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

Photogallery South Africa Bans Travelers From Ebola-stricken Countries

South Africans returning from affected West African countries will be thoroughly screened, required to fill out medical questionnaire, health minister says More

Multimedia UN Launches ‘Biggest Aid Operation in 30 Years’ in Iraq

Move aims to help thousands of Iraqi religious minorities who fled their homes as Kurdish, Iraqi government forces battle Sunni insurgents More

Video African Media Tries to Educate Public About Ebola

IT specialists, together with radio and TV reporters, are battling misinformation and prejudice about disease More

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.
African Media Tries to Educate Public About Ebolai
X
George Putic
August 20, 2014 8:57 PM
While the Ebola epidemic continues to claim lives in West Africa, information technology specialists, together with radio and TV reporters, are battling misinformation and prejudice about the disease - using social media to educate the public about the deadly virus. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video African Media Tries to Educate Public About Ebola

While the Ebola epidemic continues to claim lives in West Africa, information technology specialists, together with radio and TV reporters, are battling misinformation and prejudice about the disease - using social media to educate the public about the deadly virus. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Ferguson Calls for Justice as Anger, Violence Grips Community

Violence, anger and frustration continue to grip the small St. Louis suburb of Ferguson, Missouri. Protests broke out after a white police officer fatally shot an unarmed black teenager on August 9. The case has sparked outrage around the nation and prompted the White House to send U.S. Attorney Eric Holder to the small community of just over 20,000 people. VOA’s Mary Alice Salinas has more from Ferguson.
Video

Video Beheading Of US Journalist Breeds Outrage

U.S. and British authorities have launched an investigation into an Islamic State video showing the beheading of kidnapped American journalist James Foley by a militant with a British accent. The extremist group, which posted the video on the Internet Tuesday, said the murder was revenge for U.S. airstrikes on militant positions in Iraq - and has threatened to execute another American journalist it is holding. Henry Ridgwell has more from London.
Video

Video Family Robots - The Next Big Thing?

Robots that can help us with daily chores like cooking and cleaning are a long way off, but automatons that serve as family companions may be much closer. Researchers in the United States, France, Japan and other countries are racing to build robots that can entertain and perform some simpler tasks for us. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video In Ukraine, Fear and Distrust Remain Where Fighting has Stopped

As the Ukrainian military reclaims control of eastern cities from pro-Russian separatists, residents are getting a chance to rebuild their lives. VOA's Gabe Joselow reports from the town of Kramatorsk in Donetsk province, where a sense of fear is still in the air, and distrust of the government in Kyiv still runs deep.
Video

Video Five Patients Given Experimental Ebola Drug Said to Be Improving

The World Health Organization has approved the use of experimental treatments for Ebola patients in West Africa. The Ebola outbreak there is unprecedented, the disease deadly. The number of people who have died from Ebola has surpassed 1,200. VOA's Carol Pearson reports on the ethical considerations of allowing experimental drugs to be used.
Video

Video China Targets Overseas Assets of Corrupt Officials

As China presses forward with its anti-graft effort, authorities are targeting corrupt officials who have sent family members and assets overseas. The efforts have stirred up a debate at home on exactly how many officials take that route and how likely it is they will be caught. Rebecca Valli has this report.
Video

Video Leading The Fight Against Islamic State, Kurds Question Iraqi Future

Western countries including the United States have begun arming the Kurdish Peshmerga forces in northern Iraq to aid their battle against extremist Sunni militants from the Islamic State. But there are concerns that a heavily-armed Kurdistan Regional Government, or KRG, might seek to declare independence and cause the break-up of the Iraqi state. As Henry Ridgwell reports from London, the KRG says it will only seek greater autonomy from Baghdad.
Video

Video In Rural Kenya, Pressure Builds Against Female Circumcision

In some Kenyan communities, female genital mutilation remains a rite of passage. But activists are pushing back, with education for girls and with threats of punishment those who perform the circumcision. Mohammed Yusuf looks at the practice in the rural eastern community of Tharaka-Nithi.

AppleAndroid