Less than 1 percent of wastewater injection wells across the U.S. are potentially linked to earthquakes, according to a new report debunking myths spread by environmentalists about hydraulic fracturing.
Out of the 40,000 wastewater disposal wells in the U.S. only 218 — 0.55 percent — can be considered potentially linked to quakes according to Energy in Depth (EID), a research and educational program of the Independent Petroleum Association of America. EID’s report uses U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) and peer-reviewed studies to examine the number of wastewater injection wells suspected of causing earthquakes across the country. The report found the number of earthquake-linked wells is an extremely small fraction of the total number of wastewater wells across the country.
Wastewater disposal is a process used to safely dispose of water used in hydraulic fracturing, or fracking. Fracking is opposed by mainstream environmental groups like The Sierra Club. The environmental group claims fracking can “contaminate drinking water, pollute the air, and cause earthquakes.”
Despite scientific consensus, other environmental groups tried to blame fracking for just about everything including droughts, drinking water contamination, flaming tap-water, poverty, income inequality, and even low sperm counts. All these claims have been debunked.
Environmentalists are calling for sweeping changes to the legal system to blame earthquakes on fracking. EID’s study, however, shows just how unlikely it is for an individual earthquake to be linked to wastewater disposal. There has never been a single injury resulting from an earthquake induced by wastewater injection.
One of the USGS reports cited even states “USGS’s studies suggest that the actual hydraulic fracturing process is only very rarely the direct cause of felt earthquakes.”
“While hydraulic fracturing works by making thousands of extremely small ‘microearthquakes,’ they are, with just a few exceptions, too small to be felt; none have been large enough to cause structural damage,” USGS stated.
The USGS’s website even states “hydraulic fracturing, commonly known as ‘fracking’, does not appear to be linked to the increased rate of magnitude 3 and larger earthquakes.”
This concurs with a National Research Council assessment which states “The process of hydraulic fracturing a well as presently implemented for shale gas recovery does not pose a high risk for inducing felt seismic events.”
In Oklahoma, where most of the attention has been focused, only 0.83 percent of injection wells are even potentially linked to earthquakes.
Earthquakes are measured on a logarithmic scale, and the difference between whole numbers on the scale is huge. A 9.0 quake can devastate a country, while a 3.0 quake generally cannot be felt. A quake that registers 2.0 on the Richter scale releases 31 times less energy and has a shaking amplitude 10 times smaller than that of a 3.0 quake. The kind of earthquake that waste-water disposal from fracking could potentially cause are several orders of magnitude smaller than the kind of earthquakes that can do any damage.
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