Fracking doesn’t cause earthquakes.
The problem is, wastewater disposal — without which fracking cannot be done — almost definitely does, say scientists.
Bloomberg has a big profile on the man who invented the wastewater disposal technique that has allowed for massive amounts of fracking — the modern method of extracting oil and gas from shale — throughout the Midwest.
David Chernicky started New Dominion, a Tulsa-based company that, according to Bloomberg, invented “a new breed of injection well, a type that could take down tens of millions of barrels a year and bury it deep underground.” Scientists have come to the conclusion that these kinds of wells are responsible for the hundreds of earthquakes that have happened through Oklahoma and Texas in recent years.
Over time, geologists say, the disposal water changes underground pore pressures, in essence lubricating the fissures between tectonic plates and causing them to slip. “Wastewater injection,” says Bill Ellsworth, a seismologist at the U.S. Geological Survey, “is undoubtedly responsible for the majority of these earthquakes.”
Chernicky tells Bloomberg he doesn’t believe it. “He’s adamant that the evidence tying underground wells to earthquakes is unreliable and confident New Dominion will prevail. ‘I deal with science,’ he says. ‘That’s what this will come down to. Is it about science? Or is it about emotion?'”
The research would suggest it’s about science.
Here’s a diagram of how fracking works. At the top right is the diagram of wastewater injection: