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Inject and Quake!

By Dave Armstrong - 12 Jul 2013 11:23:25 GMT
Inject and Quake!

This is the Golden Driller of Tulsa, Oklahoma, but his image may now be forever tarnished after these revelations; Golden Driller image; Credit: © Shutterstock

Nicholas van der Elst, Heather Savage and two other colleagues have come out with a paper which lends weight to arguments such as the anti-fracking lobby. They have discovered that the distant tremors of earthquakes are critical in stimulating tremors around waste injection sites.

We now how earthquake energy travels around the world from previous physical study, but this means that Oklahoma's middle-size quake in 2010 was triggered by the huge quake in Chile the day before it happened. Months of smaller tremors followed and then on November 6th 2011 a 5.7 quake in Prague, Oklahoma's Wilzetta oilfields. Measurements are on the logarithmic Richter scale, which generally rises from negative numbers to 10 and above.

Similar situations have arisen when Japanese and Sumatran giant quakes caused middle size quakes in Texas and Colorado, again around injection wells. As fracking is essentially the same process of injection of water, the danger is obvious. The journal, Science, published the data this week and has other articles on earthquakes for those who might think they are living on the edge!

Nicholas explains, "The fluids are driving the faults to their tipping point. The remote triggering by big earthquakes is an indication the area is critically stressed." There are some Okies who do not agree. Austin Holland of the Oklahoma Geological Survey stated, "It is still the opinion of those at the Oklahoma Geological Survey that these earthquakes could be naturally occurring." But he does admit the possible link.

In distant countries, such as the UK in 2012, bans on fracking have been lifted, but perhaps this sort of research will have an effect on politicians and those for whom greed is a profession. The last time that the US suspended injection was in the 1960s in Denver, after a 4.8 quake. These passing surface waves of seismic energy are like a stress test, according to Heather Savage. She works with her co-author at Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory in Columbia University.

"If the number of small earthquakes increases, it could indicate that faults are becoming critically stressed and might soon host a larger earthquake." In a similar fashion, seismologist Katie Keranen, who is also a co-author, at Cornell University, declared the first rupture occurred less than 650 feet away from active injection wells! Look out for the San Andreas Fault, because it has already been stimulated to move by the Alaskan Denali quake, 2000 miles away.

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Topics: Fracking