Biggest Earthquake Ever Recorded In Kansas Linked To Fracking
By Kurtis Bright
Fracking Wastewater Injection To Blame For Biggest Ever-Recorded Earthquake In Kansas
We think of some places as earthquake-prone: Japan, Chile, California. A commonality to these three examples is that they all lie in regions where two or more tectonic plates converge or are being pulled apart. Volatile places like these also give rise to volcanoes and other surprises from deep within the earth as the plates constantly shift and settle into new positions.
One place that we don’t associate with earthquakes is Kansas. The Midwestern state made famous by young Dorothy and a certain wizard is famously flat, lacks any trace of volcano, and is about as far from the edge of a continental plate as it is possible to be in North America.
Nonetheless the state and others in the region have seen increasing earthquake activity in recent years, activity which was at first considered novel and strange. Lately it has become more and more commonplace, and it is causing consternation for emergency services and insurance companies, as well as the residents of the area.
It has long been suspected that hydraulic fracturing activities otherwise known as “fracking”--which involves the injection of thousands of gallons of chemical-laden water deep into cracks in the bedrock to fracture them further, opening them up wider and releasing oil and natural gas--have contributed to the strange seismic activity.
Now there is finally proof: the largest earthquake ever recorded in Kansas--a 4.9 magnitude temblor that struck near the town of Milan, Kansas--was officially a byproduct of fracking, according to the U.S. Geological Survey.
The signs were apparent: the epicenter was near a fracking operation, for starters. The USGS believes that the earthquake likely came as a result of the injection of water in one of two wells operated by SandRidge Energy, according to the Wichita Eagle.
The Eagle also pointed out that SandRidge continues to inject water at those two sites to this day.
The conclusion that the earthquake was a result of the fracking activities came due to certain facts: there had never been recorded earthquakes in the area before fracking began, the proximity of the wells, the fact that the amount of water being injected increased shortly before the quake, and because there is an underground area there configured in such a way that changes in pressure could affect it.
Fracking wells dot the Midwest landscape, with Kansas alone hosting some 5,000 of them currently. Indeed, the history of fracking was made in Kansas: it’s the first place where fracking was tried on U.S. soil, all the way back in 1947.
But the millions of gallons of chemical-laden wastewater being pumped underground comes at a price: Kansas experienced four earthquakes total in 2013.
In 2014 that number skyrocketed to 817.
One of the most alarming things to come out of the report--aside from the simply absurd revelation that no one has stopped the SandRidge Energy company from continuing to pump water into the same wells that caused the earthquake--is that the quake along with another one that took place in nearby Pawnee, Oklahoma occurred on faults that were previously unknown.
“If the well is in the right place next to a fault and the fault is oriented the right way, a little change in stress could cause (an earthquake) to occur,” said study lead and USGS geologist George Choy.
In other words, buckle up, buckaroos. We may still be in Kansas, but its beginning to look a lot like Oz.