Fracking Quakes Could Be Avoided ... for $10M Per Well

And it's $10M the energy industry doesn't want to pay
By Kevin Spak,  Newser Staff
Posted Jan 4, 2012 7:54 AM CST
Fracking Quakes Could Be Avoided ... for $10M Per Well
The sun shines over a Range Resources well site in Washington, Pa. The company is one of many drilling into the Marcellus Shale layer deep underground and "fracking" the area to release natural gas.   (AP Photo/Keith Srakocic)

Scientists say there's a simple way to minimize the risk that the natural gas extraction technique known as "fracking" will cause earthquakes—like the one that hit Ohio on New Year's. But there’s a catch: It costs $10 million per injection well, a price the energy industry isn’t likely to pony up gladly, Reuters reports. It's not the actual fracking, but the disposal of contaminated fluids—which are typically pumped deep into the Earth—that seems to be causing the quakes. So seismologists say that if companies conducted a thorough seismic survey before pumping drilling fluid into the ground, they could make sure it’s not going to hit quake-prone areas.

But the process is both more costly and more involved than the oil companies’ usual method of drilling a bore hole to collect a limited rock sample, and companies aren’t likely to do more until the link between fracking and earthquakes is definitively proven. It hasn’t been yet, but the evidence is strong: Every region where fracking has taken off has seen quakes increase tenfold. (More fracking stories.)

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