Wastewater produced during oil and gas extraction can cause severe earthquakes over the years to come. This water gets infiltrates into the oil wells and can trigger high-magnitude tectonic movements. The aforementioned findings are based on research conducted at Virginia Polytechnic and State University. The oil and gas sector in the United Sates has undergone key improvements over the recent past. The country’s total volume of oil production has increased, along with improvements in fracking operations. We use fracking to obtain hydrocarbons present in rock beds. Further, oil producers inject sand-mixed water into the earth to do this.
Several researchers have conducted extensive studies to understand the nature of earthquakes. Underground and marine operations have been under the radar of focus while evaluating the causes of earthquakes.
Wastewater as a Trigger for Earthquakes
Increasing volume of wastewater in the oil and gas industry has been termed as a major trigger for earthquakes. The wells that are dug for oil production are injected with jets which disrupts the earth’s composition. Further, the United States Geological Survey also concurs with the fact that wastewater triggers earthquakes. Also, the survey ranks wastewater disposal in the oil industry as the leading cause of earthquakes in the US.
Nature of Tectonic Movements
Wastewater displaces groundwater which is becomes a trigger for tectonic movements. This is a key consideration for researchers involved in studying water levels and magnitude of earthquakes. The researchers have developed a model to study the state of wastewater disposal in Oklahoma and Kansas. They found that disposal of wastewater affects the fluid pressure inside the earth. This causes further disruptions in the earth’s crust and leads up to an earthquake.
The number of tremors that exceed 3 Richter scales in magnitude was quite low in the US. However, this number has increased after exploration activities gathered swing in the region. Hence, there is a pressing need to manage wastewater disposal in the oil and gas industry.