Geologist discusses ethics of fracking, wastewater injection

Tuesday, March 04, 2014

Energy technologies that inject wastewater disposal into the earth may be to blame for seismic events

More than 1 million wells have been hydraulically fractured in the United States since 1947, an energy technology that geologists say needs more research. Donald Clarke, a petroleum geology professor at the University of Southern California, addressed the hot topic of hydraulic fracturing and its possible connection to seismic activity at a special lecture on Feb. 19. The event was sponsored by the TU Department of Geosciences and the Tulsa Geological Society Foundation.

Clarke suggests that energy technologies that inject wastewater disposal into the earth (including oil and gas development and geothermal energy development) rather than hydraulic fracturing may be to blame for seismic events. “Understanding the potential for inducing seismic activity and for limiting their occurrence and impact is important for state and local agencies, industry and the public,” he said.

Clarke and a committee formed by the National Research Council recently held public meetings to gather information and produce a report on energy technologies as related to hazards, risks, government roles and proposed research needs. Clarke says through close monitoring of wastewater disposal and well productivity levels, the energy industry can adjust its practices to prevent significant seismic occurrences.

Bryan Tapp