Fracking suspended after earthquakes rock Ohio

Officials say the wells were closed "out of an abundance of caution"

Topics: fracking, Earthquakes, Ohio, Oil and Gas, ,

A fracking operation in northeastern Ohio has been shut down by the state Department of Natural Resources following a series of earthquakes that may have been caused by the drilling.

The quakes were nothing major: a 3.0 and a 2.6 magnitude temblor that were followed, later Monday, by smaller aftershocks. But they were large enough to be felt in neighboring towns, and for the department to put a halt to drilling at the well, along with six others operated by Hilcorp Energy.

The department said in a statement that it acted “out of an abundance of caution” in suspending work at the wells, adding that it was too early to determine whether the drilling was directly responsible for the quakes.

As the New York Times explains, it’s rare for the process of fracking itself to be linked to earthquakes. But injection wells, used to dispose of fracking wastewater, are a different story.  Back in 2011, a well in Youngstown, Ohio, was shut down for investigation after a wave of over 100 minor earthquakes were experienced in the previously stable area. A study later confirmed that the quakes were likely linked to a wastewater injection well.

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And over in Oklahoma, a new study from the U.S. Geological Survey determined that wastewater wells likely triggered a series of earthquakes there, as well. Officials say the two 2011 quakes, measuring at a 5.0 and 5.7 magnitude, triggered “thousands of aftershocks”

“It’s an area which [before 2011] had no history of earthquakes,” John Armbruster, a retired Columbia University geology professor involved with the Youngstown study, told the  Columbus Dispatch of the new incident. “It looks very, very suspicious.”

Lindsay Abrams
Lindsay Abrams is a staff writer at Salon, reporting on all things sustainable. Follow her on Twitter @readingirl, email labrams@salon.com.

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