Hydraulic fracturing operation for oil and gas production and associated earthquake activities across the USA

Abstract

Hydraulic fracturing (fracking) operations, associated with horizontal drilling for oil/gas production, are known to induce earthquakes from fluid injection in disposal wells. In recent years, numerous studies have shown a close relationship between induced seismic activities and the high-pressure injection of wastewater, especially in Texas, Kansas, and Oklahoma. Detailed analysis of 17 major fracking locations across the USA has been carried out to study the impact of horizontal wells and the corresponding injected wastewater on earthquake activities. Earthquake data for the period 1998–2018 obtained from the USGS earthquake catalog shows an increase in frequency of earthquakes within a radius of 150 km at fracking locations, prominently in south-central USA. The stimulation of earthquakes depends on the amount of injected water in both horizontal and disposal injected wells, and the geology, hydrological, and geophysical settings nearby the drilling site. The observed seismicity increases with the number of horizontal wells in Texas (correlation R2 = 0.726) and Oklahoma (correlation R2 = 0.636) at the fracking locations.

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Acknowledgements

The authors are grateful to the United States Geological Survey (USGS) for making earthquake data freely available (https://earthquake.usgs.gov/earthquakes/search/) for the present study. One of us (VV) is grateful to NSF-REU program for the award of fellowship to work on Chapman University campus as SURFEE Fellow during June–August 2018. The data used in the present study from various open sources are freely available; we will be happy to provide data used in the present study to the readers. The authors thank the editor and two anonymous reviewers for their valuable comments and suggestions that have helped to improve earlier versions of the manuscript.

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Correspondence to Ramesh P. Singh.

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Villa, V., Singh, R.P. Hydraulic fracturing operation for oil and gas production and associated earthquake activities across the USA. Environ Earth Sci 79, 271 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s12665-020-09008-0

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Keywords

  • Fracking
  • Hydraulic fracturing
  • Earthquake
  • Injection wells
  • Oil production
  • Shale formation