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Drilling for Earthquakes

Earthquakes are unpredictable, can strike with enough force to bring buildings down and occur every day. On average there are:

  • 100 earthquakes daily
  • 680 earthquakes in a week
  • 3,400 earthquakes per month
  • 42,000 earthquakes in a year

But what is more frightening are the growing number of earthquakes and tremors caused by human activity. Scientists have proven that oil and gas production areas have an increasing number of man-induced earthquakes as a result of hydraulic fracturing. It is not the actually drilling which is so damaging – it is the underground injection of wastewater injection wells produced by hydraulic fracturing and other energy technologies that has a higher risk of causing such earthquakes. And behind those wells is a technological breakthrough known as horizontal drilling. The technique allows operators to drill wells vertically and then bend them 90 degrees like flexible straws. Instead of drilling right through a gas deposit that is 300 feet thick but miles across, these wells can turn when they are inside the deposit and run for thousands of feet, collecting significantly more gas and oil.

  • The injections alter stresses that hold geologic faults together, letting them slip, unleashing an earthquake.
  • Quakes could continue even if injections were stopped because pressure changes already induced in deep rock can migrate for years, possibly encountering faults.

 

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