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Triggered Earthquakes and Deep Well Activities

January 13, 1993
By CRAIG NICHOLSON, and ROBERT L. WESSON

Many people mistakenly associate hydraulic fracturing with earthquakes.

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Many people mistakenly associate hydraulic fracturing with earthquakes. While the hydraulic fracturing process itself is not a significant mechanism for causing earthquake large enough to be felt at the surface, the disposal of wastewater generated from oil and natural gas production is thought to be responsible for the increase in earthquake activity in Oklahoma and Texas.

What many people do not know is that oil production has caused earthquakes in the past, as well. Many of these earthquakes were triggered when oil producers injected water into oil formations to increase the amount of oil that could be produced. This injection, referred to as secondary recovery, led to earthquakes until scientists developed methods for testing fluid pressures in these wells to prevent them.

Understanding the historical relationship for oil and natural gas production is important for current discussions regarding the disposal of wastewater from hydraulic fracturing, and conventional oil and gas operations.

As scientists gain a better understanding of what is causing the new wave of quakes, they will have a better understanding of how to prevent them.

Article Tags
Energy