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Page added on June 21, 2012

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Fracking doesn’t cause quakes, except when it does


(CNN)¬†— The use of hydraulic fracturing to open underground natural gas formations has a low risk of triggering earthquakes, experts reported Friday, but some scientists say the debate is far from over.

“Fracking,” as the process is commonly known, involves injecting a mixture of water and chemicals deep into the Earth. The pressure causes shale rock formations to fracture, and natural gas is released. The fluid is extracted, and the natural gas is mined through the well.

See how the process works

There’s a higher risk of man-made seismic events when wastewater from the fracking process is injected back into the ground, according to a report by the National Research Council, an arm of the National Academy of Sciences. But out of about 30,000 disposal wells nationwide, only a handful of noticeable tremors have been reported, with the strongest equivalent to a magnitude-4.8 earthquake, the panel of engineers and scientists concluded.¬†Read the report (PDF)

Interactive: What is 'fracking?'

Interactive: What is ‘fracking?’

Congress requested the study in 2010, as hydraulic fracturing triggered a natural gas production boom that has driven down the price of the fuel by 45% in the past year. Although the boom has fattened landowners’ wallets, it has been accompanied by concerns that the practice can harm the environment by contaminating groundwater — and by triggering quakes.

Earthquake rattles eastern Ohio
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In the region surrounding Youngstown in northeastern Ohio, where the boom is in full swing, seismic instruments recorded nearly a dozen small quakes in 2011, with a magnitude-4.0 tremor reported December 31.

John Armbruster of Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, Columbia University, who’s been studying seismic events and fracking in the Youngstown area for months, said Friday that it’s “virtually certain” that an injection of fracking wastewater caused the New Year’s Eve tremor.

Depending on its location, “any disposal well that’s been pumping stuff into the ground for months can cause earthquakes,” said Armbruster, who’s studied earthquakes and drilling for 40 years.

3 Comments on "Fracking doesn’t cause quakes, except when it does"

  1. BillT on Thu, 21st Jun 2012 2:38 pm 

    When you pump liquids into any substance, you loosen it and lubricate any movement. I don’t need a masters in geology or engineering to use common sense. Mud slides don’t happen when the soil is dry and compacted, it happens when it is liquified by lots of water. The Us is riddled with thousands, maybe millions of small faults that have not moved in recent history, but can if lubricated and the structural integrity is disturbed. Fraking will have it’s plug pulled soon.

  2. oilforbreakfast on Fri, 22nd Jun 2012 9:14 pm 

    Yeah, but they are only small earthquakes. Nothing to be alarmed about. We are just getting all the tectonic plates nicely lubed up so that in future all their movements will be small and smooth without those jolting great earthquakes that cause so much damage and death. Another great free benefit from that wonderful combination of technology and capitalism. [/sarcasm]

  3. Rick on Sat, 23rd Jun 2012 12:15 am 

    Fracking does cause earthquakes. Fracking is like putting a gun to your head. Fracking is what peak oil looks like. Fracking relies on morons to invest in this shit. Money will soon be a thing of the past.

    Humans have totally fucked up this planet, called earth.

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