June 10, 2016 — In the last 40 years, 60% of earthquakes in Texas were caused by fracking and other oil and gas activity, according to a new study by researchers at at University of Texas at Austin.
Out of 162 earthquakes in the state since 1975 and 2015, the scientists said only 13% were natural. Last year, there were 21 earthquakes of 3.0-magnitude or greater.
After a 4.0-magnitude quake, officials asked the operator to plug it to a shallower depth — presumably to reduce the risk of disturbing a fault.
It’s not hard to see why fracking is controversial. The technique involves injecting fluid under high pressure into the ground, which shatters rocks and releases oil and gas.
The fluid contains a mixture of water, sand, and toxic chemicals. In addition to fears about groundwater contamination, fracking can also force open existing fault-lines and produce earthquakes.
Earthquakes are even more likely to occur near wastewater disposal wells, where huge amounts of water and chemicals are re-injected very deep underground and sealed off permanently.
Last year, Oklahoma had 890 earthquakes of 3.0-magnitude or greater compared to just one earthquake in 2007. The increase coincides with the fracking boom in the state’s oil fields.
In 2011, a 5.6-magnitude quake buckled road pavement and damaged dozens of homes — the biggest in the state’s history. In February, a 5.1-magnitude quake in Oklahoma was felt from Missouri to Texas.
The Oklahoma Geological Survey said it is “very likely” that most of the earthquakes are triggered by wastewater disposal wells. Insurance companies are limiting coverage for “man-made” earthquakes and hiking premiums for homeowners, according to Reuters.
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