Link Found Between Carbon Dioxide Injection and Earthquakes in Texas Oil Field

Categories: Environment

There's a growing body of science that says injecting substances underground can cause earthquakes. Here in North Texas, we've had plenty associated with the injection of slippery frack water deep into earth. Motionless faults get lubricated into sudden shifting and a country not known for seismic activity suddenly gets active.

Turns out, carbon dioxide does the same thing. That's a problem, given its growing use in the revitalization of oil fields once thought to be played out. And it presents a conundrum for carbon-capture proponents who believe injecting the greenhouse gas underground could offer a way to reduce climate-altering emissions.

A paper published Monday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences by University of Texas researcher Cliff Froehlich is the first of its kind to draw a link between carbon dioxide injection and earthquakes.

In the Codgell field near Snyder, west of Abilene, temblors of magnitude 4 and below shook the area from 2006 to 2011. The only comparable stretch of seismic activity took place decades before, when large amounts of water were injected into wells to enhance oil production, the study says. "Water injection cannot explain the 2006-2011 earthquakes. However, since 2004 significant volumes of gas including CO2 have been injected into Cogdell wells."

The gas displaces the oil within, stimulating old wells whose production has tailed off. Froehlich believes it may be stimulating localized faulting too. Now, he says, further research needs to establish the mechanism that triggers the earthquake. Not every gas injection field causes seismic activity.

The practice of carbon dioxide-aided oil recovery isn't going away. In an interview with Platts, U.S. Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz talked about expanding the technique to recover some 3 million barrels of oil per day.

Send your story tips to the author, Brantley Hargrove.

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scottindallas topcommenter

not all Earthquakes are the same.  A 4 is one-hundreth the power of a 6.  Of all the issues with fracking, this is the least of the problems


lot of ifs and mays in the abstracts. anti-frack crowd will run with those til those cows come home

now for other news

"Fracking has been dismissed as a cause of earthquakes, volcanic or other seismic activity in Taranaki in a report released this morning.

The report, commissioned by the Taranaki Regional Council in the wake of growing public and media interest in the technique, found no evidence fracking had any observable effect on natural earthquake activity."

Drilling for shale gas in the U.K. won’t cause dangerous earthquakes and poses little risk to the environment given appropriate safeguards, scientists said.

“Most geologists think this is a pretty safe activity,” Mike Stephenson, head of energy science at the British Geological Survey, said at a briefing in London yesterday. “We think the risk is pretty low and we have the scientific tools to tell if there is a problem.”

" researchers from Durham University released a peer-reviewed paper —unfortunately, not widely reported – regarding the issue of hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”) and induced seismicity (earthquakes). According to lead author Richard Davies, hydraulic fracturing is not the earthquake inducing threat that  anti-development activists claim.

Of 198 instances of human-caused earthquakes since 1929, the authors observed only one that was indirectly related to hydraulic fracturing, and this wasn’t in California. Other sources cite three other seismic events potentially related to the process, but the two in the United States were linked to wastewater injection, a process common to many industries."

 "When the rare quakes do occur, they’re typically linked to the disposal of drilling fluids in underground injection wells, Cliff Frohlich said in September at West Virginia University. And the vast majority of injection wells don’t cause quakes, either, he said.

Frohlich cited six earthquakes since 2008 in Texas, Arkansas, Colorado, Ohio and Oklahoma, ranging from magnitude 3.3 to magnitude 5.7."

 "Whether or not it’s fracking causing these quakes or the injection, deep into the earth of stuff left over from the fracking process, the concern is overblown. That’s because man-made quakes are nothing new. Humans have been causing earthquakes for decades. Sometimes those earthquakes have hurt people. In the case of fracking-related quakes, the quakes are so small that they haven’t hurt anyone and they are unlikely to."



@scottindallas If only the world could be powered with the hot air of your blowhard comments and Eric Nicholson's poor grammar. 

scottindallas topcommenter

@pak152 injection wells are fracking.  speaking of caveats, your first link said it wasn't a factor in "major quakes"   I'm skeptical about fracking, but those earthquakes aren't  a major problem, I concede that point.  But, you're overlooking caveats as well


So instead of allowing research to prove or disprove whether fracking does or does not cause  earthquakes or pollute wells your Ok with just blindly going forward and keeping your fingers crossed that it doesn't casue these things?  All I see is an Ostrich with its head buried in the sand.    

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