A new study published in the Bulletin of the Seismological Society of America confirms that a fracking operation near Poland Township, Ohio, activated a previously unknown fault in the, causing 77 earthquakes with magnitudes ranging from 1.0 to 3.0 in March 2014.
On March 10, the Ohio Department of Natural Resources ordered the drilling company, Hilcorp Energy, to halt operations on March 10 after nearby residents felt a 3.0-magnitude earthquake, according to the environmental news web site EcoWatch.
Study authors Robert Skoumal, Michael Brudzinski, and Brian Currie at Miami University of Ohio, compared these earthquakes to well-stimulation reports and found the earthquakes “coincided temporally and spatially with hydraulic fracturing at specific stages of the stimulation,” according to EcoWatch. Fracking at other nearby wells did not produce seismic activity, suggesting to the researchers that the fault is limited in its scope.
Oklahoma has experienced a major increase in earthquakes attributed to fracking, and EcoWatch writes that Ohio could also face more earthquakes if fracking increases. From 1975 to 2008, Oklahoma averaged one to three earthquakes of magnitude 3 or greater each year. That number jumped to 20 in 2009, with 19 of those earthquakes magnitude 4 or greater, the strength at which experts say significant damage can occur. In 2011, Oklahoma experienced a 5.7 magnitude quake, its largest recorded quake. The Oklahoma Geological Survey and the U.S. Geological Survey reported that fracking was “likely a contributing factor” in the quakes. The researchers believe Oklahoma’s activity is spreading north into Kansas, which had only two earthquakes in 2013 but 42 in 2014. Most of those quakes were near the border with Oklahoma.
Skoumal pointed out that we “don’t know where all the faults are located,” and this creates a risk of activating previously unknown faults through fracking operations, according to EcoWatch. In addition to the earthquake risk, concerns about fracking include water and air contamination near fracking sites and cancer and illness risks from the chemicals used in fracking.