New Study Definitively Links Texas Earthquakes to Fracking and Drilling - RiseEarth

New Study Definitively Links Texas Earthquakes to Fracking and Drilling


by Anna Scanlon
Natural Society

Since 2012, scientists have suspected that the earthquakes plaguing Texas and Oklahoma are results of wastewater injections from fracking and conventional drilling. And while they were relatively certain that the 2012 4.8 earthquake that rocked Eastern Texas was as a result of this phenomenon, they were still searching for definitive proof. Now, a new study published in Science provides evidence to the theory with the use of a technology called Interferometric Synthetic Aperture Radar (InSAR). [1]

Wastewater injections happen as a result of fracking, when those drilling come across ancient ocean water that is too polluted to be used in any real way. Consequently, they push the water even further down into the ground, sometimes up to thousands of feet. Pressure creates an impasse in the rocks, which forces the pore pressure further down into the ground until it hits an ancient fault line, thus creating a man-made earthquake.


Not only does the wastewater create these earthquakes, but it also produces something called uplifting, in which the surface of the ground rises for up to 5 miles around the drilling site. This uplifting can be seen from space, so researchers used satellite imagery to prove that previous earthquakes in the area have been a result of wastewater injection.


Although the earthquakes have been relatively low on the Richter scale thus far, researchers have said that they could begin to become out of control and cause real damage. The 2012 east Texas earthquake only injured 1 person and damaged a few televisions and chimneys, but with this phenomenon now documented, it is imperative that fracking and drilling companies begin to address it before people become seriously injured, or perhaps even die.

(A) Distribution of the estimated volume strain rate (shaded grid cells). Colored circles show the timing of earthquakes with respect to the first event (day 0). The injection wells are shown by green bars. Contour lines show the surface deformation rate between May 6, 2007, and Nov. 14, 2010. (B) Distribution of the cumulative pore pressure (shaded grid cells) between 2006 and 2013. Colored circles show the pore pressure increase at the location of the earthquakes.

Oklahoma is Being Hit Extra Hard

Because of fracking and drilling, Oklahoma now reports more seismic activity than California and takes the crown as the earthquake capitol of the United States. Earlier in September, Pawnee, Oklahoma experienced an earthquake that was 5.8 on the Richter scale, which was the largest to occur in the state. [2]

An average of 2 quakes typically shook the state in a year’s time. But that was long ago. In 2014, 585 quakes of a magnitude 3.0 or larger rattled Oklahoma – 3 times the number that rocked California. Up until September in 2015, 600 quakes rattled the area, with the largest being a 4.5 striking the small town of Crescent. Scientists point to oil and gas drilling as the cause.

Scientists now say that since they know what fracking can do, they have made a goal to work with fracking and drilling companies to make fracking and water injection safer for those who live in the areas susceptible to earthquakes. [3]

Cumulative number of earthquakes with a magnitude of 3.0 or larger in the central and eastern United States, 1970–2016. The long-term rate of approximately 29 earthquakes per year increased sharply starting around 2009.

Article Sources:
[1] EcoWatch
[2] Popular Mechanics
[3] All Gov


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