How shale fracking led to an Ohio town's first 100 earthquakes

Aug 19, 2013

Since records began in 1776, the people of Youngstown, Ohio had never experienced an earthquake. However, from January 2011, 109 tremors were recorded and new research in Geophysical Research-Solid Earth reveals how this may be the result of shale fracking.

In December 2010, Northstar 1, a well built to pump wastewater produced by fracking in the neighboring state of Pennsylvania, came online. In the year that followed seismometers in and around Youngstown recorded 109 earthquakes; the strongest being a magnitude 3.9 earthquake on December 31, 2011.

The study authors analyzed the Youngstown earthquakes, finding that their onset, cessation, and even temporary dips in activity were all tied to the activity at the Northstar 1 well. The first recorded in the city occurred 13 days after pumping began, and the tremors ceased shortly after the Ohio Department of Natural Resources shut down the well in December 2011.

Dips in correlated with Memorial Day, the Fourth of July, Labor Day, and Thanksgiving, as well as other periods when the injection at the well was temporarily stopped.

"In recent years, waste fluid generated during the production - , had been increasing steadily in United States. Earthquakes were triggered by these waste fluid injection at a deep well in Youngstown, Ohio during Jan. 2011 - Feb. 2012. We found that the onset of earthquakes and cessation were tied to the activity at the Northstar 1 deep injection well. The earthquakes were centered in subsurface faults near the injection well. These shocks were likely due to the increase in pressure from the deep injection which caused the existing fault to slip," said Dr. Won-Young Kim. "Throughout 2011, the earthquakes migrated from east to west down the length of the fault away from the well—indicative of the earthquakes being caused by expanding pressure front."

Explore further: Image: Dronning Maud Land in Antarctica, as seen by ESA's Proba-1

More information: Kim. W, 'Induced seismicity associated with fluid injection into a deep well in Youngstown, Ohio', Journal of Geophysical Research-Solid Earth, DOI: 10.1002/jgrb.50247

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1.4 / 5 (11) Aug 19, 2013
Evidently the fractures under Youngstown are very loose if the largest quake measured was a (ho-hum, I've lived in California) 3.9 I could have slept through.
1.8 / 5 (15) Aug 19, 2013
Errr..... USGS shows earthquake activity in that region going back to 1875. That along with the physical act of "Fracking" (i.e. fracturing the rock formations), one would expect an increase in minor activity.

But hey a little scare PR to help get more grant money to pay for new equipment and more research assistants is totally understandable.

1.4 / 5 (9) Aug 19, 2013
If I recall Ohio is way overdue for a megaquake that occurs there. So perhaps a little slipping here and there might be a good thing. Why do people assume automatically that the water aqua-firs are anywhere near the fracking or connected? If that were so you would find contaminated water as well as increased levels of radon spiking after each event over nominal levels as well. Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar and a 3.9 isn't even much of a joyride or a worry.
1.3 / 5 (13) Aug 20, 2013
Is it OK to lie about something as long as its for the 'right reason'? This author seems to think so, because I don't believe that anyone who writes an article about earthquakes would say that "Since records began in 1776, the people of Youngstown, Ohio had never experienced an earthquake."

It simply cannot be a mistake.
The Alchemist
1 / 5 (14) Aug 20, 2013
No surprise here. They found correlations to earthquakes with the building of reservoirs. Large shift in weight over time... the ME is subject to quakes, CA during its growth spurt, no coincidences there.
1 / 5 (5) Aug 20, 2013
Records are online
If you bother to check no activity greater than 2.0 in "MAHONING" from 1776 until 2011/03/17

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