The rivers of water pumped into and out of the ground during the production of natural gas, oil and geothermal energy are causing the Earth to shake more frequently in areas where these industrial activities are soaring, according to a series of studies published today. While the gas extraction process known as hydraulic fracturing (aka “fracking”) causes some small quakes, it’s the disposal of wastewater following that process — and many others relating to energy production — that lead to the largest tremors.
“Fortunately, there have been no deaths and damage has been limited to date, but it is obviously of concern to people as we think about the future of the energy economy,” William Ellsworth, a seismologist with the United States Geological Survey in Menlo Park, Calif., told NBC News.
Within the central and Eastern United States, more than 300 earthquakes of magnitude 3 or greater were recorded from 2010 through 2012, compared to an average rate of 21 earthquakes per year from 1967 to 2000, he noted in a review study on human-induced earthquakes published today in Science.
In southern California, researchers have found a correlation… read on….