Fracking, according to new research, is to blame for hitherto unexplained sluggish, minor earthquakes or tremors. The tremors are caused by the same factors that can cause massive, destructive earthquakes.
Fracking is the forced injection of fluids beneath the Earth’s surface in order to extract oil and natural gas. While it is frequently done with wastewater, this study looked at the results when liquid carbon dioxide was used. This process forces carbon deep into the earth, preventing it from contributing to heat retention in the atmosphere.
According to some calculations, carbon dioxide fracking might save as much carbon as one billion solar panels. It is far more environmentally friendly to frack with liquid CO2 than with wastewater, which does not keep carbon out of the atmosphere.
“Because this study looks at a process that sequesters carbon underground, it may have positive implications for sustainability and climate science,” said Abhijit Ghosh, associate professor of geophysics at UC Riverside and co-author of the study published in Science.
However, because carbon dioxide is a liquid, Ghosh believes the findings of this study will almost probably apply to water-based fracking. Tremors are likely in both cases.
Regular earthquakes and tremors display differently on a seismograph. Large earthquakes produce intense jolts with large amplitude pulses. Tremors are gentler, rising gradually above background noise with much less amplitude and then gradually decreasing.
“We are delighted that we can now use these tremors to track the movement of fluids from fracking and monitor the movement of faults caused by fluid injections,” Ghosh added.
Seismologists had previously disagreed over the cause of the shocks. While some reports claimed the tremor signals were caused by enormous earthquakes thousands of kilometers away, others believed they could have been caused by human activity, such as the movement of trains or industrial gear. If you want you can also read – Air Pollution Kills 7 Million People a Year: WHO
“Seismometers are not intelligent. “You could drive a truck nearby or kick one with your foot, and the vibration would be recorded,” Ghosh explained. “That’s why we didn’t know for a long time if the signals were related to the fluid injections.”
The researchers used seismometers put around a fracking facility in Wellington, Kansas, to establish their source. The data included the whole six-month fracking injection period, as well as a month before and after the injections.
After removing the background noise, the researchers discovered that the remaining signals were generated below earth and only visible during the fluid injections. “We did not detect tremors before or after the injections, which suggests the tremors are related to them,” Ghosh explained.
It has long been recognized that fracking can cause stronger earthquakes. Stopping fracking is one approach for preventing faults from moving underground and causing tremors. Although this is doubtful, Ghosh believes it is critical to observe these activities in order to understand how they distort rocks and follow fluid movement after injection.
Modeling experiments can and are used to assist businesses in determining fluid injection pressures that should not be exceeded. Staying under these boundaries helps to guarantee that fluids do not travel underground to big faults, causing harmful seismic activity. Not all defects, however, are mapped.
“We can only model this type of experiment if we are aware of an existing flaw.” “It is possible that there are flaws that we are unaware of, and in those cases, we cannot predict what will happen,” Ghosh added.