Study concludes hydraulic fracturing poses low earthquake risk

Hydraulic fracturing has a low risk for inducing earthquakes that can be felt by people but underground injection of wastewater produced by fracing and other energy technologies has a higher risk of causing earthquakes, the National Research Council said in a report released June 15.

Carbon capture and storage may have the potential for inducing seismic events because significant volumes of fluids are injected underground over long periods of time, the report said, but insufficient information exists to understand the potential earthquake risk related to CCS.

The committee writing the report said continued research is needed to examine potential for induced seismic events in large-scale CCS projects. The US Department of Energy sponsored the report after a June 2010 congressional request for such a study.

The report examined the potential for shale gas recovery, CCS, geothermal energy production, and conventional oil and gas development to cause earthquakes. Fracing as currently used for shale gas recovery does not pose a high risk for inducing felt seismic events, the study said.

The committee noted the number of incidents have been “very few” given the thousands of wells in which fracing has been used across the US.

“While scientists understand the general mechanisms that induce seismic events, they are unable to accurately predict the magnitude or occurrence of these earthquakes due to insufficient information about the natural rock systems and a lack of validated predictive models at specific energy development sites,” the report said.

The factor most directly correlated with induced earthquakes is the total balance of fluid introduced or removed underground, the committee said.

Because oil and gas development, CCS, and geothermal energy production each involve net fluid injection or withdrawal, all have at least the potential to induce earthquakes that could be felt by people.

Technologies designed to maintain a balance between the amounts of fluid being injected and withdrawn, such as most geothermal and conventional oil and gas development, appear to produce fewer induced seismic events than technologies that do not maintain fluid balance.

Numerous federal and state agencies have regulatory oversight related to different aspects of underground injection activities associated with energy technologies. The committee issuing the report said interagency cooperation is warranted given expanding energy development.

Seismic events caused by or likely related to energy development have been measured and felt in Alabama, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Illinois, Louisiana, Mississippi, Nebraska, Nevada, New Mexico, Ohio, Oklahoma, and Texas, the report said.

Abroad, the UK government has looked into events around a Cuadrilla Resources Ltd. shale-gas well near Poulton-le-Fylde (OGJ Online, Nov. 3, 2011).

Cuadrilla commissioned the study that found a high probability that hydraulic fracturing of its Preese Hall-1 well triggered seismic events. The well was completed in a Bowland basin shale, which Cuadrilla has said might hold 200 tcf of natural gas in place in its 437-sq-mile license area between Blackpool and Preston (OGJ Online, Sept. 22, 2011).

Contact Paula Dittrick at

Related Articles

EPA proposes voluntary methane reduction program for gas industry

07/24/2015 The US Environmental Protection Agency proposed a voluntary methane reduction program for the natural gas industry that would allow companies to ma...

Petrobras workers stage 24-hr strike

07/24/2015 Workers at beleaguered Petroleo Brasileiro SA (Petrobras) staged a 24-hr strike across Brazil to protest plans by the state-owned company to liquid...

MARKET WATCH: Oil futures hover below $49/bbl

07/24/2015 Light, sweet crude oil futures prices settled under $49/bbl July 23 on the New York market, which means US prices have slid more than 20% since the...

EQT reports high IP from Utica dry gas well

07/24/2015 EQT Corp., Pittsburgh, said a deep, dry gas Utica well averaged 72.9 MMcfd with an average flowing casing pressure of 8,641 psi during a 24-hr deli...

Separate Murkowski bill addresses crude exports, OCS revenue sharing

07/24/2015 US Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee Chair Lisa Murkowski (R-Alas.) introduced legislation that would end the ban on US crude oil expor...

OGUK updates guidelines for well abandonments


Oil & Gas UK has released updated guidelines for abandonment of wells, including cost estimates.

MARKET WATCH: Oil futures plunge below $50/bbl


Light, sweet crude oil futures prices plunged lower to settle below $50/bbl on the New York market on July 22.

