Confirmed: Fracking caused Ohio earthquakes
According to some seismologists, hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, is to blame for a string of tremors in Ohio, including a 4.0-magnitude quake on New Year’s Eve. It has long been suggested that fracking, which involves deep-earth drilling to extract gas for natural resource reserves, has been culpable for quakes. In the fracking process, wastewater collected during the deep drilling is injected back into the Earth for disposal. Thought to be safe by some, other experts insist that the brine water could find its way into subterranean faults and force parts of the planet to separate. The Youngstown, OH area has seen 11 small quakes since last spring, and now a moratorium has been instated in the area to keep future fracking from occurring while seismologists reinvestigate the quakes.
Even with a stay in place, however, experts say the quakes won’t be stopping anytime soon.
"The earthquakes will trickle on as a kind of a cascading process once you've caused them to occur," John Armbruster of Columbia University's Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory tells the Associated Press. "This one year of pumping is a pulse that has been pushed into the ground, and it's going to be spreading out for at least a year."
Ray Beiersdorfer, a geology professor at Youngstown State University, adds to the Business Journal, “I wouldn't be surprised if it continued for a year or so."
Regulators in Ohio have asked D&L Energy Inc., a company that carries out fracking near Youngstown, to stop injecting waste water back into the Earth while an investigation is opened up. Another quake of 2.7 magnitude occurred on Christmas Eve and prompted state officials to step in less than a week later. Had regulators not recommending the halt, D&L could have continued to operate fracking wells — and only a day before the moratorium was instated they submitted permit applications in hopes of beginning drilling in a residential neighborhood just outside of downtown Youngstown.
The Ohio Department of Natural Resources says that by D&L injecting wastewater more than 9,000 feet into the Earth, the onslaught of quakes were caused by human action. Officials in other areas of Ohio area considering stopping drilling in the interim as well.
In all, there are 177 wells used by fracking operations in the state.
The D&L company first began their own drilling in December 2010 and seismologists say the fracking has yielded nearly a dozen quakes as a result so far. Since fracking began in all of Ohio in 1985, around seven million barrels of wastewater have been injected in the Earth.
"We fully support the decision of the Ohio Department of Natural Resources to issue a temporary suspension of five injection wells in the Youngstown area," Thomas E. Stewart of the Ohio Oil and Gas Association adds to the Business Journal. "It was the correct course of action to ensure the safety and peace of mind for area residents."