WKYT Investigates: Does fracking cause earthquakes?

LEXINGTON, Ky. (WKYT) - "The state is very well mapped geologically," said David Harris with Kentucky Geological Survey. Harris told us met with us at his office on University of Kentucky's campus.

In other states, including Texas, Oklahoma, Ohio and West Virginia earthquakes have been caused by fracking, or the disposal of fracking fluid in deep wells. "If we were to have the type of large scale fracking operations that we see in other states, we could experience induced seismic events," Harris said.

But so far, our frack jobs are shallow, Harris said typically 1200 to 1500 feet deep in some Kentucky locations. That is small compared to the hydraulic fractures in Pennsylvania and Ohio where the wells are anywhere from 6000 to 7000 feet deep. "The shallower the well, the less likely it's going to be interfering with a deep seeded fault."

Harris explained the main culprit for earthquakes prompted by fracking comes after the actual frack job, when fluid used in the frack is put in a disposal well. "That's where we get into problems with seismic activity," Harris said. "That fluid, when it's pumped down a well, it will lubricate faults."

But Kentucky's ground prefers nitrogen, according to Harris. "When you flow that well back, the nitrogen is vented to the atmosphere. You don't have any fluid that you have to get rid of in a disposal well."

But Harris does admit, whether liquid or gas, the more fracking done, the more chance to disturb the faults. "It's a possibility, and it's something we're going to be looking at and monitoring closely."


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