Does fracking cause earthquakes?
There is no known evidence that hydraulic fracturing causes earthquakes. Hydraulic fracturing is a safe and well-regulated technology that has been used for more than 60 years in more than one million wells. Critics who say that fracking caused recent Ohio seismic activity have no scientific evidence to support their claims.
First and foremost, seismic activity has not occurred near fracking wells, but in the vicinity of Class II wastewater disposal or injection wells—of which there are roughly 144,000 in operation in the United States today. According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), “Injection [is] a safe and inexpensive option for the disposal of unwanted…industrial byproducts.” Further, the oil and natural gas industry is not the only industry that uses injection wells as a safe and well-regulated means of disposal. Other sectors that rely on injection wells include: chemicals, manufacturing, food and agriculture, plastics and metal/steel.
Class II injection wells have worked well to protect public safety for decades, and a situation like the one near Youngstown, Ohio, is very rare. In fact, injection wells have been used to dispose of wastes deep underground since the days of Constantine. The use of injection wells was documented as early as A.D. 300., and large-scale commercial use of injection wells in the United States began in the 1930s, according to the EPA.
As seismologists and geologists across the country have already determined, hydraulic fracturing activity does not produce vibrations of noticeable size, and there is no known evidence it causes earthquakes. The minute vibrations occurring during this process may not even be detectable to humans. Stanford University geophysicist Mark Zoback said that the typical energy released in tremors triggered by fracking, “is the equivalent to a gallon of milk falling off the kitchen counter.”
Conversations about injection wells have nothing to do with the current debate over shale, fracturing and/or horizontal drilling. We are confident this is an issue that will receive further investigation from experts in the field, and we look forward their findings.