Another report was leaked this week linking fracking—the drilling technique that has unlocked vast reserves of oil and gas trapped in shale—to earthquakes. The report, released by the same group of scientists who previously linked fracking’s wastewater disposal with micro-quakes, purports to show that the controversial oil and gas extraction process is likely responsible for an uptick in seismic activity via an entirely different mechanism. The WSJ reports:
The new study doesn’t find much evidence that the man-made fracturing is causing earthquakes all by itself.The connection [between fracking and earthquakes] is more indirect, the study found: New wells are extracting nearly 600,000 barrels of oil a day and a considerable amount of water as well. Given the scale at which oil is now being removed, enough liquids are being disturbed that rocks are settling and faults slipping, causing the small earthquakes.
If the link between fracking and earthquakes turns out to be more than merely correlative, and the drilling process is, in fact, causing tremors, a whole slew of valid questions will arise. The study hasn’t been officially released yet, and until it’s subjected to rigorous peer review, we won’t be able to make too much of it. But it’s a sobering reminder that extracting resources from deep underground isn’t nearly as easy as the Beverly Hillbillies made it out to be.[Earthquake image courtesy of Shutterstock]