Gas drilling has been temporarily suspended after a series of earthquakes rattled Northeastern Ohio. According to officials, four fluid-injection wells will be prohibited from opening in the aftermath of the quake.
On Saturday, a magnitude 4.0 earthquake released 40 times more energy than the previous 10 tremors that have struck the region throughout 2011, postponing future projects for the nearby injection wells. According to Governor John Kasich, work will not resume and the wells will be considered inoperational until an investigation is made regarding a possible link between the earthquakes and fluid-injection wells.
The wells act as a disposal system for waste fluid that is a byproduct of fracking, or hydraulic fracturing. Fracking is done by injecting water, sand, and chemicals deep into the ground at extremely high pressure to crack the shale and allow oil or gas to flow.
According to the E.S. Geological Survey, the earthquake struck 1.4 miles deep. While Ohio is far from any major tectonic plates, there are plenty of faults in the region. Earthquakes are not necessarily unprecedented in the Midwestern state, but reports claim the amount in the past year have been quite unusual.
Dr. Won-Young Kim, a Columbia University expert, was asked to examine possible connections between seismic activity and fracking. If fluid moves through the ground at high pressures it could trigger a weak fault, setting off the activity and causing tremors.
While there is no definitive determination by authorities, Kim stated that yes, in his opinion, the unusual amount of earthquakes is related to fuel-injection wells.