Plan to make communities accept frac quakes damaging heart, home, wellbores and aquifers with **excitement**? “Start out with some level of risk – such as a 50 percent chance of 30 households experiencing shaking that feels exciting but not frightening”

Stanford scientists map local earthquake risks from Eagle Ford fracking, Stanford scientists simulated the local risk of damaging or nuisance-level shaking caused by hydraulic fracturing across the Eagle Ford shale formation in Texas. The results could inform a new approach to managing human-caused earthquakes by Josie Garthwaite, May 3, 2021, Stanford News Services

Hydraulic fracturing to extract trapped fossil fuels can trigger earthquakes. Most are so small or far from homes and infrastructure that they may go unnoticed; others can rattle windows, sway light fixtures and jolt people from sleep; some have damaged buildings.


Frac’d window in Edmond OK

Frac’d window in Central Alberta


Stanford University geophysicists have simulated and mapped the risk of noticeable shaking and possible building damage from earthquakes caused by hydraulic fracturing at all potential fracking sites across the Eagle Ford shale formation in Texas, which has hosted some of the largest fracking-triggered earthquakes in the United States.

Published April 29 in Science, the results show the most densely populated areas – particularly a narrow section of the Eagle Ford nestled between San Antonio and Houston – face the greatest risk of experiencing shaking strong enough to damage buildings or be felt by people. “We found that risks from nuisance or damage varies greatly across space, depending mostly on population density,” said lead study author Ryan Schultz, a PhD student in geophysics at Stanford.

Social license

Tens of thousands of wells drilled in the vast formation over the past decade helped to fuel the U.S. shale boom and contributed to a dramatic increase in earthquakes in the central and eastern U.S. starting around 2009. Although damaging earthquakes are rare, the authors write, “the perceived risks of hydraulic fracturing have both caused public concern and impeded industry development.” **Tell that to the many families living with significant damages, even after small frac quakes. Dismissing or trivializing the risks as “perceived,” it sounds to me like the oil and gas industry is leading/leaning this study to keep frac’ing and quaking us.**

In sparsely populated areas within the southwestern portion of the Eagle Ford, the researchers found damage is unlikely even if fracking causes earthquakes as large as magnitude 5.0. Allowing such powerful quakes, however, could jeopardize the “social license to operate,” they write. The phrase, which emerged within the mining industry in the 1990s…refers to the unofficial acceptance by local community members and broader civil society that oil, gas and mining operations need to do business without costly conflicts.

Seismicity is part of the social license for hydraulic fracturing, but far from the only issue,” said study co-author Bill Ellsworth, a geophysics research professor at Stanford’s School of Earth, Energy & Environmental Sciences (Stanford Earth). “Eliminating hydraulic fracturing seismicity altogether wouldn’t change any of the other concerns.”

Among those concerns are health threats from living near oil and gas wells and greenhouse gas emissions from fossil fuel production and use. California’s recent announcement of plans to stop issuing new permits for hydraulic fracturing by 2024, for example, comes as part of an effort to phase out oil extraction and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Starting with risk

The researchers say their goal is to make it easier for operators, regulators, local residents and property owners to discuss the risks that are important to them without technical expertise. “The approach we’ve developed provides the risk of nuisance or damage as a shared frame of reference and tools to evaluate it,” said study co-author and geophysics professor Greg Beroza, co-director of the Stanford Center for Induced and Triggered Seismicity (SCITS).

The new risk analysis applies a technique first published last year for considering where people and structures are located as well as forecasts for maximum earthquake magnitude and geological factors that can amplify or dampen tremors as they travel underground.

The approach makes it possible to start out with some level of risk – such as a 50 percent chance of 30 households experiencing shaking that feels exciting but not frightening, based on community questionnaires – and calculate the largest earthquake magnitude that would keep risk at or below that level.

The authors propose using this type of analysis as a starting point for managing earthquake risk caused by fracking using a system known as a traffic-light protocol.

