Recent technological advances in horizontal drilling and fracking, short for hydraulic fracturing, have allowed the United States to tap natural gas and oil reserves at record and near-record levels, helping the country become awash in cheap gasoline. But just what is fracking, and how has it been linked to earthquakes?
Fracking is a process by which oil and natural gas are liberated from dense rock (like shale) by injecting high-pressure fluids underground to break apart the rock.
While such increased production has decreased our reliance on foreign oil, there is some evidence of a number of possible negative environmental consequences such as water contamination (though a study from last September may help rule that out), stress on water supplies, and fracking fluid toxicity.
Fracking and Earthquakes
The occasional fracking-triggered earthquake is another.
One recent study (published this month in the journal Bulletin of the Seismological Society of America) linked a series of minor earthquakes to fracking wells near Youngstown, Ohio. Even more recently, a 4.4 magnitude earthquake in Canada was reportedly linked to fracking operations in Alberta. (More on earthquake magnitudes.)
But just how does fracturing shake things up? To answer that question, the World Science Festival talked to Heather Savage, a geophysicist from Columbia University. See video above.
Manmade Earthquakes Update – U.S. Geological Survey
‘Fracking’ wastewater that is treated for drinking downstream produces potentially harmful compounds
How the Frack Do They Do It? Hydraulic Fracturing 101
One Way to Solve Fracking’s Dirty Problem
By: World Science Festival Staff
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