and scientists think the reason could be due to the disposal of wastewater associated with oil and gas production.

    According to a report by the U.S. Geological Survey, there were more than 300 earthquakes above magnitude 3.0 from 2010 to 2012. That’s a five-fold increase from earthquakes observed from 1967 to 2000, when the average number was 21 per year.

    In 2011, a 5.6 magnitude quake struck central Oklahoma, injuring several people and damaging over a dozen homes. According to the report, wastewater disposal appears to have been the cause of the temblor. Had an earthquake that size hit a more populated area, there would be the potential for severe damage and possible deaths.

    “There is a hazard, and I think it’s greater than people thought before,” said William Ellsworth, a geophysicist with the U.S. Geological Survey. “If small earthquakes start occurring near injection sites, that’s something to pay attention to. With that in mind one can ask how this can be managed. Clearly there’s a lot of research to be done.”

    Wastewater earthquakes occur because water that is salty or mixed with chemicals needs to be disposed of so as not to contaminate freshwater sources such as aquifers. The most common way of doing that is to inject the water deep underground.

    Ellsworth’s research showed that when wastewater is deposited near faults and underground conditions are right, earthquakes can be more likely. If water pressure inside a fault gets high enough it can cause the release of tectonic stress in the form of an earthquake. Even faults that have not moved for millions of years can be made to slip if the conditions are right.

    Wastewater is often a byproduct of certain types of energy production, extracting oil and gas from shale rock formations, for example. Wastewater can also be produced through hydraulic fracturing, also known as “fracking,” when water is injected into rock formations to extract oil and gas.

    Ellsworth said no fracking sites have been implicated with earthquakes.

    The time between the injection of wastewater and an earthquake is variable, Ellsworth said.

    “It can be very soon, or it can be years,” he said. “It’s very complicated and very dependent on the conditions under ground.”

    Despite the dramatic increase in the number of quakes, Ellsworth points out that very few of the more than 30,000 wastewater wells appear to have caused earthquakes.

    Still, the research raises red flags, and according to Ellsworth, shale rock suited for this kind of drilling can be found all over the world, and how the wastewater will be dealt with remains a question.

    In the U.S. the regulations about wastewater disposal center on the protection of drinking water and do not address the potential for man-made earthquakes.

    Because of that, Ellsworth notes, the timeliness of reporting injection volumes and pressures is lacking. More reporting of injection data would “be a step in the right direction,” in addition to measuring pre-injection water pressure and tectonic stress.

    You May Like

    Can EU Survive a Brexit?

    Across Europe politicians are asking if the British vote to leave the European Union will set in motion dynamics that will see other member states leave too

    Video Entrepreneurs at Global Summit Tackle Range of Challenges

    Innovators strive to halt sexual harassment in India, improve rural health in Myanmar, build businesses in Africa

    Key African Anti-Venom About to Permanently Run Out

    The tale of Fav-Afrique’s demise is a complicated one that reflects a deeper crisis brewing in global public health

    This forum has been closed.
    Comment Sorting
    Comments
         
    by: DAVID LULASA from: tambua,gimarakwa,hamisi,v
    July 19, 2013 9:17 AM
    i wonder if this should be called earthquake or sinking sand?.IF earth becomes more wetter inside and outside it,it will be like a dissapearing island


    by: R.Wilson from: Fresno, CA
    July 15, 2013 3:05 PM
    Since earthquakes are a release of stored energy, releasing the energy more often will actually be better for mankind since it should reduce the occurrence of larger earthquakes. Or, the earth could be just doing something that our short recording period has not witnessed...

    by: Kitagawa Keikoh from: Daikanyama , JPN
    July 13, 2013 7:25 PM
    The waste water is not the cause of the increased earthquake. Earthquake needs earth level huge energy. If the waste water from oil and gas industries was the cause of earthquake, could we possibly stop huge earthquake like Fukushima, Japan?

    by: Bull Thisttle from: New York
    July 13, 2013 5:28 PM
    Hydro Fracking is dirty dangerous and unnecessary. The safe disposal of this highly dangerous by-product "waste water" has always been an elusive query. Now knowing that this popular method has been proven to reek havoc on local faults is a scary one. The scariest part for me is the clear increase we are seeing not in earthquakes but in the expansion of this industry!

