According to a recent report, fracking earthquakes are highly unlikely. “Fracking” is an informal term for hydraulic fracturing, which is the process of extracting natural gas from the ground. The United States has enough natural gas to last more than 100 years. Fracking is a technique used for more than half a century in the oil and gas industry; however, in the past, the technique came with limitations. Today, with the development of new fracking technologies, the industry can grow nationwide in states including Ohio and Pennsylvania.
Despite the report, the general public is still concerned about fracking earthquakes. The residents in Ohio and Texas have felt small tremors over the years, which they believer were associated with the fracking wells nearby. The report said, “Although the number of felt induced seismic events relative to the tens of thousands of produced water injection wells is small, the events themselves can cause considerable public concern.” The report was conducted by the National Research Council. Researchers have been monitoring human activity and earthquakes for more than 90 years.
In nearly a century of research, researchers have found human activity to be a very small percentage of overall seismic activity. The global average of natural earthquakes per year is 14,450 earthquakes, while the man-made average in the United State is only 60 earthquakes.
Man-made earthquakes have a very small magnitude; most have been caused by conventional oil and gas drilling techniques, damming rivers, deep injections of wastewater, and purposeful flooding.
“There’s a whole bunch of wells that have been drilled, let’s say for wastewater and the number of events have been pretty small,” said report chairman Murray Hitzman, a professor of economic geology at the Colorado School of Mines. “Is it a huge problem? The report says basically no. Is it something we should look at and think about? Yes.”
The senate will develop a conclusion sometime this week regarding how to move forward. Discussions have been made about surveying the land before a drilling site is set up. This will add extra cost to the drillers, but it might be worth it to calm public concern.