More fracking earthquakes

New studies published in one of the most prestigious scientific journals Science, highlights the risks that fracking can cause and increase the likelihood of earthquakes.

New Zealand is not called ‘the shaky isles’ for nothing and we need to be very careful about increasing the risk of earthquakes in our already earthquake prone country.

The research finds “Powerful earthquakes thousands of kilometers away can trigger swarms of minor quakes near wastewater-injection wells like those used in oil and gas recovery.”

The Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment in her interim fracking report couldn’t guarantee that best-practise was being enforced through regulation in New Zealand and when it comes to fracking-induced earthquakes basic steps such as the UK Government’s traffic light system to avoid causing earthquakes aren’t used. These studies shows that we just don’t know enough about this kind of drilling and the risks it can cause and it is a worrying we could see a massive expansion of fracking in New Zealand increasing this risk.

This increased risk of earthquakes (triggered by other earthquakes) at fracking sites is just one of a number of concerns associated with this controversial drilling technique so the Greens say a moratorium is still needed.

10 Comments Posted

  1. Fracking should be banned. NZ insurers can’t get reinsurance because of the probability of earthquakes after the Christchurch earthquake. Fracking increases the probability of earthquakes (to some degree).

  2. I agree with Trevor and BJ. People really need to keep a sense of proportion. According to the energy calculator, a magnitude 2.3 earthquake like the one in Blackpool is equivalent to 84kg of TNT and it happens at least a kilometre away from anyone who could be affected. A magnitude 1 is about half a kg of TNT. Anyone who lives near a quarry has a lot bigger explosions than this regularly occurring.

  3. Ok, frances, imagine if the world stopped fracking tomorrow. That’s several percent of the world’s petrol gone at a stroke, and a considerable chunk of the gas.

    How are you going to explain to Joe average that petrol is now not $2.29 but $2.99, and gas has doubled in price?

    Edited to add: I am not “pro-fracking” but rather “accepting” of fracking (which you may or may not consider the same thing) and live in North Canterbury, which is an area subject to the frack.

  4. Haven’t we learnt enough about horrible consequences caused by fracking?
    Does Key govt even care?
    Any possible way to stop them? if we could move all those people who are for fracking to live in those fracked areas….How wonderful!

  5. A good place to start looking is the fracking-induced earthquake in Blackpool, UK. Unlike Godzone, Blackpool isn’t known for its earthquakes, and so even a ickle 2.3 is a cause for raised eyebrows.

    One is recommend to have a look at the British Geological Society website, in particular Fracking and Earthquake hazard, which has links to proper research.

    Today, I find myself completely at one with BJ, and especially his latter article, where he notes that “…it is almost certain that we WILL burn as much of it as we can pump before Mother Nature puts an end to the hubris.”

    We don’t need to worry about mother nature and her planet, she is well capable of taking care of herself, no matter what we do. What is much less certain is how long we’ll be around to enjoy her.

  6. Strange that we cant find the actual report on how the study was carried out and what data was used to come to the “fracking causes earthquakes” theory expounded in the report referred to.

    All we have is

    Now seismologists at Columbia University say they have identified three quakes – in Oklahoma, Colorado and Texas – that were triggered at injection-well sites by major earthquakes a long distance away.

    So an unpublished study claims three earthquakes being triggered by fracking?

    Nowhere is there a copy of the study to back up the claims made.

    Not here

    Nor here in the list of publications

    In fact the erstwhile Nicholas van der Elst has no publications of research material in the Columbia University Library!!

    Here we have another Al Gore spouting false information based on unpublished data which as always has the plaintive cry of GIVE ME MORE MONEY FOR RESEARCH.

    “The important thing now is to establish how common this is,” said Oklahoma’s Holland, referring to remotely triggered quakes. “We don’t have a good answer to that question yet.”

    My emphasis added.

    And you have to ask yourself when this statement is made

    Before the advent of injection wells, triggered earthquakes were a purely natural phenomenon. A 7.3 quake in California’s Mojave Desert in 1992 set off a series of tiny quakes north of Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming, for instance.

    How does one differentiate between a natural occurring triggered earthquake and one caused by fracking?

    Lets see the research data before we have this discussion on whether the report referred to by Gareth Hughes is just plain scaremongering or a serious expose of a man induced problem.

  7. That said, it is almost certain that we WILL burn as much of it as we can pump before Mother Nature puts an end to the hubris.

  8. Gareth – I have to agree with Trevor. I don’t LIKE fracking but it isn’t the sort of clear and present danger that we have to oppose for immediate reasons.

    The real reason it has to be stopped eventually has to do with the fact that we already know where to get enough CO2 emitting fossil fuels to end human civilization. We know where it is and we CANNOT AFFORD to burn it…

    Much more important is the control of fugitive emissions all along the path from the drilling to the point where the gas is supposed to be burned.

    Control those emissions and as long as there is a coal plant in operation anywhere the gas is a better option. If those emissions aren’t tightly controlled the coal is no worse… and there is ample evidence that the industry regards the gas as being too cheap to care about losing any of it because there is no price placed on the discharges.

    Lay some CO2 charges on those fugitive emissions. Hefty ones.

  9. Surely the issue is these smaller quakes threatening the integrity of the fracker’s ‘pipes’, many of which pass through aquifers?

  10. Since minor earthquakes are a fact of life in New Zealand, triggering more of them shouldn’t be a serious issue. There is a possibility that minor earthquakes facilitated by fracking could reduce the size of any major earthquakes by taking out some of the stored energy.

    It is well worth researching, but I am not convinced that this is an additional reason for a moratorium on fracking.


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