The startling increase in earthquakes across US is "almost certainly man-made"

USGS scientists have been investigating the recent increase in the number of magnitude 3 and greater earthquakes in the midcontinent of the United States. These earthquakes are fairly small – large enough to have been felt by many people, yet small enough to rarely have caused damage. Scientists used ultra-sensitive quake-sensing technology to track mid-western tremors and watched the number of quakes jump from a steady background of 20 tremors a year to 50 in 2009, 87 in 2010 and a whopping 134 last year. Clearly, something strange was going on.

Beginning in 2001, the average number of earthquakes occurring per year of magnitude 3 or greater increased significantly, culminating in a six-fold increase in 2011 over 20th century levels. A team of USGS scientists analyzed changes in the rate of earthquake occurrence in the midcontinent using large USGS databases of earthquakes recorded since 1970.  The number of M3 or greater earthquakes increases steadily at about 21 events per year until around 2000, when it increases about 50% to 31 events per year. By 2004, the number increased sharply to about 151 events per year.



The modest increase that began in 2001 is due to increased seismicity in the coal bed methane field of the Raton Basin along the Colorado-New Mexico border west of Trinidad, CO. The acceleration in activity that began in 2009 appears to involve a combination of source regions of oil and gas production, including the Guy, Arkansas region, and in central and southern Oklahoma. Oklahoma experienced the largest earthquake in the state history on Nov. of 2011, the quake measured 5.6 on the Richter scale and hit outside of Oklahoma City.  An LA Times article suggested fracking could have been the cause.

The nation’s midsection is typically quiet, geologically speaking. The thick basement rock underlying the U.S. Midwest is full of faults, just like basement rock everywhere. But earthquakes only happen when something changes the stress regime enough to unlock those faults. In quake-prone places such as California and Japan, the edges of tectonic plates are shoving past each other. Near active volcanoes, magma presses on the rocks as it pushes its way up from below.

Man-made earthquakes are real, they are proliferating across the U.S. Midwest, and the oil and gas industry is "almost certainly" responsible.

A naturally-occurring rate change of this magnitude is unprecedented outside of volcanic settings or in the absence of a main shock, of which there were neither in the region. That is why USGS team conclude that the startling increase is "almost certainly man-made.

Gas drilling is on the rise around the country, especially hydraulic fracturing. Hydrofracking uses billions of gallons of water a year to crack deep rock and release natural gas. Some have suspected that fracking was causing quakes, but evidence in several parts of the country points to wastewater wells, where companies dump used frack water. The culprit of earthquakes near fracking sites is not believed to be the act of drilling and fracturing the shale itself, but rather the disposal wells.

Hydraulic frac­tur­ing or “frack­ing”

Hydraulic frac­tur­ing or “frack­ing” is a tech­nol­ogy used to extract nat­ural gas that lies within a shale rock for­ma­tion thou­sands of feet beneath the earth’s surface. Com­bined with another tech­nique called “hor­i­zon­tal drilling,” nat­ural gas com­pa­nies are able to drill for pre­vi­ously untapped reserves. Hor­i­zon­tal drilling allows one sur­face well to tap gas trapped over hun­dreds of acres. Once the con­ven­tional ver­ti­cle drill hits the shale for­ma­tion, it turns hor­i­zon­tally in sev­eral direc­tions. The well is then cased with steel and cement. Explo­sives are places at inter­vals along the hor­i­zon­tal sec­tion of the well to per­fo­rate the steel cas­ing. Under very high pres­sure, a com­bi­na­tion of water, sand and chem­i­cals is sent deep into the earth to cre­ate cracks and fis­sures in the shale rock. Those fis­sures are held open by the sand, allow­ing the natural gas to flow through those cracks, into the well bore and up to the surface.



Indus­try says the process is safe and does not pol­lute drink­ing water sup­plies. But a grow­ing move­ment of envi­ron­men­tal­ists, sci­en­tists and res­i­dents worry that the chem­i­cals used in the frack­ing process will leak into aquifers. Waste­water from the process returns to the sur­face con­t­a­m­i­nated with some of those chem­i­cals, as well as buried salts and nat­u­rally occur­ring radioac­tive mate­r­ial. That waste­water needs to be treated, or buried in con­tain­ment wells.

