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Did Barnett Shale Fracking Lead To Dallas Earthquakes?

January 9th, 2015

A series of earthquakes in the Dallas area earlier this week has been attributed by some scientists to nearby Barnett Shale fracking activities. The quakes ranged from 1.6 to 3.6 on the Richter Scale and were the latest seismological event in the previously-stable area. Some scientists have cited the injection wells, used to dispose of waste water products from the Barnett Shale fracking wells, as a potential cause for the rare tremors.

Dallas Earthquakes Near Barnett Shale Fracking Sites

Some of the nine tremors that occurred Tuesday and Wednesday occurred within a short distance of some of the Barnett Shale fracking injection wells. Records from the U.S. Geological Survey showed that at least a hundred quakes have occurred across the region in less than five years, ever since Barnett Shale fracking activities began in the area. The report shows that 26 earthquakes occurred in Irving, Texas, a suburb of Dallas with a population of 225,000, since October 2014.

Barnett Shale Fracking and the Balcones Fault Zone

Many of the Barnett Shale fracking injection wells are located near the Balcones Fault Zone, a geological fault line that passes through Fort Worth, Waco, Austin and San Antonio. The injection wells hold the waste products from the Barnett Shale fracking processes thousands of feet underground. Scientists at the University of Texas’ Institute for Geophysics have found that the pressure from these Barnett Shale fracking injection wells can “lubricate” the fault line, causing seismic events such as those seen earlier this week.

Quakes Put Barnett Shale Fracking Under Scrutiny

The recent spate of quakes have prompted both citizens and scientists to examine the potential ties between the increased seismic activity and the Barnett Shale fracking activities. Dr. Elizabeth Cochran, a seismologist with the U.S. Geological Survey, told reporters that researchers may require a year of study to determine if, and to what extent, the Barnett Shale fracking injection wells were a causative factor in the tremors. However, she also mentioned “a number of studies” that linked injection wells to increased seismic activity in “a significant portion” of the quakes around the Barnett Shale.

More Quakes To Come From Barnett Shale Fracking?

The increased frequency of the quakes has also spurred concerns about the safety of the Barnett Shale fracking injection wells. The quakes around the Barnett Shale fracking sites have grown in both frequency and intensity in recent months. USGS geophysicist Dr. Jessica Turner told a Dallas-area TV station that the 3.6 magnitude quake recorded in Irving was the most severe since the 1970’s. As activity around the Barnett Shale increases and injection wells continue to be drilled, the North Texas region may experience more than a mild shake in the coming months and years.

Sources: National GeographicDaily Beast

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