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The problems with fracking (part 4)

According to the USGS, fracking can cause “extremely small earthquakes, but they are almost always too small to be a safety concern.”
While fracking may not be perfect, it is not the villain that anti-fracking advocates portray it to be.

Originally published as a main feature story in Energy Digital's monthly magazine, this piece takes a head-on approach to the top arguments against hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, in an effort to separate fact from fiction. Click here to read the entire article. 

In the first post of this 4-part web series, we explored Argument No. 1: Fracking will worsen climate change.  In the second post, we explored Argument No. 2: Renewable energy is replacing fossil fuels and non-renewable energy. In the third and most recent post, we combined Argument No. 3: Fracking contaminates ground and surface water with Argument No. 4: Fracking uses a tremendous amount of water.

In this fourth and final post, we explore Argument No. 5: Fracking causes earthquakes.   

There has been a lot of talk lately that fracking causes earthquakes: This argument has escalated from claiming it causes small earthquakes (around magnitude 2.0) to claiming it causes Hollywood movie-style cataclysmic earthquake events.

The problem with this argument is that it does contain some truth; however, fracking won’t likely be the cause of “the big one.”

RELATED TOPIC: Fracking the way to energy independence

According to the USGS, fracking can cause “extremely small earthquakes, but they are almost always too small to be a safety concern.”

Specifically, the salt water and fracking fluids that are returned to the earth’s surface after drilling are often disposed of by being injected into very deep wells. When this material is injected into the Earth’s subsurface, it “can cause earthquakes that are large enough to be felt and may cause damage.”

It is interesting to note here, though, that hydro-power – the sustainable energy that is regarded as “eco-friendly” – has actually been the documented cause of earthquakes; in fact, the hydroelectric Koyna Dam in India caused a magnitude 6.3 earthquake that killed 180 people and left thousands homeless in 1967.

RELATED TOPIC: Top 10 largest hydroelectric dams

Similarly, in 2008, the 7.9 magnitude earthquake that destroyed the Sichuan province in China is believed to have been caused by the hydroelectric Zipingpu Dam. Geothermal energy and carbon sequestration are also often cited as culprits.

And remember this story? Ohio well operations shut down for causing earthquakes

No matter what type of energy we use, there will always be someone protesting it: People have their own opinions, and issues like this tend to be very emotionally charged, which can result in the lines of truth becoming blurred.

The bottom line here is that while fracking may not be perfect, it is not the villain that anti-fracking advocates portray it to be. Just like any other form of energy, there are benefits and there are potential harms. 

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