Fracking blamed for massive wave of earthquakes in Ohio

The state of Ohio, until 2011 a place where the term earthquake was just a word in the dictionary, has experienced over 100 earthquakes in less than a year. And according to a recent study published in Geophysical Research-Solid Earth, those tremors are likely to be the result of fracking.

The paper’s author, Won-Young Kim, claims that since a fracking-related facility began operating in December 2010 in the neighbouring state of Pennsylvania, Ohio seismometers recorded 109 earthquakes in a period of 12 months.

He also found that drops in earthquake activity correlated with periods when the injection at the well was temporarily stopped.

Producing oil and gas from shale formations, such as those found in Ohio, Pennsylvania and Arkansas, requires the use of vast amount of water for hydraulic fracturing. This, in turn, generates millions of toxic wastewater, which must be disposed. Sometimes part of the leftover fluid is reused, but more often than not, it is injected back underground.

Last month, EPA officials said that while there shouldn’t be a need to halt fracking operations, there is variety of options to deal with discarded water to consider, as outlined in a draft report obtained by EnergyWire. That includes scaling back how much well owners can inject, requiring more data collection or public education about "the complexities of injection-induced seismicity."

The 341-page document represents the central response EPA has given so far to concerns that drilling-related activities are causing earthquakes. It was provided as a result of a Freedom of Information Act appeal after agency officials declined to release it, as reported by EnergyWire in May (subscription required).

Image by Bill Baker via Flickr