This is a question many Oklahomans are asking as the state has been rocked by three earthquakes in seven days. First it’s important to understand what fracking, hydraulic fracturing, is. Hydraulic fracturing is a technique used to release petroleum, natural gas, or other substances for extraction.
Hydraulic fracturing has been around for a long time but it was around 1998 when modern hydraulic fracturing started, this is referred to as horizontal slickwater fracturing. This type of hydraulic fracturing helps extract shale gas. It uses highly pressurized hydraulic fracturing fluid to create new channels in the rock to recover the gas or other substances.
Hydraulic fracturing is just one part of the produce of natural gas and oil drilling. And this is why there is some confusion about if hydraulic fracturing causes earthquakes. It is not suspected that hydraulic fracturing is causing earthquakes, at least any big ones. However, another part of the drilling process has shown some evidence that it could be causing earthquakes.
Class II wells could be a cause of the increase in earthquakes Oklahoma has been seeing. We shared last month about the possible link with these disposal wells and earthquakes. Geophysicists are struggling to be able to study the link because they can’t get the information they need.
“In Oklahoma, disposal well operators are only required to record pressure measurements at the surface. Geophysicists say this is simple not enough data to find out if disposal wells are causing any of our earthquakes.”- read more
So the simple answer is no, it’s unlikely that fracking cause the earthquake this morning, but it is possible that disposal wells played a role. Until geophysicists can get the data they need it’s unlikely we will know for sure.
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Photo credits: U. S. Geological Survey, USGS/Ft. Collins, CO