Scientists discover that hydraulic fracturing caused earthquakes in the state last March.
A new scientific study, released earlier this week by the Seismological Society of America, has confirmed that fracking for natural gas in the Ohio portion of the Marcellus Shale was responsible for a series of earthquakes in the region that occurred in early March 2014, including one that was strong enough to be felt by the community.
The study identified 77 “frackquakes”.
The Miami University scientists who conducted the study identified 77 earthquakes in the Poland Township of Ohio. The quakes varied in size, ranging in magnitudes from 1.0 to 3.0, and occurred between March 4 and March 12, 2014. All of them were located near oil and gas wells and the 3.0 quake that occurred on Mach 10 was felt by the local community.
Robert Skoumal, a co-author of the study and a graduate student in seismology at Ohio’s Miami University, said that the 3.0 quake was one of the largest earthquakes in the U.S. related to hydraulic fracturing. Skoumal also pointed out that before fracking started in the Poland Township region, no earthquakes were ever recorded in this area and that once fracking was shut down, the quakes stopped.
That being said, it is important to point out that the study does not prove that all fracking creates earthquakes. What it does suggest, however, is that hydrofracturing has the potential to cause them when operations are carried out near fault lines.
Research suggests that fracking may be causing earthquakes in more than one way.
While the most recent published study links the actual process of hydraulic fracturing to earthquake activity, other researchers are investigating if there is a correlation between the wastewater disposal process involved in the controversial mining process and seismic activity.
The disposal process involves injecting wastewater back underground and there is a growing belief among scientists that this underground fluid travels along inactive fault lines, re-activates them, and causes earthquakes.
However, while the evidence may be getting stronger, the research regarding quakes and the disposal of fracking wastewater is still preliminary. The problem is it is often challenging to determine which seismic events result from human activity and which are natural.