Fracking confirmed as cause of rare 'felt' earthquake in Ohio

Seismogram being recorded by a seismograph at the Weston Observatory in Massachusetts, USA. Credit: Wikipedia

A new study links the March 2014 earthquakes in Poland Township, Ohio to hydraulic fracturing that activated a previously unknown fault. The induced seismic sequence included a rare felt earthquake of magnitude 3.0, according to research published online by the Bulletin of the Seismological Society of America (BSSA).

In March 2014, a series of five recorded earthquakes, ranging from magnitude 2.1 to 3.0, occurred within one kilometer (0.6 miles) of a group of oil and gas wells operated by Hilcorp Energy, which was conducting active operations at the time. Due to the proximity of a magnitude 3.0 event near a well, the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) halted operations at the Hilcorp well on March 10, 2014.

Hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, is a method for extracting gas and oil from shale rock by injecting a high-pressure water mixture directed at the rock to release the oil and gas trapped inside. The process of fracturing the rocks normally results in micro-earthquakes much smaller than humans can feel.

It remains rare for hydraulic fracturing to cause larger earthquakes that are felt by humans. However, due to seismic monitoring advances and the increasing popularity of hydraulic fracturing to recover hydrocarbons, the number of earthquakes - felt and unfelt - associated with hydraulic fracturing has increased in the past decade.

"These earthquakes near Poland Township occurred in the Precambrian basement, a very old layer of rock where there are likely to be many pre-existing faults," said Robert Skoumal who co-authored the study with Michael Brudzinski and Brian Currie at Miami University in Ohio. "This activity did not create a new fault, rather it activated one that we didn't know about prior to the ."

Using a technique called template matching, the researchers sifted through seismic data recorded by the Earthscope Transportable Array, a network of seismic stations, looking for repeating signals similar to the known Poland Township earthquakes, which were treated like seismic "fingerprints." They identified 77 earthquakes with magnitudes from 1.0 and 3.0 that occurred between March 4 and 12 in the Poland Township area. The local community reported feeling only one , the magnitude 3.0, on March 10.

Skoumal and his colleagues compared the identified earthquakes to well stimulation reports, released in August 2014 by the ODNR, and found the earthquakes coincided temporally and spatially with hydraulic fracturing at specific stages of the stimulation. The seismic activity outlined a roughly vertical, east-west oriented fault within one kilometer of the well. Industry activities at other nearby wells produced no seismicity, suggesting to the authors that the fault is limited in extent.

"Because earthquakes were identified at only the northeastern extent of the operation, it appears that a relatively small portion of the operation is responsible for the events," said Skoumal, who suggests the template matching technique offers a cost-effective and reliable means to monitor seismicity induced by hydraulic fracturing operations.

"We just don't know where all the faults are located," said Skoumal. "It makes sense to have close cooperation among government, industry and the scientific community as hydraulic fracturing operations expand in areas where there's the potential for unknown pre-existing faults."

The paper, "Earthquakes Induced by Hydraulic fracturing in Poland Township, Ohio," will be published online Jan. 6, 2015 and in print in the February/March issue of BSSA.

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Hydraulic fracturing linked to earthquakes in Ohio

Citation: Fracking confirmed as cause of rare 'felt' earthquake in Ohio (2015, January 5) retrieved 24 August 2019 from
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Jan 05, 2015
Earthquakes less than magnitude 3.0 are very rarely felt--and only by some people--and do no damage to buildings or infrastructure. When a fault relieves pressure through a series of small earthquakes it is less likely that a major damaging earthquake will occur. So fracking: win-win?

Jan 05, 2015
@askdad needs a little education.


Jan 05, 2015
I'm glad to hear the republican party is now pro earthquake, it's a bold position, but I think it'll really help win over the various super villains that don't already vote republican.

Jan 06, 2015
Had any of you seen this other result of frakking? Obviously they do not say so:

So the global warming from this should be colossal, it's not, because GHG are not so important as they claim (the global warming potential of methane is ~85). Anyway, I thought it was worth sharing...

Jan 06, 2015
Aksdad ,is not a person but people. It was started at a party as a joke. The whole idea was to see how pissed we could make people by just being contrary. Armond is still working on it btw.

