Are Oil Drilling & Fracking Operations Causing Earthquakes In Texas?
Recently we reported that a large number of earthquakes have been reported over a two year period in the Barnett Shale oilfield, in central Texas. The Barnett Shale is an oilfield area which is being developed by Chesapeake Energy Corporation (NYSE:CHK), and it includes the Dallas/Fort Worth metro area.
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I spoke to a former oilfield engineer, previously employed by Halliburton, and he shared his views on the rash of quakes in the area. While he has chosen not to release his identity, the information offered contains valid points.
The fracking process begins with drilling a deep well hole, in some cases, as deep as 11,000 feet. After the drill rig reaches its maximum depth, they then change directions, and drill horizontally through the rock strata. These horizontal shafts may be one mile in length, and are designed to create channels for natural gas and oil to flow through.
After the horizontal drilling is complete, water is forced into the shaft at high pressure. This high pressured injection causes cracks and fissures to form in the rock strata, and allows room for the gas to flow to the well head.
After there are sufficient fissures formed, sand is pumped in behind the water. This sand will then fill the fissures, creating a “wick” for the natural gas to flow up, in order to reach the well head and be harvested.
My source says that he has never been on a site which involved an earthquake, and that he does not believe fracking to be the culprit of quakes in the Barnett Shale. He cites the recent drought as a possible factor in quakes, saying that a lack of groundwater between the tectonic plates could cause them to shift abnormally.
Could it be that the drilling processes really don’t have anything to do with the increase in reported earthquakes? I am not sure what to think of all of this. I worked in tho oil industry here in Texas for a while, and I have never witnessed an earthquake on a frack site. However, until more studies are completed, we won’t know for sure.