7 Million at Risk from Man-made Quakes
Interesting Vox article on natural and manmade earthquakes my fellow Vet and cohort in writing Mark Jamison sent me. This year for the first time ever the USGS is including a map of areas in the US which may be prone to human-induced earthquakes” in addition to areas which are prone to natural earthquakes.
“By including human-induced events, our assessment of earthquake hazards has significantly increased in parts of the U.S.,” said Mark Petersen, Chief of the USGS National Seismic Hazard Mapping Project. “This research also shows that much more of the nation faces a significant chance of having damaging earthquakes over the next year, whether natural or human-induced.”
From the highest to the lowest potential hazard the USGS has ranked these states: Oklahoma, Kansas, Texas, Colorado, New Mexico and Arkansas. Oklahoma and Texas have the largest populations exposed to induced earthquakes. Small areas of Ohio and Alabama have experienced induced earthquakes; but, this has dropped off with lesser activity. “Wastewater disposal is thought to be the primary reason for the recent increase in earthquakes in the CEUS. While most injection wells are not associated with earthquakes, some other wells have been implicated in published scientific studies, and many states are now regulating wastewater injection in order to limit earthquake hazards.”
Central US has experienced the greatest change in earthquake frequency going from 24 earthquakes per year (1973 to 2008) with an average magnitude of 3.0 to increased frequency year over year 318 per year with a high of 1010 in 2015. From 2009 to 2015, the rate steadily increased, averaging 318 per year and peaking in 2015 with 1,010 earthquakes. The latest data through mid-March shows 226 earthquakes. As fracking and the resulting waste water injection activities picks up in a region, the frequency of earthquakes increases. It is not believed Hydraulic fracking is to be the cause of the increased earthquakes. Testing the maps after one year will verify predictability of location and frequency of earthquakes.
“Wastewater disposal is thought to be the primary reason for the recent increase in earthquakes in the CEUS.”
“It is not believed Hydraulic fracking is to be the cause of the increased earthquakes.”
Without fracking there would be no wastewater to be disposed. So I say hydraulic fracking is indeed the cause.
Normally, I would agree with you. And if they did not inject the waste liquid (which I believe will come back to hunt us in other ways), would there be earthquakes? UG Geological (in the attachment) specifically called out the injection of wastewater as the cause.
Actually since the Rocky Flats incident in Co in the 1960s or so it has been known that injecting fluids deeply can cause earthquakes, so in one respect the conclusion is nothing new. We can treat the water otherwise it just raises the cost. In fact one could build covered ponds and evaporate the water and concentrate the brines as is done as some coal bed methane plants.
As to quake resistance in Ok, much of that work also would make the structure more tornado resistant, such as bolting the frame to the foundation, metal clips to hold studs to base plate, as well as to hold rafters to the top plate etc.
The oil industry knows the dangers of wastewater injection. They don’t care. Profits trump a few more earthquakes, a few more deaths, more contaminated ground water, etc.
Only regulations will force them to do otherwise. That’s one of many reasons hey we need government working for us, the People, not th big monied interests, both business and people.
California has 600 3.0+ quakes a year. My experience in San Francisco was that you can only sense a 3.5 if you are sitting still or lying down. If you are walking you wont feel it.
My first time I was watching TV news. The anchor said “We felt it too” and just went on with the broadcast. I had never felt the earth move before. That night I went to bed with my overcoat hung by the hotel room door with a flashlight in pocket and my bike helmet on a hook — ready to run out like a fireman. Next day I looked for it in the newspaper and finally found a two inch column in the local section — then I finally began to catch on.
Later, listening to the local disc jockey at 5AM, the same thing, just mention it like it was raining.
So maybe our attitude towards minor quakes should be “so what.”