Cornyn calls for more US energy exports in wake of Iran deal

07/23/2015 US Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn (R-Tex.) said it would be geopolitically, economically, and strategically absurd for the US to maintain outmode...

Post-sanctions Iran initially won’t shake markets up, executive says

07/22/2015 Iran’s resumption of oil and gas exports, once sanctions are lifted under the recently negotiated nuclear limits agreement, probably won’t flood gl...
White Papers

Definitive Guide to Cybersecurity for the Oil & Gas Industry

In the Oil and Gas industry, there is no single adversary and no single threat to the information tech...

UAS Integration for Infrastructure: More than Just Flying

Oil and gas companies recognize the benefits that the use of drones or unmanned aerial systems (UAS) c...

Solutions to Financial Distress Resulting from a Weak Oil and Gas Price Environment

The oil and gas industry is in the midst of a prolonged worldwide downturn in commodity prices. While ...
Sponsored by

2015 Global Engineering Information Management Solutions Competitive Strategy Innovation and Leadership Award

The Frost & Sullivan Best Practices Awards recognise companies in a variety of regional and global...
Sponsored by

Three Tips to Improve Safety in the Oil Field

Working oil fields will always be tough work with inherent risks. There’s no getting around that. Ther...
Sponsored by

Pipeline Integrity: Best Practices to Prevent, Detect, and Mitigate Commodity Releases

Commodity releases can have catastrophic consequences, so ensuring pipeline integrity is crucial for p...
Sponsored by

AVEVA’s Digital Asset Approach - Defining a new era of collaboration in capital projects and asset operations

There is constant, intensive change in the capital projects and asset life cycle management. New chall...
Sponsored by

Transforming the Oil and Gas Industry with EPPM

With budgets in the billions, timelines spanning years, and life cycles extending over decades, oil an...
Sponsored by
Available Webcasts

Operating a Sustainable Oil & Gas Supply Chain in North America

When Tue, Oct 20, 2015

Short lead times and unpredictable conditions in the Oil & Gas industry can create costly challenges in supply chains. By implementing a LEAN culture of continuous improvement you can eliminate waste, increase productivity and gain end-to-end visibility leading to a sustainable and well-oiled supply chain.

Please join us for this webcast sponsored by Ryder System, Inc.


On Demand

Leveraging technology to improve safety & reliability

Tue, Sep 22, 2015

Attend this informative webinar to learn more about how to leverage technology to meet the new OSHA standards and protect your employees from the hazards of arc flash explosions.


The Resilient Oilfield in the Internet of Things World

Tue, Sep 22, 2015

As we hear about the hype surrounding the Internet of Things, the oil and gas industry is questioning what is different than what is already being done. What is new?  Using sensors and connecting devices is nothing new to our mode of business and in many ways the industry exemplifies many principles of an industrial internet of things. How does the Internet of Things impact the oil and gas industry?

Prolific instrumentation and automation digitized the industry and has changed the approach to business models calling for a systems led approach.  Resilient Systems have the ability to adapt to changing circumstances while maintaining their central purpose.  A resilient system, such as Maximo, allows an asset intensive organization to leverage connected devices by merging real-time asset information with other critical asset information and using that information to create a more agile organization.  

Join this webcast, sponsored by IBM, to learn how about Internet of Things capabilities and resilient systems are impacting the landscape of the oil and gas industry.


Taking the Headache out of Fuel License and Exemption Certificates: How to Ensure Compliance

Tue, Aug 25, 2015

This webinar, brought to you by Avalara, will detail the challenges of tax document management, as well as recommend solutions for fuel suppliers. You will learn:

-    Why it’s critical to track business partner licenses and exemption documents
-    The four key business challenges of ensuring tax compliance through document management
-    Best practice business processes to minimize exposure to tax errors


Emerson Micro Motion Videos

Careers at TOTAL

Careers at TOTAL - Videos

More than 600 job openings are now online, watch videos and learn more!


Click Here to Watch

Other Oil & Gas Industry Jobs

Search More Job Listings >>
Stay Connected