Fracking Rarely Linked to Quakes

Published November 14, 2017

Hydraulic fracturing is rarely linked to seismic shaking, according to an analysis of earthquakes near “frack jobs,” conducted by Oklahoma state officials.

The Oklahoma Corporation Commission (OCC), recorded 282 earthquakes from 2011 to 2016 located within 2 kilometers of a hydraulic fracturing operation that occurred within a week  following wastewater disposal.

Looking at quakes of any magnitude, the Oklahoma Geological Survey list of earthquakes topped 23,000 earthquakes from 2011 to 2016, some with magnitudes as low as 0.1.

“This is why we can say frack-linked quakes are rare,” said OCC spokesman Matt Skinner, presenting OCC’s analysis at a recent Oil and Gas Institute it held on September 27.

Skinner noted most of those events located close to a frack job were also close to an oil and gas wastewater disposal well. These deep injection wells have been blamed for the surge in quakes which have shaken the state in the past several years.

However, in 2016, officials linked a few relatively small earthquakes west of Oklahoma City to “fracking” portion of the well construction process. As a result, in December OCC officials developed new protocols for companies if quakes are detected near their frack jobs.

Although the guidelines are voluntary, the OCC has the power to shut down an operation to deal with earthquake problems. OCC officials stressed that companies are cooperating, noting often fracking operators detected quakes on their own seismic arrays the state did not detect and took action to prevent further events.

Kenneth Artz ([email protected]) writes from Dallas, Texas.