Seismic risk of fracking has been wildly overstated: Kemp, EARTHQUAKES: Scientists link Colo., Okla. temblors to drilling activities

Seismic risk of fracking has been wildly overstated: Kemp by John Kemp, December 5, 2012, Reuters
Hydraulic fracturing to produce oil and gas has become closely associated in the public mind with the risk of triggering man-made earthquakes. But the risk is not high and it is not confined to fracking.There may be greater danger from geothermal energy production and pumping carbon dioxide underground as part of carbon capture and storage projects. Those are the findings of an authoritative study on the risk of man-made (“induced”) seismicity carried out by the U.S. National Academy of Sciences at the request of Congress (“Induced Seismicity Potential in Energy Technologies” 2012).

Fracking fears appeared to be justified after a British government enquiry held the technology responsible for a series of tremors in April and May 2011 at Preese Hall near Blackpool, the largest of which had a magnitude of 2.3 on the Richter scale, big enough to be felt by local residents. Fracking has also been linked to a “swarm” of 50 small earthquakes in Oklahoma on Jan 18, 2011, ranging in magnitude from 1.0 to 2.8, which occurred at the same time as the fracking of a well in the Eola Oil Field. But these are the only two confirmed cases where induced seismic activity has been linked to fracking. [Emphasis added]

[Refer also to: WATCH: Cochrane resident Howard Hawkwood worries CAPP’s new fracking guidelines too weak, Alberta rancher says he’s felt many tremors on his property

Investigation of Observed Seismicity in the Horn River Basin Conclusion – Horn River Basin seismicity events, from 2009 to late 2011, were caused by fluid injection during hydraulic fracturing. All events occurred during or between hydraulic fracturing stage operations.

Source:  Slide from Ernst presentation From Cape Town to the Yukon in Whitehorse, September 22, 2012

What’s with all the Fracking Earthquakes

New voluntary CAPP guidelines to monitor, respond to earthquakes caused by fracking ]

EARTHQUAKES: Scientists link Colo., Okla. temblors to drilling activities by Mike Soraghan, E&E, December 3, 2012, E & E News
Scientists are saying with increased certainty that two damaging earthquakes in 2011 — one in Colorado, the other in Oklahoma — were triggered by oil and gas production activities. Studies by seismologists from the U.S. Geological Survey, the University of Oklahoma and Columbia University have found the quakes were caused by the deep underground injection of drilling waste. … Seismologists have been suspicious from the start that the convulsions were caused by human activity, or “induced.” Now, with additional study, they are asserting a connection more definitively. USGS scientists had been equivocal about links between drilling and chronic seismic activity near Trinidad, Colo., punctuated by a magnitude-5.3 convulsion in August 2011. According to an abstract for this week’s conference, they have now concluded that most, if not all, of the quakes “have been triggered by the deep injection of wastewater related to the production of natural gas from the coal-bed methane field here.”

University of Oklahoma seismologist Katie Keranen reported earlier this year that there was “a compelling link” between injection and the magnitude-5.6 earthquake in November that injured at least two people and damaged up to 200 structures east of Oklahoma City. Next week, she will present the results of a study done with researchers from USGS and Columbia finding that it was “likely triggered by fluid injection.” But these findings continue to be dismissed as premature by state government scientists in Colorado and Oklahoma and all but ignored by oil and gas regulators (EnergyWire, July 25). … “It’s still an open question,” Colorado state geologist Vince Matthews said in an interview Friday. “These cowboys from USGS are sure these are induced. They’re jumping to conclusions.” The findings are part of a slew of reports at the AGU meeting about the connection between drilling waste, hydraulic fracturing and earthquakes. University of Texas scientist Cliff Frolich is to present his findings that injection from Barnett Shale drilling in Texas is causing more earthquakes than previously thought (EnergyWire, Aug. 7), and researchers from Columbia’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory are to discuss a “swarm” of 82 earthquakes in 2011 in Youngstown, Ohio, that state officials have attributed to waste injection (EnergyWire, July 12). The specific practice of hydraulic fracturing, as opposed to disposal of frack waste, has not been blamed for damaging earthquakes. But researchers from Oxford are to attend the meeting to discuss a magnitude-2.3 earthquake in England attributed to fracturing (EnergyWire, May 11).

Matthews, Colorado’s top geologist, is unconvinced. He said researchers should wait on more data being gathered by Irving, Texas-based Pioneer Natural Resources, the major driller in the area. He said the company has put 15 seismometers down holes in the area and is getting very precise readings. “The data that industry is collecting is fascinating,” Matthews said. “We’ve never had precision like that in Colorado before.” But Justin Rubinstein, who worked with McGarr and fellow USGS scientist Bill Ellsworth on the study, said USGS had no guarantee that it would ever be able to review the data and did not need to wait. “We could have been waiting for nothing,” [Emphasis added]

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