**Do traffic-light protocols work? In my view, they are a useless mitigation tool – the fracs only get shut down after damages have occurred. Too late for harmed families, communities, wellbores, aquifers, etc. Traffic-light protocols appear to be more about conning communities into accepting the frac harms under the guise of pretend mitigation. Refer for more details below.**

Adopted in states including Ohio and Oklahoma to manage seismic hazards related to oil, gas and some geothermal energy development, traffic-light protocols give operators a green light to proceed as long as quakes remain relatively small. Larger earthquakes may require an operator to adjust or halt fluid injections, knowing that shaking may continue and even intensify after the pumps shut down.

“If the goal is to treat everyone equally in terms of risk, our analysis shows action should be taken at lower magnitudes for drill sites near the cities in the north of the Eagle Ford than for those in rural areas in the south,” explained Ellsworth, who is also a co-director of SCITS.

According to the researchers, it’s “unfair” to set a uniform threshold for the amount of shaking allowed across a large formation like the Eagle Ford. “Single valued thresholds can allow for thresholds that are too permissive in urban regions or too restrictive in rural regions,” said Beroza, the Wayne Loel Professor at Stanford Earth. “Instead, if you start with a tolerance to risk, you can set thresholds that vary according to changes in the risk.”

Beroza is also co-director of the Southern California Earthquake Center (SCEC).

This research was supported by SCITS.

To read all stories about Stanford science, subscribe to the biweekly Stanford Science Digest.

Media Contacts

Ryan Schultz, School of Earth, Energy & Environmental Sciences: email hidden; JavaScript is required

Bill Ellsworth, School of Earth, Energy & Environmental Sciences: email hidden; JavaScript is required

Greg Beroza, School of Earth, Energy & Environmental Sciences: email hidden; JavaScript is required

Josie Garthwaite, School of Earth, Energy & Environmental Sciences: (650) 497-0947; email hidden; JavaScript is required


Refer also to:

Prof Rebecca Harrington on frac quakes in western Canada: “The earthquakes do originate from industrial activities.” Research team from Ruhr-Universität Bochum (Germany) and McGill University (Canada) investigating when frac’ing shakes the earth

Frac’d to Hell NEBC, Kiskatinaw area: After fracs were stopped, quakes keep shaking

New study: NE BC, Dawson-Septimus area in Peace region (where Vicky Simlik lives frac’d by Encana/Ovintiv et al) hit with about 1,500 frac quakes annually

UK: “Frack Free Lancashire is delighted to learn that 35 days after they caused a 2.9ML earthquake which shook the Fylde and the confidence of their investors, Cuadrilla are finally demobilising…. The seismic activity which they provoked has not stopped though, with the 133rd event being recorded on Saturday, five weeks after they last fracked.

UK, Blackpool: Cuadrilla’s quakes won’t stop even though work ordered stopped. Bigger quake, 2.9M, damages countless homes, 450 residents protest, demand frac ban. Company’s earthquakes keep getting bigger: 2.1M quake, felt by residents, days after previous record set at 1.6M, also felt by residents. Cuadrilla had promised it would keep quakes below 0.5M

Another 5.6M Earthquake Hits Frac Ravaged Oklahoma: Mitigation Obviously Not Working! Quakes Increasing, No Matter How Many Injection Wells Shut Down or Injection Volumes Reduced. State Of Emergency Declared for Pawnee County. 58,628 people felt the quake, as far as 2,323 km away in Boston, MA

Felt reports to USGS, click on DYFI to see all 58,628 reports.

A few visuals of frac-related quake damages:

2016 09 03 snap from global news clip on Pawnee Oklahoma 5.6 M earthquake

More Frac Quakes Rumble ‘n Rock Oklahoma: The Big Warning Causes Sleepless Night for Thousands. When will the shaking stop? When will the “regulator” regulate?

The frac quakes go on & on & on: Oklahoma again orders oil & gas drillers to reduce amount of frac waste water injected. Why? The natural gas leak & home explosion in Oklahoma City? Where will the frac waste go?

Vesta Energy Ltd update on 4.6M fracquake near Red Deer March 4, 2019 that knocked out power to 4,600 Fortis Alberta customers, some reports of damage including to home driveway and underground electrical line.

