Waste water injection well caused 12 earthquakes in Ohio

Saltwater Tanks

It seems a day can’t go by without reading some new controversy regarding racking, or hydraulic fracturing as it is technically known. The EPA, already investigating claims of ground water contamination as a result of fracking, can now add to their list another side effect of fracking; earthquakes.

In Youngstown, Ohio, a series of earthquakes occurred between March 31st 2011 and December 31 2011. The quakes, 12 in total, all occurred within a 3 mile radius of the Northstar 1 injection well, according to the Ohio Seismic Network, a division of the Ohio Department of Natural Resources. The earthquakes ranged in magnitude from 2.1 to 4.0 and occurred 3 months after the well went into operation. The day of the last quake on December 31st occurred the day after the well was shut down.

In a 24-page preliminary report of its investigation into the quakes, the Ohio Department of Natural Resources  stated “Geologists believe it is very difficult for all conditions to be met to induce seismic events,” but that “a number of coincidental circumstances appear to make a compelling argument for the recent Youngstown-area seismic events to have been induced.”

As a result of the ODNR report Ohio regulators on Friday unleashed a series of new permitting rules for injection well drilling that could limit or slow down the number of new injection wells. The recent boom in fracking has also lead to a boom in the production of millions of gallons of chemically laced water used to fracture the shale containing the gas and oil.

Since the Ohio Department of Natural Resources began overseeing fracking operations, and specifically brine injection well programs, nearly 8.5 billion gallons of water have been injected into wells. According to the ODNR, this has been without any ground water contamination or earthquakes.

The International Energy Agency anticipates the use of natural gas to rise to be over 25% of world energy demand by 2035, well outpacing the growth of wind, solar, and other renewable energy sources. And while proponents of natural gas hail it as a cleaner energy source, the process of extracting this energy from the ground is anything but clean.

Image credit: Arimoore via Flicker Creative Commons

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Author: Chris Keenan


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