Ohio Earthquakes Linked to Hydraulic Fracking Injection Wells

The U.S. Geological Survey and Ohio Earthquake Information Center reported a 4.0-magnitude quake on New Year’s day centered near Youngstown, Ohio.

The earthquake, which struck at 3:05 p.m., was felt as far away as Michigan, Ontario, Pennsylvania and New York, reported Michael C. Hansen, state geologist and coordinator of the Ohio Seismic Network, part of the Ohio Department of Natural Resources’ Division of Geological Survey.

The quake was “a pretty good-sized one,” he said.

The quake was the 11th over the last eight months in Mahoning County. Every quake was within two miles of injection wells used to dispose of salty brine wastes from gas and oil drilling by pumping them under pressure into rock formations deep underground, he said. Saturday’s quake was the largest yet.

There are 177 such wells in Ohio. Drilling wastes from Ohio and Pennsylvania are being pumped in increasing volumes into the wells for permanent disposal even though geologists have long suspected that injecting liquids into underground rock formations can trigger earthquakes along fault lines. The liquids allow rocks to flow more easily past each other.

Earthquakes have been linked to injection wells in Arkansas, West Virginia, Colorado and Texas.

James Zehringer, director of the Ohio Department of Natural Resources has announced the closing of the two injection wells in Youngstown Township owned by Northstar Disposal Services LLC and operated by D&L Energy Inc.

The state became suspicious of the injection wells after the initial quakes, which are unusual events in the Youngstown area. The first two Youngstown earthquakes occurred on March 17 and measured 2.1 and 2.6. The latest quake appears to have been located about two- thirds of a mile from the injection wells and about 1.2 miles below ground and show all the similarities of the 10 previous Youngstown quakes in 2011.

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