Was the Virginia Earthquake Related to Fracking?
The earthquake that occurred in the Piedmont region of the U.S. state of Virginia on August 23, 2011, and the impact of which was felt as far as Ohio and in parts of Pittsburgh, was at the magnitude of 5.8 Richter scale. The estimated damage caused by the earthquake was in the tune of $100 million. Some earthquake specialists believe that the earthquake was caused by the fracking action of Marcellus Shale gas drilling. To that accusation, the industry officials retorted with: No fracking way.
In July, after two small earthquakes of 1.5 and 2.3 magnitudes within 500 meters of the site, a drilling company in Great Britain stopped fracking operations. Commenting on relation between fracking and earthquakes, the British Geological Survey stated, “Typically, the earthquakes are too small to be felt; however, there are a number of examples of larger earthquakes occurring.”
The British Geological Survey noted that that fluid injection was occurring at the drilling site shortly before both earthquakes happened and commented, “The timing of the two events in conjunction with the fluid injection at the Preese Hall drill site suggests that they may be related to this. It is well-established that fluid injection can induce small earthquakes. Typically, the earthquakes are too small to be felt; however, there are a number of examples of larger earthquakes occurring.”
Continued on the next page
Travis Windle, a spokesman for the Marcellus Shale Coalition, an industry group, will not have any of it. He strongly refuted the British Geological Survey comments with: There had been no reports from member companies of the earthquake impacting drilling operations. Windle and other industry spokesmen were also indignant at the suggestion that the drilling had anything to do with the 5.8 magnitude earthquake. Chris Tucker of Energy In Depth, an oil and gas industry group based in Washington, D.C. maintained, “If Marcellus drilling caused an earthquake hundreds of miles away, and then it also caused the Great Depression, the Black Plague, the October Revolution, and the break-up of the Beatles.”