Dispelling the Myths Surrounding Hydraulic Fracturing Part 4 Adapted from a Policy Brief by The Heartland Institute and the U.S. Geological Survey Myth #4 - Hydraulic Fracturing Causes Earthquakes - Although many people assume hydraulic fracturing causes earthquakes, there are numerous studies proving it doesn’t cause dangerous, widespread earthquakes. The largest, most up-to-date database of earthquakes suspected of being triggered by human activity (induced) is administered by researchers at the University of Durham and University of Newcastle upon Tyne in the UK. This database contains records going back to the 1800s, and according to it, hydraulic fracturing has been conclusively linked to only 6% of all human-caused earthquakes, 44 earthquakes overall. Considering there are at least 1.1 million active wells using hydraulic fracturing in the United States, this number is very small. In the U.S., only nine earthquakes have been conclusively linked to the process and, of those nine, only three were large enough to be felt on the surface with vibrations similar to the passing of a truck. However, researchers have noticed a correlation between hydraulic fracturing sites and a higher likelihood of earthquakes. So, if it’s not hydraulic fracturing causing earthquakes, what is? Analysts believe it’s the wastewater disposal process. Wastewater, a normal byproduct of gas and oil extraction operations, is typically disposed of through injection wells deep underground in high-permeability formations. While it’s true wastewater is produced in hydraulic fracturing operations, it is also produced in nearly all other gas and oil drilling and production processes, even traditional methods. It’s not the drilling itself causing tremors. During wastewater disposal, the fluid is injected into well at much higher pressures and volumes than with the fracturing process. The practice, by law, is overseen by local or regional Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) offices. What’s really interesting, is some researchers believe once fracturing operations conclude, it’s possible the area would be less likely to experience an earthquake compared to similar areas where no fracturing has been done. Joe Leimkuhler, vice president for drilling at LLOG Exploration observed, “Long-term, once a well produces enough volume of fluid that exceeds the volume of water and sand that you’ve put in the fractal well, once you’ve taken more material out than you’ve in, you’ve lowered the overall stress state of the system, and you can make an argument that on a regional basis you’ve actually decreased the tendency for earthquakes and not increased it long term.” Researchers in Canada, at the University of Alberta, also conducted a two-year study to determine how much seismic activity experienced between 1965 - 2014 could be correlated with increased gas and oil production. The examined regions included sites in the U.S. states of North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Texas, and West Virginia, as well as Canadian provinces of Alberta, British Columbia, and Saskatchewan. The conclusion - analysis of oil and gas production versus seismicity rates in six other States in the USA and three provinces in Canada finds no State/Province-wide correlation between increased seismicity and hydrocarbon production . One of the researchers even went so far as to say, “It’s not as simple as saying ‘we do a hydraulic fracturing treatment, and therefore we are going to cause felt seismicity.’ It’s actually the opposite. Most of it is perfectly safe.” Even the relationship between wastewater injection wells and seismicity stands on shaky ground. The Institute for Geophysics at the University of Texas at Austin conducted a study attempting to determine if earthquakes in the Barnett Shale region of Texas, were a danger to the public and whether they could be connected to the state’s numerous wastewater injection wells. According to this study, the presence of injection wells increased the chances of small earthquakes; it also showed there were a significant number of wells with similar injection rates, that did not experi- ence earthquakes in the area. EPA found similar results in its study of 30,000 wastewater disposal wells. For example, at the time of this report, there were approximately 2700 active disposal wells in Louisiana, with no recent signif- icant seismic events occurring as a result of the disposal activities. Advances in hydraulic fracturing have led to decreased energy prices, saving billions of dollars for consumers, prompting economic growth. The process does not pollute water or air, cause public health problems, or dangerous earthquakes. In business for over 70 years! Complete line of Water Well and Environmental Drilling Supplies Featuring Casing Grips and Elevators that we manufacture Bill Johnson Equipment Company 21 S. 40th St., Phoenix, AZ 85034 (602) 275-5415 5811 NE Columbia Blvd., Portland, OR 97218 (971) 229-1288 www.billjohnsonequipment.com 28 FEBRUARY 2020 WorldWide Drilling Resource ® DIR The EPA regulates around 850,000 underground injection wells through its Underground Injection Control program. Photo courtesy of American Geociences Institute.