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Quakes Caused By Waste From Gas Wells, Study Finds

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posted on Apr, 12 2012 @ 07:10 PM
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The U.S. Geological Survey will soon confirm that the oil and gas industry is creating earthquakes, and new data from the Midwest finds that these man-made quakes are happening more often than originally thought.

Earthquakes happen when faults in the Earth slip and slide against each other. There's continuous stress on innumerable faults on our continent, but seismologists like Bill Ellsworth, from the U.S. Geological Survey, started seeing something odd about 12 years ago.

"One thing we had begun to notice was that there were an unusual number of earthquakes in the middle of the country," he says, an area not known for quakes. They were small, though — usually just over magnitude 3. Then, in 2009, the shaking got much more frequent.

"After that time, things really began to take off, and that's what really caught our attention," Ellsworth says. "It is really quite surprising." In 2009 there were 50 quakes a year in the middle part of the continent. There were 87 in 2010 and 134 last year.




Quakes Clustered Around Wastewater Wells

Gas drilling is on the rise around the country, especially hydraulic fracturing. Hydrofracking uses billions of gallons of water a year to crack deep rock and release natural gas. Some have suspected that fracking was causing quakes, but evidence in several parts of the country points to wastewater wells, where companies dump used frack water. Ellsworth thinks his data confirm that.

"We find no evidence that fracking is related to the occurrence of earthquakes that people are feeling. We think that it's more intimately connected to the wastewater disposal," he says.

Ellsworth says most of these new quakes are clustered around places where there are waste wells.




Alternate Causes Of Quakes

These waste wells are filled with water, and seismologist Cliff Frohlich at the University of Texas says that water affects a fault the way air does a puck in an air hockey game.

"The minute you put air on, it floats — the puck still weighs the same, but there's no friction to keep it from going horizontally," Frohlich says. "The same thing can happen on a fault."

The high water pressure basically separates a fault that has locked in place; the fault moves and creates a quake.




The more scientists study these induced quakes, the more they find. Frohlich has studied a "swarm" of 183 small quakes near Dallas that took place in 2008 and 2009. That's right next to one of the largest oil and gas plays in the country.

Frohlich suspects that it's not just waste wells creating quakes. In some areas, the amount of oil and gas taken out of the earth has changed the local geology. He looked at two quakes near the town of Alice, Texas — one in 1997, the other in 2010. Since the 1930s, the area has produced 100 million barrels of oil and nearly 3 trillion cubic feet of gas.

"Sometimes quakes [are] caused when you remove things from underground," he says. "There are quakes related to mining — you are changing the stress field with the material you remove, and that puts stress on a fault and you get an earthquake."


Source: NPR


It's an interesting theory and while it may not be absolutely correct, it does make a good attempt to answer some questions. It really does make sense once you recognize the fact that we are completely reengineering the Earth's underground landscape. If you start taking out support systems and structures from the ground floor of a high rise, you would expect that high rise to react and try to compensate. The rock and stone and clay that we are digging through has been there for millions of years – it is natural – and therefore to take it out of its place and remove it is unnatural. So, of course there would be natural consequence for disturbing the natural balance of the Earth.
edit on 4/12/12 by Resonant because: (no reason given)




posted on Apr, 12 2012 @ 07:13 PM
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Yup. When you put water and waste products from natural gas wells into cracks in the earth, hmm ..... I wonder what will happen?

Any first year geology student could tell you that this will cause earthquakes.

GOP have recently said "that they don't see any major concerns with increasing fracking in all heavily built up urban areas".



posted on Apr, 12 2012 @ 07:19 PM
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not too mention all that water being contaminated

it's going to be more valuable than the natural gas in about 20 years



posted on Apr, 12 2012 @ 07:29 PM
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I wrote this in another thread couple hours ago where they were blaming quakes on the sun.



While I'm prepared to believe the sun affects the earth far more than most people want to admit I also am convinced the Sun/Earthquake storys are a distraction. We should be looking closer at the Fracking thats taking place all over the world. Think about it!!



posted on Apr, 12 2012 @ 07:29 PM
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Originally posted by babybunnies
Yup. When you put water and waste products from natural gas wells into cracks in the earth, hmm ..... I wonder what will happen?

Any first year geology student could tell you that this will cause earthquakes.

GOP have recently said "that they don't see any major concerns with increasing fracking in all heavily built up urban areas".


Actually the article implies that fracking is not a problem at all. They need to find a different way to dispose of the waste-water is all.


"We find no evidence that fracking is related to the occurrence of earthquakes that people are feeling. We think that it's more intimately connected to the wastewater disposal," he says.


Fracking it would appear is perfectly safe which should be the good news side of this story. Cheap energy is vital to our economy and keeping things like food prices down.

One wonderful thing about human ingenuity is that we can overcome problems like this and in fact have done so all along. I'm sure a solution will be in the works almost immediately. No need to destroy an already fragile economy over a solvable issue.

Good news that Fracking is apparently safe. But then my glass is half full and I believe in the same human ingenuity that has allowed us to feed the earth and distribute the food to lessen human suffering.



posted on Apr, 12 2012 @ 08:02 PM
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USGS Scientist has confirmed this,

and pressurizing the wastefluid increases risks:

www.abovetopsecret.com...



posted on Apr, 12 2012 @ 08:29 PM
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reply to post by Blaine91555
 


While Ellsworth does state that fracking isn't the main concern, I personally do not believe it can be called a non-issue. Fracking still disrupts and "fractures" the Earth and therefore it will have some sort of effect. Does fracking directly contribute to causing earthquakes, I suppose that's rather debatable, it really depends on how you look at evidence and connect the dots.




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