• Geologists: Don’t Blame Fracking For Michigan Quakes

    Michigan has been hit by two earthquakes in two months, a development which has puzzled scientists and led to some speculation that hydraulic fracturing injection wells may be the culprit behind the quakes.

    Geologists, however, have said there’s “zero chance” Michigan’s latest earthquakes were caused by hydraulic fracturing, or fracking.

    Recent news reports have played up the link between fracking and earthquakes, especially in states like Oklahoma and Texas where quakes are on the rise. Geologists have blamed Oklahoma’s earthquakes on the process for storing brine, water and other fluids used for oil and gas recovery in deep underground wells. Much of the wastewater injected into the ground comes from fluids recovered from fracked wells.

    The Detroit Free Press even mentioned fracking as a possible cause for Michigan’s recent seismic activity, alluding to Oklahoma’s earthquake dilemmas.

    “In Oklahoma, the state’s Geological Survey agency historically recorded one or two earthquakes of magnitude-3.0 or greater per year, on average, in the state,” The Detroit Free Press reported, adding that the “rate shot up to two earthquakes of that intensity or greater per week” during 2013.

    “Oklahoma’s state geologist in April declared the suspected source of the increased activity as the underground injection disposal of water associated with oil and gas production,” the paper reported.

    Geologists, on the other hand, say it’s unlikely that wastewater injection from fracking caused the two earthquakes in southern Michigan.

    “I wouldn’t jump to that conclusion,” Don Blakeman, a geophysicist with the U.S. Geological Survey, told Mlive.com.

    Michigan was hit with two earthquakes in just two months — a 4.2 magnitude one May 2 in Kalamazoo County and a 3.3 magnitude quake June 30 in neighboring Calhoun County.

    The May earthquake was the strongest on record in Michigan in the last 67 years, but the quakes did not occur near any injection wells and there are no fracking operations in the area.

    “There is no chance in the world of that,” Christopher Schmidt, professor emeritus of geosciences at Western Michigan University, told Mlive.com. “There is no fracking in that area and no deep disposal wells. There’s zero chance it’s related to fracking.”

    “This is not related to fracking, as far as I know, and my colleagues that know better about where the wells are have assured me that there is no underground storage of wastewater in this region. So I guess you would call this earthquake itself an anomaly,” Schmidt told Michigan’s FOX 17.

    Geologists are still unsure of what caused the two earthquakes, Harley Benz with U.S. Geological Survey told The Detroit Free Press “these quakes look tectonic” — meaning they were caused by natural movement in the Earth’s crust.

    Schmidt said both quakes happened along the same fault line where a 4.6 magnitude quake hit Coldwater in 1947. It was the largest quake ever recorded in the state.

    “Probably the strain that resulted in the (May 2) quake wasn’t all released,” Schmidt told Mlive.com, which caused tremors to hit in June.

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