More evidence linking fracking wastewater disposal to earthquakes

Here at BoingBoing, we've talked before about the fact that earthquakes can be triggered by things humans do — everything from building particularly large reservoir to, most likely, injecting wastewater from fracking operations into underground wells. After a 5.7 earthquake hit Oklahoma in 2011, researchers there began gathering evidence that is making the link between rumbling earth and oil-and-gas discovery a lot stronger. At Mother Jones, Michael Behar has a story about this research and and how it is (and isn't) affecting the industry.


  1. “The only thing that’s going to stop this is another big earthquake.” Yeah, right. We’ve had that, and nothing’s changed. As banks are too big to fail, the oil industry is too big to sue.

  2. Back in 1961, the Department of Defense was busy manufacturing nerve gas at an arsenal near Denver, CO.  Not sure what to do with the waste products, they got the brilliant idea to drill a 12,000 foot deep well and just pump the waste down there.  An ensuing series of earthquakes eventually caused a rethinking of that particular waste disposal scheme.

    Despite halting the disposal, “a year and half after the Rocky Mountain Arsenal waste dumping practice stopped, the strongest and most widely felt shock in Denver’s history struck that area on August 9, 1967, at 6:25 in the morning. The magnitude 5.3 tremor caused the most serious damage at Northglenn, where concrete pillar supports to a church roof were weakened, and 20 windows were broken. An acoustical ceiling and light fixtures fell at one school. Many homeowners reported wall, ceiling, floor, patio, sidewalk, and foundation cracks. Several reported basement floors separated from walls. Extremely loud, explosivelike earth noises were heard. Damage on a lesser scale occurred throughout the area.”

  3. Excellent.  If there is compelling evidence that this works, it should be done as much as possible. Because there is no way that pumping waste water into the ground is inserting enough energy into the rock structure to *make* a 5.7 earthquake.  If it’s *triggering* one, then it’s only releasing stored strain energy already present in the rocks, saving the descendents of people living in that area from a 5.7+ earthquake later on. It’s practically a humanitarian life-saving effort. If anything, the recovery of fossil fuels is the undesirable side-effect.

      1. The profits are of course driving the effort to get the hydrocarbons. Which is a pity, because we probably need to back off from the mad scramble to burn moar carbon for a while and plan for a soft landing as the fossil fuels begin to run out.

        However, misinformed public panic about fracking isn’t going to result in  good policy decisions if well-supported evidence of climate change hasn’t. And the elephant in the room is the economic dependence on finite resources coupled with a credit-driven demand for endless economic growth. Governments and the media are all carefully looking the other way for the most part. It will all end in tears.

  4. I know about the practice of fracking as related to oil and gas, but when I read the headline I nonetheless saw that word as an adjective.

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