Fracking, or hydraulic fracturing, already comes with a list of environmental concerns, but now may also be the culprit of a surge in seismic activity.
The controversial fracking process involves shooting large volumes of toxic water into underground rocks to obtain shale, leaving large quantities of waste and contaminating surrounding water supplies in the process. As a Cornell geologist told Rolling Stone earlier this year, "These drilling techniques result in amounts of toxic matter so large – in solid, gas, and liquid states – that, in effect, everybody is 'downstream.’ You can’t get far enough away."
Now, reports that fracking can cause earthquakes further defame the industry. According to Bloomberg, "the findings may add to concern that fracturing is harmful to the environment and slow the technology’s development in Britain." France has already put an end to fracking to protect its drinking water supplies, while the US has become the world's largest producer of gas.
Over the weekend, Oklahoma experienced its largest earthquake on record in addition to an increase in smaller quakes over the last year. Though some say the quakes were too large to have been caused by manmade drilling practices, surfacing evidence that fracking induces minor tremors is not helping their argument. Austin Holland of the Oklahoma State Geological Survey wrote a report earlier this year that concludes a swarm of about 50 small quakes may have been related to hydraulic fracturing.
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More recently, Cuadrilla Resources admitted that it is “highly probable” that the company's work triggered seismic events in the UK. But the company claims that they were also the cause of an “unusual combination of geology at the well site” and are unlikely to happen again.
"Cuadrilla is working with the relevant local and national authorities to implement the report's recommendations so we may safely resume our operations," according to Mark Miller, Cuadrilla's chief executive.
Despite opponents' concerns of the unforeseen consequences of the long term effects of fracking, the industry seems unhurt, continuing forward with projects. The vast amounts of low-cost fossil fuels and thousands of jobs the industry creates, is more powerful than those concerned about the environment.
"There is real potential in the shale gas reserves," Shadow energy minister Tom Greatrex said. "People must have the confidence that whilst the discovery of shale gas may bring many benefits, real concerns about its exploration and production need to be addressed properly by the government."