Was The Dallas Earthquake Caused By Natural Gas Fracking?

According to a scientist with the University of Texas at Austin’s Institute for Geophysics, the magnitude 3.4 earthquake and related aftershocks felt in the Dallas area on Saturday, September 29th, 2012 were caused by the storage of wastewater from hydraulic fracturing (fracking) of natural gas.

Fracking involves pumping large amounts of water, sand, and chemicals into the ground to break up shale rock formations and free up long trapped natural gas.  This process results in large quantities of wastewater that must be deal with.  One common method of dealing with wastewater is pumping it deep underground into large reservoirs.

One such wastewater injection well was opened on an area of land just south of DFW airport in 2007.  According to the scientist, the DFW area has since experienced multiple earthquakes of greater than 3.0 magnitude.  This is despite the fact that the area had never recorded a single earthquake of that size prior to 2008.

The Good with The Bad

Dallas electricity rates, like the rest ofTexas, have been the cheapest rates seen in a number of years.  This is due largely to the natural gas boom in the state.  A large portion ofTexas electricity is generated from natural gas.  The increase in natural gas production has meant cheap natural gas prices.  This has lead to cheap electricity.

The link between fracking and earthquakes is not new.    A study recently published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences found that 24 earthquakes over a 2 year period from 2009 to 2011 in the area of the Texas Barnette Shale formation had epicenters within 2 miles of one or more wastewater injection wells.   

Saturday’s earthquake was felt in parts of Irving, Grand Prairie, Hurst, and the DFW area.  It prompted a number of 911 calls but resulted in no reported injuries. 

See Also: Will Texas Switch To A Capacity Market For Electricity?