Fracking may be causing earthquakes in Oklahoma

Fracking - Earthquakes

Hundreds of small tremors that have occurred over the past year may be related to hydraulic fracturing.

Oklahoma, a state that is known for its high tornado activity, may now be at a greater risk of earthquakes and some geologists believe that the increased number of tremors the state has been experiencing in the past several months may be related to fracking.

U.S. scientists warn that the state may be in for a major earthquake.

According to the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS),”The rate of earthquakes in Oklahoma has increased by about 50 percent since October 2013, significantly increasing the chance for a damaging quake in central Oklahoma.”

Earthquakes do occur in the Sooner State but for the most part they are rare. However, based on the findings of a recent USGS and Oklahoma Geological Survey analysis, between January 2014 and May 2, 2014, 145 earthquakes of 3.0 or higher magnitude occurred in Oklahoma, which topped the 109 earthquake record that was set in 2013.

Geologists believe that fracking may be linked to the seismic activity.

“The recent earthquake rate changes [in Oklahoma] are not due to typical, random fluctuations in natural seismicity rates,” said the USGS.

Hydraulic fracturing is a controversial mining technique that is used to extract oil and natural gas from rock deposits deep within the earth. Also known as hydrofracturing, this energy technology extraction process involves injecting a water mixture (i.e. water, sand and chemicals) at high pressure underground via a wellbore, which creates small cracks in the porous rock formations so gas and oil can be extracted.

According to the USGS, the water injection process used in fracking can raise underground pressures, lubricate faults and create earthquakes. This is a method referred to as “injection-induced seismicity”.

Nevertheless, despite the controversy surrounding this energy extraction technique, those in favor of it see fracking in a more positive light. Since coming to the state, fracking has boosted employment and is a source of revenue that the state desperately needs. Several energy companies do not believe there is a connection between the recent earthquakes and hydraulic fracturing.

Nonetheless, whether fracking is linked to the increased rate of tremors or not, what is likely to be true is, if there is a major earthquake in Oklahoma as scientists predict, strong seismic activity could cause severe damage to structures that were designed with tornado winds in mind, not quakes.

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