Click here for explanation of the hydraulic frac­tur­ing process


USGS’s studies do not claim that hydraulic fracturing causes the increased rate of earthquakes. USGS’s scientists have found, however, that at some locations the increase in seismicity coincides with the injection of wastewater in deep disposal wells. While it appears likely that the observed seismicity rate changes in the middle part of the United States in recent years are manmade, it remains to be determined if they are related to either changes in production methodologies or to the rate of oil and gas production. Fracking has been linked to everything from polluted water to earthquakes, but the rush toward developing the practice hasn't slowed much.


Wastewater disposal wells can induce earthquakes

The fact that the disposal (injection) of wastewater produced while extracting resources has the potential to cause earthquakes has long been known. Wastewater is a byproduct of oil and natural gas production from tight shale formations and coal beds. Generally, wastewater produced from many oil and gas production wells within a field may be injected through a single or just a few disposal wells. Waste wells are often deeper than gas drilling wells, down into basement rock where faults are more common. The high water pressure basically separates a fault that has locked in place; the fault moves and creates a quake.

There are more than 50,000 disposal wells in Texas servicing more than 216,000 active drilling wells, according to the Railroad Commission. Each well uses about 4.5 million gallons of chemical-laced water, according to hydraulicfracturing.com.

In preliminary findings, scientists cite a series of examples for which an uptick in seismic activity is observed in areas where the disposal of wastewater through deep-well injection increased significantly. These areas tend to be in the middle of the country – mostly in Colorado, Texas, Arkansas, Oklahoma and Ohio.



Not all wastewater disposal wells induce earthquakes. Of approximately 150,000 Class II injection wells in the United States, including roughly 40,000 waste fluid disposal wells for oil and gas operations, only a tiny fraction of these disposal wells have induced earthquakes that are large enough to be of concern to the public. Information on wastewater disposal wells and the US Environmental Protection Agency's Underground Injection Control program is available online. Earthquakes induced by fluid-injection activities are not always located close to the point of injection. In some cases, the induced earthquakes have been located as far as 6 miles from the injection well.

One of the earliest documented case histories with a scientific consensus of wastewater inducing earthquakes, is at the Rocky Mountain Arsenal well, near Denver. There, a large volume of wastewater was injected from 1962-1966, inducing a series of earthquakes (below magnitude 5).

Environmentalists have repeatedly pressed regulators to compel oil and gas companies to report what chemicals they use in the drilling and fracking process. Drilling companies add these chemicals to perform particular functions (for example, to prevent corrosion or give the fluid the right consistency), or leave them in because they're too expensive to remove. According to a 2011 congressional report, many of the chemicals used can pose a serious health risk. No one knows the exact makeup of the frack mixture, drilling muds and other stuff used at well sites (which change from well to well), but this list breaks down the main ingredients revealed so far. A full list of chemicals can be found at fracfocus.org, a website dedicated to chemical disclosure. (Find out more here)

FAQs - Earthquakes Induced by Fluid Injection




“And as long as I’m president, we’re going to keep on encouraging oil development and infrastructure, and we’re going to do it in a way that protects the health and safety of the American people,”  Barack Obama 



Areas of west Texas and eastern New Mexico are experiencing a new energy rush, with prosperity spilling far beyond the oil fields. Fracking requires huge quantities of water, which is hard to come by in the desert. If fracking continues expanding, water experts say aquifers in the desert area could run dry. And that's just one among the litany of concerns.

The Earth’s crust is pervasively fractured at depth by faults. These faults can sustain high stresses without slipping because natural "tectonic" stress and the weight of the overlying rock pushes the opposing sides of the fault together, increasing the frictional resistance to fault slip. The injected wastewater in deep wells can counteract the frictional forces on faults, causing an earthquake.

Comments

James R. McGillawee 1 year ago

Injecting oil industry waste water has been going on for over 5 decades in Alberta and Saskatchewan and maybe Manitoba, too! Particularly around Lloydminster where the asphaltic crude oil bears locked in salt water and sediments, the Oil and Gas Conservation Boards have required this strong saline mixture to be disposed of back down hole to a structure that is compatible with its composition. These salts are both Potassium and Sodium. I don't recall ever hearing about any earthquakes in this area, ever! In more recent years, there has been secondary as well as tertiary recovery methods to boost production, ie. "water flooding" and "and fire flooding" to increase the down hole pressures that will aid pumping extraction! It has also been known for a long time that the accelerated extraction in Wyoming, USA has caused earthquakes in areas that had never experienced them before. This earthquake phenomenon diminished and ceased once those fields employed "water flooding" secondary recovery techniques! This is obviously a more complex field of study than is implied by your article IMNSHO

