Fracking and Earthquakes?

Just the Facts: Hydraulic Fracturing and Seismicity

04.November.2011EID

For two new reports linking earthquakes and shale gas production, there’s more than meets the eye.

There have been countless stories this week about two new reports – one from the United Kingdom and the other from the state of Oklahoma – drawing a connection between seismic activity and hydraulic fracturing. The headlines paint a bleak picture for such a safe and important technology:Reuters says, “UK firm says shale fracking caused earthquakes.” Rolling Stone asks rhetorically, “Wait, Now Fracking Causes Earthquakes?” By the time the Natural Resources Defense Council chimed in, the message was that hydraulic fracturing triggered two “relatively large earthquakes, with magnitudes 2.3 and 1.5.”

But were these seismic events “relatively large” as the NRDC claimed? Not really. In fact, in both the U.K. and Oklahoma the seismic activity measured was less than a magnitude 3. The U.S. Geological Survey – filled with people who actually study such things for a living – states that even magnitudes as high as 3.9 are often unnoticeable to those in the area.

So we’re not talking about roads being twisted or buildings and houses slipping off their foundations. Heck, we’re not even necessarily talking about your cup of coffee rattling on the table. What we are discussing is, according to the USGS, “similar to the passing of a truck.”

But don’t just take our word for it. We’ve read through the reports and gathered the key facts, so you can now see for yourself what these reports actually say about hydraulic fracturing. Continue reading

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