Growing Debate over Connection Between Hydraulic Fracturing and Earthquakes

- The debate over the possibility of a link between hydraulic fracturing and earthquakes has been around for years. But researchers from Cornell University and the University of Colorado say a few highly active disposal wells are causing earthquakes in Oklahoma. 

“Here we use seismicity and hydrogeological models to show that fluid migration from high-rate disposal wells in Oklahoma is potentially responsible for the largest swarm,” the report with their finding says.

But petroleum engineers in the Permian Basin say researchers, and the public have blown this topic out of proportion. Dr. Abdallah Harouaka, Coordinator of Petroleum Engineering at the University of the Permian Basin said the activity of hydraulic fracturing can me compared to a train.

“I hear the train all the time,” Harouaka said. “Those huge trains and they shake the ground.”

But residents in Azle, Tx. say they have experienced more earthquakes in recent times.

“And the only thing that's changed in that area is now they have all these injection sites. Well, gee I wonder what the problem could be,” said Azle resident Barbara Brown.

The city and oil and gas companies in Azle have hired seismologists to test their area.

But it’s not just the locals. The Texas Railroad Commission also hired the first state seismologist. According to the commission, the seismologist is currently working with Southern Methodist University in Dallas. The seismologist is currently focusing on the impact of injection wells in the area.

And as a response to the concerned citizens, lawmakers also formed the House Subcommittee on Seismic Activity.

The Railroad Commission said they do not have a timeline of when their seismologist will release any findings. And until then, they say there is no of a link between hydraulic fracturing and quakes in the state of Texas.

“The impact of hydraulic fracturing as to earthquakes is the impact of a heavy truck,” Harouaka said. “Of an 18-wheeler, a loaded 18-wheeler.

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