Study Claims Larger Quakes Can Be Triggered By Fracking Related Minor Quakes

According to a new study, large tremors could be triggered in the near future because of fracking. Fracking is the technological process that is applied in the oil and natural gas industry for production where hydraulic fracturing or small earthquakes are created through artificial means to bring out oil and natural gags from the Earth.

Scientists had noted a couple of large aftershocks after a minor quake between the years 2010 and 2011 while they were investigating trends in seismic activities in the state of Arkansas in the southeastern region of the United States. This examination was conducted by a group of scientists who were led by geoscientists from U.S. Stanford University. The results of the research were published in the Journal of Geophysical Research very recently.

A new method has been developed for the detection of thousands of indistinct tremors that had been previously missed and which can be termed as earthquakes that are triggered by fracking. This creation by the Stanford scientists formed the basis of the study.

Fracking is conducted by t he injection of fluid under high pressure into the Earth so that it is able to crack open the Earth to let loose the natural gas that remains trapped in between the layers of earth. The scientists claimed that monitoring of fracking activities can be detected with the use of the drilling technique.

Earthquakes which are typically too small for detection by modern earthquake measuring machines are created by the process of during where the rock layers are cracked open.

Conducting of a retrospective analysis of seismic activity in Arkansas was done with the use of an advanced data-mining algorithm which had been worked out by the Stanford researchers themselves.

Comprehensive records of seismic activity are generated by the earthquake-pattern recognition method of the algorithm.

17 of the 53 production wells in Arkansas were the places where the researchers managed to identify over 14,000 tiny earthquakes that had not been reported previously in that region. The researchers concluded that most of those tiny earthquakes were a direct result of the fracking activity with the use of their algorithm.

People residing in the vicinity of an Arkansas natural gas field were rocked by a magnitude-4 quake in October of 2010. That small earthquake was followed by two aftershocks which were larger in 2011 and were a direct result of the smaller quake. other gas- and oil-producing states including Oklahoma   and Texas were also latter rattled by the same quakes.

“When earthquakes during fracking operations are larger than expected and persist for weeks, it indicates a high level of stress in that area,” said the study’s co-author William Ellsworth, quoted by a Stanford press release on Tuesday.

He explained that larger earthquakes can be triggered as the faults that are placed under high stress can slip as they are unstable.

It would be possible in the future to stop more such earthquakes from happening by the use of the algorithm developed by the Stanford researchers and that algorithm now allows obtaining greater information from already existing data which is also efficient as well as cost effective, he said.

(Adapted from News.xinhuanet.com)

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