Pat 1 year ago

Although no one may have measured the degree of weight or solid surface required to support the stresses places upon planet earth by mankind, elementary schoolers learn that bridges are not self supporting without more. It may be unknown how many oil and gas executives would allow anyone to dig beneath the chair they sit in to see how long it takes for the earth to give way under that chair to cause a cave in, i.e. implosion, all engineering and architectural specs include load bearing requirements in the construction of buildings and bridges that oil and gas executives, nor Congress, should be allowed to ignore. If holes are put in the earth, and contamnants added, surely, it is common sense that subgrade destruction is equally as harmful as above grade destruction, or pollution. That there may not be enough regulation to prevent ignorance from destroying the earth is becoming obvious in the ruminations of impending disasters that could be caused by such inaction; and Congress is alone in that responsibility, being elected as the watchguards with all of the resources to prevent wholesale destruction of the planet. But are they shirking that duty in not studying, examining, and regulating in that regard? Commerce, like individual citizens, have never had the right to destroy the earth. But are they being allowed to currently and for the future?

Lotter 2 years ago

Terremoto pela atividade humana, é o chamado terremoto induzido de frequência baixa. Esse terremoto só pode chegar na superfície a 3,0 na escala richeter. Primeiro as pessoas não tem noção de geologia. Segundo o projeto HAARP é de um grupo de pesquisa do IPCC que fala que o aquecimento global é causado pelo homem.Tudo que está sendo causado essa instabilidade terrestre é a instabilidade solar. Nosso campo magnético a qualquer momento pode mudar sua polaridade, onde gerará uma grande instabilidade na dinamica interna. Eu tenho um teoria que explica todo esse processo e tenho evidencias. Estamos prestes de uma mudança de polaridade no campo magnético terrestre, o instituto de geofísica da russia já disse que essa mudança acontecerá em breve, eu conconcordo. Os sinais está cada dia mais evidentes, pois o instituto de geologico da russia disse que o começo da era glacial acontecerá apartir de 2014. Já os institutos norte-americanos estão camuflando verdades, como a NASA por exemplo.Quem tem ideias claras e consegue deduzir, já está claro, aqueles que não conseguem compreender procure estudar.A elite vai colocar o HAARP como verdade igual o aquecimento global causado pelo homem. Then speak that brazil is donkey?

Marcos 2 years ago

Name of scientists or group inside USGS? I've been to their website and nothing is said. I think that's a fake hoax.

Chillymanjaro (@Marcos) 2 years ago

David J. Hayes, Deputy Secretary, U.S. Department of the Interior made a story "Is the Recent Increase in Felt Earthquakes in the Central US Natural or Manmade?" (http://www.doi.gov/news/doinews/Is-the-Recent-Increase-in-Felt-Earthquakes-in-the-Central-US-Natural-or-Manmade.cfm) And here is the link to the story on USGS website: http://www.usgs.gov/blogs/features/usgs_top_story/is-the-recent-increase-in-felt-earthquakes-in-the-central-us-natural-or-manmade/?from=title Others that contributed the research are ELLSWORTH, W. L., US Geological Survey, Menlo Park, CA, ; HICKMAN, S. H., US Geological Survey, Menlo Park, CA, ; LLEONS, A. L., US Geological Survey, Menlo Park, CA, ; MCGARR, A., US Geological Survey, Menlo Park, CA, ; MICHAEL, A. J., US Geological Survey, Menlo Park, CA, ; RUBINSTEIN, J. L., US Geological Survey, Menlo Park, CA, We at THE WATCHERS belive that fracking and disposal wells can influence the increasing of the earthquakes in areas that are drilled.

grant 2 years ago

Hey3! Peepole! Lets not squabble, huh? Lets just say, the Fubble-monster at the earth's core woke up, and its eating its way out... Now. HAARP-people, grab a highschool physics-text, look up 'inverse-square power-law'; grab an envelope, do some calcs; take enuf power to run New York (state!) to make it rain on yer peapatch--math wins. Angel-people: same text, study up on vector-dynamics, check out what 'gravity' means (google 'Einstein', Einstein!) and check out how planets interact. Fracking causes bad $#*! to happen--Im in Alberta, I know. As to the 3rd world, well, the av. human weighs 150lbs, their poop piles up; how long until that all masses mountain-big? Again, do the math. Math. Physics. Ockham's razor! Conspiracy types: you're wrong. Period. Why? Simple: if you were right, the MIB would have 'disappeared' you already, right??? Sorry, Im in a mood; it's the Fubble-monster, melting my tinfoil-beanie with dream-rays, again... Sheesh... G.

