Scientists have now more evidence on the link between an increased frequency in earthquakes and gas and oil drilling activity. They believe that if this man-made seismic activity continues, more serious quakes could be triggered and the consequences could be dire.
Up to now, besides a few plastic cracks and a little panic, the hundreds of man-made earthquakes across the U.S. did not create additional havoc. But geologists warn that states that employ dangerous drilling methods, including Texas and Oklahoma, may experience more serious earthquakes in the next few years.
On the other hand, the gas and oil industry argued that a link between human activities and earthquakes required additional study. Yet, the surge of new studies which prove that such link does exist may soon lead to tighter regulation on drillers which may force them to struggle more to get a project approved.
Scientists recently warned the industry that man-made quakes should be a very important concern that should be taken seriously by both drillers and regulators. Researchers also believe that the industry has several options to reduce the risk of further seismic activity. Such options include a closer monitoring of drilling operations, tighter regulations and recycling wastewater resulted in drilling rather than polluting groundwater with it.
Two more studies released this week reveal further evidence on the link between a method employed in gas and oil drilling and a surge in small-scale earthquakes.
The U.S. Geological Survey published the first set of maps that clearly show that in more than a dozen areas across the U.S. quakes became more frequent as drilling operations multiplied. According to the report, these quakes related to drilling operations mostly in central and eastern U.S. have been on the rise.
Geologists found that the most dangerous drilling method is wastewater injection at great depths underground. Only a few quakes have been linked to hydraulic fracking, a drilling method that uses large volumes of water and chemicals to crack rock formations and free gas and oil located underneath them.
Oklahoma, one of the states with the greatest gas and oil production, denied that a link between drilling and earthquakes existed. But the Oklahoma Geological Survey reported this week a “very likely” link between the wastewater injection method and more quakes across the state.
According to reports, Oklahoma now has 70 percent greater seismic activity than it had before 2008. Usually, the state only experienced 1.5 magnitude-3 earthquakes every year on average. But this average jumped to 2.5 quakes every day, scientists say.
Oklahoma residents have complained several times that increased seismic activity around wastewater disposal wells had damaged their homes. Many of them reported that their homes’ interior and exterior walls were cracked beyond repair and windows detached from the main structure.
Usually, people know what is causing the quakes.
Moreover, another study released Tuesday linked a surge in small-scale quakes in the western part of Fort Worth, Texas to wastewater injection drilling.
The industry announced via the American Petroleum Institute that it was conducting a series of studies to learn more about the issue and find proper solutions.
Image Source: Bloomberg