Cliff Frohlich, the University of Texas researcher who conducted the study, used seismic data from the Barnett Shale region of Texas taken between November 2009 and September 2011. He found that while injection wells were typically near the site of small quakes, they did not always cause tremors, leading Frohlich to speculate that injection wells near existing faults were more likely to cause seismic activity. Most of the quakes registered for the study were so light that they could not be felt on the surface.
The study is just one of several that have warned about the possibility of inducing seismic activity by injecting hundreds of thousands of gallons of water underground in a short period of time. The National Research Council said earlier this year that while the risks posed by fracking itself are rather low, wastewater injection wells, along with the carbon capture and storage techniques typically used with “clean coal,” do in fact pose a heightened risk of earthquakes.
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