The Swede 2 years ago

So, now it is "fight man-made global earthquakes", tax people harder, more control... . Next step is to fight man-made solarflares?

Rita 2 years ago

Shawna, It is good to see someone who still has common sense. I agree with you that the whole world is having more severe earthquakes. The people are not causing this to happen. There are pressures coming into the solar system from opposing directions. The planet is being squized and the solar system too. Venus has lost 6.5 seconds of movement, the moon is leaving too. Many things, but I am sure God knows about this. Let's hope for more Angels and Miracle Makers.

shawna (@Rita) 2 years ago

yes, the "incoming object" will make fracking,harrp, and just about anything else look like childsplay. look at "supposed" cw leonis in front of our sun at pinneberg,davis and aurora australis web cams. and also on neumayer on 2nd webcam, after dark there is an object after the moon rises. some say that cw leonis does'nt move; then how is it in front of our sun (from any angle)? there's so many "signs" and evidence(ie. the orbits of planets), how can they not see it?we ARE part of a binary system(maybe even circum-binary). we know not that much more than we "knew" when we thought the world was flat!

fichtner (@shawna) 1 year ago

There is no object coming in. You are looking at lens flares and falling for the false hype.

Tom (@Rita) 2 years ago

Again Sheeple!!! do some research! they are not doing it directly but helping out the process.

Tom 2 years ago

HAARP People need to educate themselves about this so called "declassified" abomination. This is very real, it causes earthquakes and destructive weather on a grand scale. I stress the point of disregarding whatever the USGS says, they are nothing but good Gov`t bullshit. The website www.haarpstatus.com will explain it all, you can literally use this site in conjunction with www.intellicast.com and see for your self the destructive power that they use on the population with it. Why do you think they had to have a weather warfare treaty drawn up in 1977? Weather warfare is real, Ben Livingston ( Vietnam Airforce pilot) admitted in a interview on inforwars.com about "creating monsoon season during dry spells" to wipe out VC tunnels and roads during the Vietnam war. He even showed photos of the planes they used for cloud seeding in the interview. I strongly suspect they are using it to "create" false flag disasters such as Haiti,Japan,Indonesia to destroy the planet so they can come to the "rescue" with FEMA and other agencies. They are planning a culling, if you don`t believe me do some research and decide for your self. The UN is at the helm of this destructive power. But don`t kid yourself, this technology is a double edged sword and nature will win in the end not the UN. Geo-engineering can make 12/21/12 very real if they choose, I think that they will.

shawna 2 years ago

this theory would be more acceptable if it wer'nt happening all over the world.(volcanos too). the recent (&since 2007)uptick in earthquakes is EVERYWHERE! it may have a part to play, but IS NOT the real cause. (last time i checked, they're not drilling for oil in...sumatra, papa new guinea, chile etc....do your homework! and also: the earth is heating from the core OUT (as well as the rest of planets in the solar system.)

Chillymanjaro (@shawna) 2 years ago

Shawna, calm down. Read the title - it said. across the US, and last time I was at my geography lessons we didn't learn that sumatra, chile or PNG are in the States, so you do your own homework. Offcourse that oil drilling aren't to blame for world earthquakes, but this particular post was adressed to increasing of earthquakes across US, and yes, not all US earthquakes are related to oil and gass drilling. What we're seeing across the globe is far beyond us, it is called forces of nature, the change or however you like. We are just observers. I must agree with your claims about heating from the core out, and volcanoes, and also the planetary transformations. Stay well, and calm down!

shawna (@chillymanjaro) 2 years ago

so basically you agree w/me, but for some reason you're concerned i should calm down. (i know what's causing these & when the rest of you do, you won't be all that calm.) & if anything i just hope people will get more educated about earthquakes((as we all need to)) because while these in the US were going on so were the rest of the worlds. check it.

nanoduck 2 years ago

I can believe that. There are many different ways an earthquake can be created by human activity. Building dams are known to cause small earthquakes, as the weight of water caused by filling of a reservior displaces the weight of rock around it. Draining of aquaifers, mining, oil and gas drilling, and fracking can cause earthquakes as the weight of the crust shifts. The entire crust system is not rigid or stable as many people would think, but more like a mattress-- the more weight you put on top, the crust will compensate by sinking, fracturing, and shifting weight elsewhere.

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