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It’s Official: Injection of Fracking Wastewater Caused Kansas’ Biggest Earthquake

It’s Official: Injection of Fracking Wastewater Caused Kansas’ Biggest Earthquake
The largest earthquake ever recorded in Kansas—a 4.9 magnitude temblor that struck northeast of Milan on Nov. 12, 2014—has been officially linked to wastewater injection into deep underground wells, according to new research from the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS).

The epicenter of that extremely rare earthquake struck near a known fracking operation.

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The Wichita Eagle noted from the study that this man-made quake, which hit 40 miles southwest of Wichita and felt as far away as Memphis, likely came from just one or two nearby wells. The publication ominously noted that, “one of those two wells, operated by SandRidge Energy, is still injecting water at the same level as when the earthquake occurred two years ago.”

The USGS scientists believe that the 4.9-magnitude earthquake was triggered by wastewater injection for the following reasons:

  • There had not previously been similar earthquakes in the area.
  • There were waste-water injection wells nearby.
  • The earthquake activity started after the amount of water injected in the wells increased.
  • There’s a piece of earth that could be activated by changes in pressure.

Kansas has had a long history with fracking. In fact, the first well ever fracked in the United States happened in 1947 in the Sunflower state. The process is now used for nearly all of the 5,000 conventional wells drilled in Kansas every year.

But just like Oklahoma, Kansas is seeing an alarming uptick of “induced” earthquakes connected to the underground disposal of wastewater from the fracking process. Kansas is a region previously devoid of significant seismic activity, however, the number of earthquakes in the state jumped from only four in 2013 to 817 in 2014, The Washington Post reported.

According to an August report from The Wichita Eagle, Kansas has seen fewer and weaker earthquakes following the Kansas Corporation Commission’s recommendations to reduce underground injection of oilfield wastewater.

Incidentally, the Milan quake and the record-breaking 5.8 earthquake that struck Pawnee, Oklahoma last month occurred on faults that scientists did not previously know existed.

“If the well is in the right place next to a fault and the fault is oriented the right way, a little change in stress could cause (an earthquake) to occur,” USGS geologist George Choy, the study’s lead author, told The Wichita Eagle.

The study will be published in Seismological Research Letters next month.

“The source parameters and behavior of the Milan earthquake and foreshock–aftershock sequence are similar to characteristics of other earthquakes induced by wastewater injection into permeable formations overlying crystalline basement,” the study abstract states.

SandRidge Energy is the largest oil producer in Kansas and the largest disposer of wastewater in Oklahoma. In January, the Oklahoma-based company refused to abide by the Oklahoma Corporation Commission’s recommendations to shut down or decrease wastewater injection in order to prevent more earthquakes. The company agreed to shut down wells and reduce wastewater volumes months later.

Source: EcoWatch




Injection well linked to quakes could reopen


YOUNGSTOWNThe state has suggested that a shuttered injection well linked to two small earthquakes in northeast Ohio could resume operations if the owner submits an acceptable plan.

The Ohio Division of Oil & Gas Resources Management urged the Ohio Supreme Court in an Oct. 11 filing not to hear American Water Management Services’ appeal of a lower court decision regarding the company’s Weathersfield Township Well No. 2, near Youngstown, The Vindicator in Youngstown reports.

The well pumped brine wastewater from hydraulic fracturing operations into the earth. Earthquakes were detected below ground in July and August of 2014. On the day of the well’s first earthquake in July 2014, the company had started injecting about 2,000 barrels per day, and then increased the volume to 5,500 barrels.

The division, a part of the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, suspended well operations. The company owned by Howland-based Avalon Holdings has argued the state abused its discretion in shutting down the well.

The case led to appeals to a state oil and gas commission, a Franklin County Common Pleas Court judge, and eventually the 10th District Court of Appeals in Columbus, which affirmed the state’s position.

Source: Newark Advocate


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