« Back to Home Page

Sign up for the 3p daily dispatch:

New USGS Report Links Fracking and Earthquakes

| Thursday April 5th, 2012 | 6 Comments

The US Geological Survey (USGS) will be presenting a paper next month at the annual meeting of the Seismological Society of America in San Diego. The paper will directly link an “unprecedented” increase in frequency and magnitude of earthquakes to drilling for oil and gas.

This link is not a new one. The USGS already linked about 50 earthquakes in Oklahoma due to fracking. Their investigation found that the earthquakes had a magnitude ranging from 1.0 to 2.8. In January, a single earthquake of the magnitude of 4.0 was strong enough that it was felt in Toronto. The bulk of these occurred within 2.1 miles of Eola Field, a fracking operation in southern Garvin County.

From the report:

Our analysis showed that shortly after hydraulic fracturing began small earthquakes started occurring, and more than 50 were identified, of which 43 were large enough to be located. Most of these earthquakes occurred within a 24 hour period after hydraulic fracturing operations had ceased. There have been previous cases where seismologists have suggested a link between hydraulic fracturing and earthquakes, but data was limited, so drawing a definitive conclusion was not possible for these cases.

In April and May, two small earthquakes near Blackpool, in England also contributed to suspicions of a link between earthquakes and fracking. Finally, the company responsible,  Cuadrilla Resources, admitted that its shale fracking operations were indeed responsible.

The latest report from USGS states that:

In Oklahoma, the rate of M >= 3 events abruptly increased in 2009 from 1.2/year in the previous half-century to over 25/year. This rate increase is exclusive of the November 2011 M 5.6 earthquake and its aftershocks. A naturally-occurring rate change of this magnitude is unprecedented outside of volcanic settings or in the absence of a main shock, of which there were neither in this region.

Although the report links earthquakes to drilling activities, it is still too early to say whether this is due to the increase in rate of drilling or a specific technique. However the fact remains that it is now an indisputable fact that fracking causes abnormal seismic activity. This definitely puts the oil and gas industry as the most environmentally damaging enterprise. The sooner we are able to switch to more renewable sources of energy, the better.

Image Credit: Martin Luff, Flickr, CC BY 2.0


Newsletter Signup
  • Stephen Johnson

    Google ‘Fayetteville Shale’  FRACKING is bad science, we can do better than making land unusable…can’t we?

  • Guest

    You need to get your facts straight and stop posting
    misinformation.  About 20 mins ago on
    CNBC the “USGS study author [of the study in question stated]: NO relationship
    b/w fracking & earthquakes. Quakes caused by disposal of waste water into
    ground” http://www.cnbc.com/id/15840232?video=3000082962&play=1 

    • Alex

      This is correct, however, that waste water is from the fracking process. So there is a link, it is just not as direct as many people have claimed.

      • Pharmanco

        GASFRAC’s use of LPG instead of water results in no waste water to dispose of, therefore, no earthquakes. Plus other advantages.

  • Italy

    Now in Italy had occurred several earthquakes above 5 degrees.

  • jasmine

    when did this happen?