Confirmed: Fracking Triggers Quakes (Video)
Posted on Jul 12, 2013
A study published in the journal Science on Thursday shows that major earthquakes can trigger reflex temblors thousands of miles away in areas where fluids used in fracking and other industrial operations have been injected into the ground.
Previous reports have suggested this is the case. This latest study demonstrates that large, naturally occurring earthquakes can activate smaller ones in places where fracking occurs.
See Mother Jones for animated graphs.
—Posted by Alexander Reed Kelly.
The scientists looked at three big quakes: the Tohuku-oki earthquake in Japan in 2011 (magnitude 9), the Maule in Chile in 201 (an 8.8 magnitude), and the Sumatra in Indonesia in 2012 (an 8.6). They found that, as much as 20 months later, those major quakes triggered smaller ones in places in the Midwestern US where fluids have been pumped underground for energy extraction.
“[The fluids] kind of act as a pressurized cushion,” lead author Nicholas van der Elst of the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory at Columbia University explained to Mother Jones. “They make it easier for the fault to slide.”
The finding is not entirely surprising, said van der Elst. Scientists have known for a long time that areas with naturally high subsurface fluid pressures—places like Yellowstone, for example—can see an uptick in seismic activity after a major earthquake even very far away. But this is the first time they’ve found a link between remote quakes and seismic activity in places where human activity has increased the fluid pressure via underground injections.
Jason Sheynk (CC BY 2.0)