USGS: Rise in Earthquakes Follows Increase in Oil, Natural Gas Production

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According to the Associated Press, a study from the U.S. Geological Survey has found a link between oil and natural gas production and a recent spike in small earthquakes in the country. The study looked at an increase in tectonic activity in the U.S. just west of Ohio and east of Utah. It found that starting in 2001 between the state lines of Colorado and New Mexico, an increase that occurred as methane production in the area occurred. Earthquake frequency spiked again since 2009, which was around the same time and in the same area as natural gas production increased.

Here are some facts about the impact of energy drilling on seismic activity and other recent reports and studies that have looked at the link.

* Temple University Geologist Nick Devatzes said if large enough quantities of water are injected into the bedrock near a geologic fault, it can destabilize the rock and result in a slight move, generally registering at less than 3.0 on the Richter scale, according to CBS Local.

* In Cuadrilla Resources, a British energy company, released a report stating its hydraulic fracturing was probably the cause of two large earthquakes that occurred in Lancashire last year, nature reported.

* Cuadrilla halted operations and commissioned numerous consultants following a 2.3 magnitude earthquake in April and a 1.4 magnitude earthquake in May, in addition to numerous tiny events, hit near the company's fracking site in the U.K.

* Fox News noted that after several earthquakes hit Arkansas last year, experts believed they were caused by natural gas drilling the area, especially since 90 percent of the state's earthquakes since 2009 have been within 6 kilometers of a salt water disposal well.

* Often times saltwater, a common waste product of fracking, is injected into the ground as means of disposal, but some scientists believe this reduces the friction of bedrock underground, prompting small seismic activity.

* In early March, a report from Ohio oil and gas regulators said that a dozen earthquakes in northeastern Ohio were almost certainly caused by poorly-planned natural gas production via "fracking," reported the Associated Press.

* The report also indicated seismic activity was occurring around the well bore and that a fault was recently discovered in the Precambrian basement rock where fracking water was being injected.

* It concluded with several suggested regulations, including banning injection into the basement rock and requiring companies to take geologic features into account before drilling, as well as adding that properly located injection wells will not cause earthquakes.

* Currently, the National Academy of Sciences conducting its own study, set to be released later this year, on the connection between seismic activity and energy drilling projects.

Rachel Bogart provides an in-depth look at current environmental issues and local Chicago news stories. As a college student from the Chicago suburbs pursuing two science degrees, she applies her knowledge and passion to both topics to garner further public awareness.

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