Rimbey-area landowner, Stan Pederson, experienced damages to driveway and underground electrical line (requires $2,500.00 repair) at time of Vesta’s 4.6M frac quake; is worried area water wells might have been cracked by the quake felt 50 km away. What about cracks to energy well bores? How many are leaking hydrocarbons into groundwater and or to surface because of frac quakes?

4.6M earthquake, 1 km in depth, most powerful yet in central Alberta, hits SW of Red Deer, cracks walls in homes, knocks power out to thousands. Vesta Energy reports quake to AER, shuts down frac’ing. AER investigating. Geological Survey of Canada says looks like fra’cing didn’t do it.

New study: Hydraulic fracturing volume is associated with induced earthquake productivity in Duvernay play, Fox Creek Alberta Ryan Schultz was part of this study.

Another Study! Federal and provincial scientists, BC OGC and AER Prove hydraulic fracturing directly caused (August 17, 2015) 4.6M frac quake in NE BC Ryan Schultz also part of this one.

Fox Creek, Alberta Frac Quakes start up again; New Study by Standford Scientists: Small earthquakes at frac sites may be early indicators of bigger quakes to come; Surprising Finding: Arkansas earthquakes mostly caused by hydraulic fracturing, only some by wastewater injection, None caused by trucks

AER allows Repsol to resume fracking after causing world record 4.8M frac quake [ie not from waste injection but caused by fracing directly] (felt 280 km away near Edmonton) in AER’s Fox Creek Blanket Approval Frac Frenzy Free-for-All Experiment. But, Repsol appears too shaken to resume

2016 01 12 Ernst vs AER Supreme Court of Canada hearing followed by 4.8M quake in AER’s Immoral Blanket Approval Frac Experiment Gone Wild, felt 280km away

USGS Study: Oil drilling may have caused 1933 California 6.4M Long Beach earthquake that killed about 120 people and caused massive damages. “There may be no upper limit” to the size of earthquakes caused by the oil industry

Sure, roll out the traffic lights for us rural guinea pigs!

Frac Waste Quakes Make Time Magazine: The U.S.’s New Earthquake Capital: Oklahoma. “Some seismologists say that even if all disposal activity stopped in the state immediately, there could be earthquakes for decades.

Canadian Geophysicist Dr. Gail Atkinson: Provinces must do more to prevent fracking-induced earthquakes

BC Regulator: 4.6 quake in August 2015 triggered by fracking largest on record, OGC finds while Geological Survey of Canada experts get their frack quake harm facts mixed up

Former Oklahoma state seismologist Austin Holland confirmed industry pressure and conflicts of interest by state officials handling swarms of frac waste quakes shaking & damaging the state

More lies & frac fraud? Why did AER’s Darin Barter (now NEB) suggest trucks to blame for citizens feeling frac quakes at Cardson? Why not tell the truth? Why are regulators and “experts” so loath to publicly disclose fracing’s many public safety risks?

“It’s pretty unlikely these events would have been felt at the surface,” said Barter. “If anything, it would have been close to a rumble under your feet, like a truck driving by.

Fox Creek: Yet another earthquake in AER’s deregulated blanket approval frac experiment. Fracking-Related Earthquakes Could Ding Credit Quality

Since frac’ing, earthquakes now frequent near Fort St. John; Why is OGC lying about drinking water contamination caused by hydraulic fracturing?

Since frac’ing, earthquakes now frequent near Fort St. John; Why is OGC lying about drinking water contamination caused by hydraulic fracturing?