Jan 06, 2015
Yeah thanks for sharing water_profit,
"Environmentalists and a number of scientists on the other hand are greatly concerned about the effects of leaving such a powerful greenhouse gas flow freely into the air."

The emissions are so strong the article says the NASA researchers thought their equipment was malfunctioning. You just pulled your conclusion from nowhere,
The average temperatures of the American southwest have been going up since the 70's:

Notice it doesn't have the same pause as the global temperature chart that you guys use as pretend evidence, I think the methane might have something to do with it.

Jan 06, 2015
Steve, you're making many assumptions about me, not all of em are true. I'm a slightly different class of nut.

Jan 06, 2015
From everything I've read on the subject (which is a lot), it isn't so much the fracking that is the suspect in these "induced" EQs around the world (over 5,000 in Oklahoma in 2014). Instead, it is suspected to be the waste water injection that usually accompanies fracking. Google it to read about waste water injection, but in short, it's to dispose of toxic used fracking water and the enormous amount of brine brought up with the oil/gas. The result is removing huge amounts of water from one area, and injecting it in another are.
The oil industry knows fracking and injection can cause "induced seismicity" events. I even saw an agenda of an industry conference and one of the side-meetings covered the topic of induced seismicity and how to monitor and minimize it.
I live in Oklahoma (your sympathy for that alone is appreciated). I have felt hundreds since I moved here about 2 years ago. They come in "swarms" i.e. very clustered. (continued)

Jan 06, 2015
Sometimes you may feel 5 in one night, they'll be bad for a month, then go away. In 2014 alone, there were 5,363 EQs in Oklahoma (not a typo). Of the 5,363, there were 860 <10mi from my house and 96 of those were 3.0+. If I look at 2013-2014, there have been 1,168 less than 10mi from me, and 122 were 3.0+. My slab has settled significantly, cracking and now ½" settling on one side of the crack compared to the other, then another ½" drop in another place. Stonework has cracked on my house and neighbors', a local jail developed cracks, stone archway of coworker's house broke and fell, and similar damage throughout the counties experiencing the bulk of them. There's also the psychological part of it. People are darn sick of them. They wake you up, multiple times per night sometimes, they scare young kids, etc…

The USGS said the probability of a large one here is higher now due to the rapid increase in occurrence, not lower.

Jan 06, 2015
MP3: Thank you for sharing your experience.

One thing no one ever talks about is pumping water where it has been, ever, in history.
We think of water as being harmless, but it is a powerful solvent. Seeps, converts to steam, etc..

We're putting it places it doesn't belong.

Jan 06, 2015
Sorry to post a 3rd comment, but wanted to give a little more info since most of us probably like to see numbers…

Year: Count (all mag.)
2000-2009: 358 (entire decade)
2010: 1,061
2011: 1,470
2012: 980
2013: 2,847
2014: 5,363

It's not entirely a 100% fair comparison because more seismographs are installed in the state now.

If you look at USGS data, it won't have all of the ones I have referenced. The data I used was pulled from the Oklahoma Geological Survey, which operates its own separate network of seismographs.

Take a look at this, paying attention to the year on the left and notice what happens when it gets to 2010, and this may not even show all of them.

Jan 06, 2015
aksdad is confused regarding the differences between natural earthquakes to relieve natural pressure, and the creation of the pressure to cause earthquakes.

Some law firm is now collecting information to go to court and have the polluters fix the damage.

Jan 12, 2015
Elsewhere Water_Prophet made idle claims:-
What is the basis of your claim that CO2's effect to space is negligible when U ONLY focuson incoming Total Solar Insolation (TSI) ?

Evidence abundantly clear, u ignore CO2's increased thermal resistivity of IR to space !

Why Would U Water_Prophet ignore something so vitally important ?

Its as if U have some serious mental block to even THINK of that issue ?

Did U look at Mars as I urged:-
- Less than 1% of Earth's atmosphere
- Farther away from sun
- Higher CO2 of ~95%
yet can reach a balmy 20 to 30C in the shade...!

As a claimed Physical Chemist, why can't u even find any link to support your claim, let alone an educated opinion based upon your university training ?

Look forward to integrity & mature dialectic Water_Prophet - can you please communicate well, just like a trained uni graduate ?

Can U be smarter please Water_Prophet - basic Physics please ?

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