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USGS calls for data on fracking-induced tremors

Some states rich in shale experiencing dramatic rise in seismic activity.

By Daniel J. Graeber
USGS calls for data on fracking-induced tremors
USGS report calls for better data collection to help mitigate tremors associated with hydraulic fracturing. Photo by Calin Tatu/Shutterstock

WASHINGTON, Feb. 20 (UPI) -- Research published by the U.S. Geological Survey calls for greater transparency for driving efforts to moderate tremors tied to hydraulic fracturing.

"In contrast to natural earthquake hazard, over which humans have no control, the hazard from induced seismicity can be reduced," USGS geophysicist Art McGarr said in a statement. "Improved seismic networks and public access to fluid injection data will allow us to detect induced earthquake problems at an early stage."

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A USGS report published in the journal Science finds the increase in the number of tremors reported in shale-rich states like Oklahoma and Texas is associated with the injection of waste water used during the process known as fracking.

The number of earthquakes reported last year in Oklahoma was more four times greater than in 2013. The USGS report said the general increase is not tied to natural processes.

Analysis published last week by consultant group Wood Mackenzie finds shale reserve areas in Oklahoma are among the fastest growing in the industry.

Co-author William Ellsworth, a geophysicist with the USGS, said the main goal of the study was to "motivate more cooperation among the stakeholders -- including the energy resources industry, government agencies, the earth science community, and the public at large -- for the common purpose of reducing the consequences of earthquakes induced by fluid injection."

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