Fracking Suspected in Arkansas Earthquakes

Some residents of Guy, Arkansas believe hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, could be causing small earthquakes in their area. Guy is located in Arkansas’ Fayetteville shale, center of the state’s natural gas drilling boom. Drillers started fracking there several years ago.

According to a report in The New York Times, shortly after drilling began, the ground started shaking. Earthquake swarms in the area aren’t unusual. In fact, such swarms have happened around here twice in the past three decades, long before the gas companies came. But researchers from the Arkansas Geological Survey say that while there is no discernible link between earthquakes and gas production, there is “strong temporal and spatial” evidence for a relationship between these quakes and the injection wells, the Times said.

Last summer, knowing that there would be two new active injection wells around Guy, researchers set up a network of measuring stations in the area. They measured a great deal of seismic activity after the wells went online. Researchers are now studying whether the ebb and flow of the quakes match that of the activity at the injection wells.

The gas companies, of course, say they have found no causal connection between the earthquakes and fracking.

Saying the issue needs further study, the Arkansas Oil and Gas Commission office voted recently to extend a six-month extension of the moratorium on drilling of new disposal wells in about 600 square miles around Guy.

Fracking, which involves injecting a cocktail of chemicals and water deep into shale deposits under high pressure to release natural gas, has long been suspected of causing earthquakes. For instance, a study released last March of seismic activity in the Dallas/Fort Worth, Texas area found that the operation of a saltwater injection disposal well in the area was a “plausible cause” for a series of small earthquakes that occurred in the area between October 30, 2008, and May 16, 2009.

Fracking was also named a suspect in a series of minor earthquakes that occurred last years in West Virginia’s Braxton County.

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