Listen To The Quakes & The Many, Not The Money. 2013: “These fluids are driving faults to their tipping point.” Is this what frac’d communities have to look forward to? 2016: 7.1M earthquake

NE BC: Monday’s 4.5 Magnitude frac quake, felt from Pink Mountain to Fort St. John (180 km), ‘likely’ caused by Progress Energy, OGC confirms

Special Report by Andrew Nikiforuk: Fracking Industry Has Changed Earthquake Patterns in Northeast BC, Impact on groundwater and migrating gases mostly unknown

Oil companies can be sued by earthquake victim in 7-0 Oklahoma Supreme Court ruling, Oklahoma has been hit by a dramatic spike in earthquakes in last 5 years

Do we need another “independent” frac study? The AER asks: How far do we go? Fox Creek residents react to the latest 4.4 Magnitude quake

Chevron reported 3.6 magnitude event; Shut down by AER. Is the AER’s Frac Quake Stop Light System Irrelevant? Another 4.4 Magnitude Earthquake at Fox Creek

Oklahoma, Noble County 5.1 magnitude earthquake, OGS and USGS reported it as 4.2: “What are they up to? Do they really believe they can hide a 5.1 magnitude earthquake from us?

Oil & gas execs ‘pressured’ Oklahoma geologists not to reveal fracking-quakes link; Industry Pressure Kept Oklahoma’s Scientists Silent on Earthquake-Fracking Link Since 2010: Report

AER Master Deregulator promises regulation while bamboozling media and the public. UK frac quake “red light” is 0.5M, in Alberta, it’s 4.0M 

UK, which ceased frac’ing because of the frac quakes:

Compare to Alberta, full steam frac ‘n quake ahead:

Alberta frack operation near Devon shattered home window; No wonder Edmonton-area residents are protesting fracing near their homes

Lawsuit: Quakes caused by frack water disposal damaged homes, Two Alvarado homeowners are suing several energy companies saying they induced earthquakes that damaged their homes

UK: The Geological Society, The Petroleum Exploration Society of Great Britain Submission to DECC Consultation: Preece Hall Shale Gas Fracturing – Review & Recommendations for Induced Seismic Mitigation

USGS to make separate risk map for man-made quakes; National Research Council excludes 272 frac-caused quakes in BC’s Horn River Basin off global map

Sneaky buggers! The 272 earthquakes found by Canadian regulators to have been directly caused by hydraulic fracturing, officially reported in August 2012, are excluded, as well as the many caused by frac’ing in the USA to mid-2011, long before this map was created. Why are only the quakes caused by Cuadrilla in the UK included on the map?

Why are authorities hiding that hydraulic fracturing (not just waste water injection) is directly causing earthquakes?

BC frac quakes also caused deformation to energy well bores, as in the UK

Investigation of Observed Seismicity in the Horn River Basin

2000: Seismicity in the Oil Field

The gas field was discovered in 1956 and production began in 1962. Over the next 14 years, roughly 600×106 m3 of water, or 106 ton per km2, were injected. …

Beginning in 1976, a series of large earthquakes was recorded. The first significant earthquake occurred on April 8, 1976 at a distance of 20 km [12 miles] from the Gazli gasfield boundary. The earthquake magnitude measured 6.8. Just 39 days later, on May 17, 1976, another severe earthquake occurred 27 km [17 miles] to the west of the first one. The magnitude of the second earthquake was 7.3. Eight years later, on March 20, 1984, a third earthquake occurred 15 km [9miles] to the west of the second earthquake, with a magnitude of 7.2. … Aftershocks occurred in a volume surrounding the three hypocentres. These earthquakes are the strongest of all the known earthquakes in the plain of Central Asia. …

There was no clear relationship between the location of the earthquake hypocenters and any previously known active tectonic structures.

Closer investigation showed that the earthquakes had created new faults.

… In all these cases, the result of human interference was to change the state of stress in the surrounding volume of earth. If the stress change is big enough, it can cause an earthquake, either by fracturing the rock mass—in the case of mining or underground explosions—or by causing rock to slip along existing zones of weakness.

The situation in regions of hydrocarbon recovery is not always well understood: in some places, extraction of fluid induces seismicity; in others, injection induces seismicity.

Even minor actions can trigger strong seismicity.

… The amassed data indicate that the Gazli earthquakes were triggered by the exploitation of the gas field.

… In regions of high tectonic potential energy, hydrocarbon production can cause severe increases in seismic activity and trigger strong earthquakes, as in Gazli, Uzbekistan.

In regions of lower tectonic stress, earthquakes of that magnitude are less likely, but relatively weak earthquakes could occur and damage surface structures.

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