Episode 150: Can hydraulic fracturing cause earthquakes & if so, what can we do about it?

Meagan Mauter, a professor at Carnegie Mellon University, discusses how wastewater from hydraulic fracking could potentially cause earthquakes and how these earthquakes could potentially be prevented.

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Respond

Learn More

Risks and Risk Governance in Unconventional Shale Gas Development from the American Chemical Society

Investment optimization model for freshwater acquisition and wastewater handling in shale gas production from the American Institute of Chemical Engineers


Transcript

MODERATOR:     Does hydraulic fracturing cause earthquakes?  On this week’s Energy Bite, Megan Mauter, a professor at Carnegie Mellon University, has some answers.

MEAGAN: In the major US shale gas plays, there is no strong evidence that hydraulic fracturing causes earthquakes directly.  Instead, many of the earthquakes reported around Oklahoma, Texas, and Ohio stem from injecting high volumes of hydraulic fracturing wastewater in disposal wells.

In earlier Energy Bite episodes, we explained that the wastewater produced from hydraulic fracturing operations is often very salty, and therefore difficult to treat.  When this water is injected into disposal wells, it is being pushed into many tiny holes within porous geological formations. If the injection rate is too high, then the formation becomes stressed and can result in an earthquake.

MODERATOR:      What can be done to prevent these earthquakes?

 MEAGAN: By maximizing the reuse of wastewater in subsequent hydraulic fracturing operations, we minimize the amount of water sent to these injection wells. We can also develop new water treatment technologies that remove all contaminants from this water and allow us to safely discharge clean, fresh water into streams. More research and development will help respond to concerns some have about hydraulic fracturing operations and related activities.

.MODERATOR:     Are you concerned about earthquakes that may result from the disposal of hydraulic fracturing wastewater? Take our poll, see the results, and ask your energy questions at Energy Bite dot org.

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