New USGS Report Links Fracking and Earthquakes

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

Akhila is the Founding Director of GreenDen Consultancy which is dedicated to offering business analysis, reporting and marketing solutions powered by sustainability and social responsibility. Based in the US, Europe, and India, the GreenDen's consultants share the best practices and innovation from around the globe to achieve real results. She has previously written about CSR and ethical consumption for Justmeans and hopes to put a fresh spin on things for this column. As an IEMA certified CSR practitioner, she hopes to highlight a new way of doing business. She believes that consumers have the immense power to change 'business as usual' through their choices. She is a Graduate in Molecular Biology from the University of Glasgow, UK and in Environmental Management and Law. In her free-time she is a voracious reader and enjoys photography, yoga, travelling and the great outdoors. She can be contacted via Twitter @aksvi and also