Fracking water injection could trigger major earthquake, say scientists

“It is already known that pumping large quantities of water underground can induce minor earthquakes near to geothermal power generation and fracking sites. However, new evidence reveals the potential for much larger earthquakes, of magnitude 4 or 5, related to the weakening of pre-existing undergrounds faults through increased fluid pressure.

The water injection appears to prime cracks in the rock, making them vulnerable to triggering by tremors from earthquakes thousands of miles away. Nicholas van der Elst, the lead author on one of three studies published on Thursday in the journal Science, said: “These fluids are driving faults to their tipping point.”

Prof Brodsky said they found a clear correlation between the amount of water extracted and injected into the ground, and the number of earthquakes.

New studies suggest injecting water for geothermal power or fracking can lead to larger earthquakes than previously thought. (image source: guardian.com)
New studies suggest injecting water for geothermal power or fracking can lead to larger earthquakes than previously thought. (image source: guardian.com)

The analysis of the Californian site showed that for a net injection of 500m gallons of water into the ground per month, there is an earthquake on average every 11 days.

“The problem is we can only predict how many earthquakes will occur but not their size and so with this knowledge then it has to be decided what is an acceptable size and frequency of earthquakes for a particular area,” said Brodsky.”

What is an ‘acceptable size and frequency of earthquakes’ for Fermanagh?  And what effect would these earthquakes have on the stability and strength of the wells themselves?

To read the full article in the Guardian, follow this link: Fracking water injection could trigger major earthquake, say scientists | Science | guardian.co.uk.

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