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Britain’s Vote to Leave EU Sends Shockwaves Through Global Marketsi
    X
    June 24, 2016 10:43 AM
    Britain’s historic decision to leave the European Union is sending shockwaves through global markets. Markets from Tokyo to Europe tumbled Friday under the uncertainty the ballot brings, while regional leaders in Asia took steps to limit the possible fallout. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
    Video

    Video Britain’s Vote to Leave EU Sends Shockwaves Through Global Markets

    Britain’s historic decision to leave the European Union is sending shockwaves through global markets. Markets from Tokyo to Europe tumbled Friday under the uncertainty the ballot brings, while regional leaders in Asia took steps to limit the possible fallout. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
    Video

    Video Tunisian Fishing Town Searches for Jobs, Local Development Solutions

    As the European Union tries to come to grips with its migrant crisis, some newcomers are leaving voluntarily. But those returning to their home countries face an uncertain future.  Five years after Tunisia's revolution, the tiny North African country is struggling with unrest, soaring unemployment and plummeting growth. From the southern Tunisian fishing town of Zarzis, Lisa Bryant takes a look for VOA at a search for local solutions.
    Video

    Video 'American Troops' in Russia Despite Tensions

    Historic battle re-enactment is a niche hobby with a fair number of adherents in Russia where past military victories are played-up by the Kremlin as a show of national strength. But, one group of World War II re-enactors in Moscow has the rare distinction of choosing to play western ally troops. VOA's Daniel Schearf explains.
    Video

    Video Experts: Very Few Killed in US Gun Violence Are Victims of Mass Shootings

    The deadly shooting at a Florida nightclub has reignited the debate in the U.S. over gun control. Although Congress doesn't provide government health agencies funds to study gun violence, public health experts say private research has helped them learn some things about the issue. VOA's Carol Pearson reports.
    Video

    Video Trump Unleashes Broadside Against Clinton to Try to Ease GOP Doubts

    Recent public opinion polls show Republican Donald Trump slipping behind Democrat Hillary Clinton in the presidential election matchup for November. Trump trails her both in fundraising and campaign organization, but he's intensifying his attacks on the former secretary of state. VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone reports.
    Video

    Video Muslim American Mayor Calls for Tolerance

    Syrian-born Mohamed Khairullah describes himself as "an American mayor who happens to be Muslim." As the three-term mayor of Prospect Park, New Jersey, he believes his town of 6,000 is an example of how ethnicity and religious beliefs should not determine a community's leadership. Ramon Taylor has this report from Prospect Park.
    Video

    Video Internal Rifts Over Syria Policy Could Be Headache for Next US President

    With the Obama administration showing little outward enthusiasm for adopting a more robust Syria policy, there is a strong likelihood that the internal discontent expressed by State Department employees will roll over to the next administration. VOA State Department correspondent Pam Dockins reports.
    Video

    Video Senegal to Park Colorful ‘Cars Rapide’ Permanently

    Brightly painted cars rapide are a hallmark of Dakar, offering residents a cheap way to get around the capital city since 1976. But the privately owned minibuses are scheduled to be parked for good in late 2018, as Ricci Shryock reports for VOA.
    Video

    Video Florida Gets $1 Million in Emergency Government Funding for Orlando

    The U.S. government has granted $1 million in emergency funding to the state of Florida to cover the costs linked to the June 12 massacre in Orlando. U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch announced the grant Tuesday in Orlando, where she met with survivors of the shooting attack that killed 49 people. Zlatica Hoke reports.
    Video

    Video How to Print Impossible Shapes with Metal

    3-D printing with metals is rapidly becoming more advanced. As printers become more affordable, the industry is partnering with universities to refine processes for manufacturing previously impossible things. A new 3-D printing lab aims to bring the new technology closer to everyday use. VOA's George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Big Somali Community in Minnesota Observes Muslim Religious Feast

    Ramadan is widely observed in the north central US state of Minnesota, which a large Muslim community calls home. VOA Somali service reporter Mohmud Masadde files this report from Minneapolis, the state's biggest city.
    Video

    Video During Ramadan, Faith and Football Converge in Lebanon’s Megadome

    In Beirut, a group of young entrepreneurs has combined its Muslim faith and love of football to create the city's newest landmark: a large, Ramadan-ready dome primed for one of the biggest football (soccer) tournaments in the world. But as the faithful embrace the communal spirit of Islam’s holy month, it is not just those breaking their fasts that are welcome.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora