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Can it be True, Frac Wastewater Injection Well Seismicity is a Miscue?

August 19, 2014

Workers inspected earthquake damage at St. Gregory’s University in Shawnee, Okla., in 2011.

Workers inspected earthquake damage at St. Gregory’s University in Shawnee, Okla., in 2011.

Two years ago (06/15/2012), an AP report, Fracking-Earthquake Report Suggests Low Risk For Large Tremors, by Seth Borenstein stated, “The controversial practice of hydraulic fracturing to extract natural gas does not pose a high risk for triggering earthquakes large enough to feel…..”

But these less than formal announcements failed to quell the public’s concern over the relationship between hydraulic fracturing wastewater disposal in deep injection wells and the rash of seismic activity near disposal sites. Fast-forward to today (08/18/2014)! Seth Borenstein in “Less shake from artificial quakes, fed study says,” announced the results of a study by U.S. Geological Survey geophysicist Susan Hough – “Man-made earthquakes, a side effect of some high-tech energy drilling, cause less shaking and in general are about 16 times weaker than natural earthquakes with the same magnitude……..”

In closing, the study seems sound and somewhat consistent with reports from the Texas Railroad Commission (TRC). Yet, the TRC, which has been ridiculed for siding with the oil and gas industry on controversial issues, has announced this week in the Star-Telegram, “After months of disappointing decisions — or mostly indecision — in response to a rash of seismic rumblings in North Texas that some studies have linked to hydraulic fracturing, the Texas Railroad Commission ….. approved new proposed rules that would require oil and gas drilling permit seekers to provide additional information, including data on a region’s seismicity and any history of earthquakes recorded by the U.S. Geological Survey, before drilling new injection wells.

Nevertheless, as a resident of Tarrant County, Texas living on top of the Barnett Shall Play and a proponent of environmentally safe hydraulic fracturing that ensures public safety, it is hoped the report reflects reality. In any event, it is just an issue of managing risk, which we can and no different than any other human activity.

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