More Evidence Shows Drilling Causes Earthquakes
A recent study (abstract here) published in the journal Geology is getting a lot of attention for conclusions it draws about whether oil and natural gas drilling is causing earthquakes. In particular, the study examines the biggest quake in the history of Oklahoma, a 5.7 shaker that hit the tiny town of Prague on Nov. 6, 2011. Ripples from the earthquake were felt across 17 states.
According to the study’s authors, the culprit isn’t the actual drilling itself but the injection of wastewater back into the ground afterward. Even though wastewater had been injected into old wells around Prague since the early 1990s, the authors argue that as crevices previously containing oil filled with water, from 2001 to 2006, the amount of pressure needed to keep pushing water underground rose tenfold, or 1,000 percent. The resulting pressure change triggered a “jump” in a nearby fault line known as the Wilzetta fault, and then—boom, earthquake. The well the study examined was not drilled using the controversial hydraulic fracturing techniques, commonly known as fracking. …
… Fracking proponents tend to argue that the evidence is still inconclusive, and that to limit fracking would carry economic consequences far greater than the damage a few earthquakes might do. In an online debate posted in December by Tufts University, Bruce McKenzie Everett, an associate professor at Tufts’s Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy and a 20-year veteran of ExxonMobil (XOM), argued: “If we stopped right now, or placed a moratorium on new fracking, the price of natural gas would go up. This means electricity prices would go up, heating prices would go up.”
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