Ultra Resources uses chemicals in hydraulic fracturing (fracking) to break open underground gas deposits. Then its crews get rid of the spent fluids by injecting them nearly three miles into the ground. It's common practice in the industry, but it might be causing a side-effect that's gotten fewer headlines than alleged groundwater contamination.
There's not much scientific data pointing to the drilling industry, but mounting anecdotal evidence suggests it might be playing a role in subterranean earth movement. Consider:
Ohio, Jan. 4, 2012, bloomberg.com: "The mayor of Youngstown, Ohio, says he wonders whether a well used to dispose of wastewater from oil and natural-gas drilling is making his city shake. Just to be safe, he's bought earthquake insurance ...
"There have been 11 earthquakes in this northeastern Ohio city since D&L Energy Inc., began injecting drilling brine, a byproduct of hydraulic fracturing, 9,200 feet (2,804 meters) underground in December 2010. The strongest, magnitude 4.0, hit last week on New Year's Eve."
England, Nov. 7, 2011, businessinsider.com: "Following seismic tremors in North-West England this Spring, the firm exploring for natural shale gas in the region has admitted that the disturbances were caused by the controversial exploration process of fracking ... A press release from Cuadrilla Resources, who was responsible for exploration in the region, reported that:
"'The hydraulic fracturing of Cuadrilla's Preese Hall-1 well did trigger a number of minor seismic events.'"
Oklahoma, Nov. 6, 2011, Associated Press: "The magnitude 5.6 earthquake and its aftershocks still had residents rattled Sunday ... the weekend earthquakes were among the strongest yet in a state that has seen a dramatic, unexplained increase in seismic activity.
"Oklahoma typically had about 50 earthquakes a year until 2009. Then the number spiked, and 1,047 quakes shook the state last year, prompting researchers to install seismographs in the area ... There are 181 injection wells in the Oklahoma county where most of the weekend earthquakes happened, said Matt Skinner, spokesman for the Oklahoma Corporation Commission."
East Coast, Aug. 31, 2011, Workers World: "Is there a connection between the controversial natural gas drilling process known as hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, and the extremely rare 5.8-magnitude earthquake that rocked Washington, D.C., and significant sections of the U.S. East Coast on Aug. 23? This is a question many scientists are now asking.
"U.S. Geological Survey scientist Mike Blanpied stated that while the drilling process has been linked to very small earthquakes, it has not been known to induce large quakes. However Blanpied admitted that 'the thing that can induce larger earthquakes is the high-pressure waste fluid injection that's done in some places.'"
Arkansas, April 21, 2011, abcnews.go.com: "Hundreds of small and medium-scale earthquakes have been rattling the area around Guy, Ark., and residents say wastewater injection wells being drilled in their area are to blame. ...
"In February, shocks from a 4.7-magnitude earthquake near the town were felt as far away as Memphis, Tenn., the biggest quake in the region in 35 years. ...
"Since the two injection wells were shut down in March, the earthquakes have not completed [sic] stopped in Arkansas. But Scott Ausbrooks, a geologist with the Arkansas Geological Survey and a lead detective on the case, said they have tapered off dramatically."
West Virginia, Nov. 24, 2010, insurancejournal.com: "Officials say there's no clear explanation for what may have prompted several earthquakes near Frametown earlier this year. Some have speculated that the cluster of small earthquakes was linked to local gas drilling ...
"Chesapeake Energy operates an underground injection well near Frametown..... [Delegate Brent] Boggs says that since the earthquakes, Chesapeake has decreased the amount of fluid it's putting underground.
"'Since that time, we've had no events,' Boggs said."
Texas, June 12, 2009, Associated Press: "The earth moved here on June 2. It was the first recorded earthquake in this Texas town's 140-year history — but not the last. There have been four small earthquakes since, none with a magnitude greater than 2.8 ... There is no consensus among scientists about whether the [fracking] practice is contributing to the quakes. But such seismic activity was once rare in Texas and seems to be increasing lately, lending support to the theory that drilling is having a destabilizing effect."
— Compiled by Pam Zubeck