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Fracking Industrialization and Induced Earthquakes

The Mechanisms that Connect the Disposal of Fracking Wastewater into Deep-­Injection Wells to a Significant Increase in Midcontinent Seismic
Activity by Brent Ritzel

This paper explores the recent significant increase in felt earthquakes in the midcontinent of the United States over the past decade in relation to fracking industrialization and its associated voluminous wastewater disposal needs. Studies and expert insight from geologists and seismologists from over the past fifty years will be utilized in order to render evidenced-based conclusions regarding these matters that have often remained at the opinion level of discourse in the public sphere.

The current extent of U.S. fracking industrialization will be reviewed, including dissection of shale oil and gas production levels, the scale of proliferation of fracking wells, the volume of toxic and radioactive effluent, fracking flowback and produced wastewater disposal needs, and the impact of the exponential growth in deep injection disposal well usage on the United States’ current seismic reality.

Two important limiting conditions, the impervious unknowns regarding subterranean geological formations and the fact that disposal wells will fail and leak, provide context for discussion of our obscured yet viable long term understanding of the mechanisms underlying the whole phenomenon of fracking wastewater disposal induced earthquakes.


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