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Study raises new concern about earthquakes and injection wells

Reuters- By Sharon Begley (Reuters) - Powerful earthquakes thousands of miles (km) away can trigger swarms of minor quakes near wastewater-injection wells like those used in oil and gas recovery, scientists reported on Thursday, sometimes followed months later by quakes big enough to destroy buildings.The discovery, published in the journal Science by one of the world's leading seismology labs, threatens to make hydraulic fracturing, or "fracking," which involves injecting fluid deep underground, even more controversial.It comes as the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency conducts a study of the effects of fracking, particularly the disposal of wastewater, which could form the basis of new regulations on oil and gas drilling.

 

 

Geologists have known for 50 years that injecting fluid underground can increase pressure on seismic faults and make them more likely to slip. The result is an "induced" quake. A recent surge in U.S. oil and gas production - much of it using vast amounts of water to crack open rocks and release natural gas, as in fracking, or to bring up oil and gas from standard wells - has been linked to an increase in small to moderate induced earthquakes in Oklahoma, Arkansas, Ohio, Texas and Colorado.Now seismologists at Columbia University say they have identified three quakes - in Oklahoma, Colorado and Texas - that were triggered at injection-well sites by major earthquakes a long distance away.

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