Letter to the Editor: Putting the earthquake myth to bed


I read the Letter to the Editor on Hydraulic Fracturing in Friday’s paper and was once again dismayed by the lack of knowledge exhibited by the author on the topic, a problem that seems to be peculiarly prevalent among those opposed to natural gas development.

Since each of the alleged negative effects of the development of natural gas addressed in the letter would take an entire page or more to clarify I would like to address just one today: Earthquakes!

Earthquakes are actually associated with disposal wells which are used in some states to dispose of many types of industrial wastes. These wells differ significantly from a hydraulically fractured natural gas well. They are designed to have large volumes of fluid pumped into them over a long period of time without flow back and the formations chosen for disposal wells are picked for their ability to accept high volumes of waste.

The tight shales that are the targets for natural gas development do not meet any of those criteria.

Since this particular myth seems to have originated when several small earthquakes occurred around the Dallas – Fort Worth airport in 2008 – 2009 I think the work on the topic by Clifford Frolich from the Institute for Geophysics, University of Texas is important. His paper can be found at www.aipg.org/Seminars/HFMS/Frohlich,%20Cliff.pdf

Some of the conclusion arrived at in the study? The earthquakes were caused by disposal wells located on an existing fault. The magnitude of any induced earthquake can be no greater than regional naturally occurring quakes, not quakes felt where the epicenter is outside of the region. In Texas it is not a serious hazard (and it would not be here since we are in a region of very low seismicity).

The more recent earthquakes in McDonald, Ohio were attributed to the same cause, disposal wells lubricating an existing fault.

The DEC and EPA both regulate injection wells in NY (there are currently six such wells in the state) and the DEC is familiar with the issue when they are located on a fault.

It is time to put this myth that natural gas development using high volume hydraulic fracturing will cause damaging earthquakes in our region to bed.

Steven Palmatier


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