Wastewater Wells from Drilling Can Cause Earthquakes

Jul 9, 2014

Geology professor Shemin Ge, University of Colorado at Boulder.
Geology professor Shemin Ge, University of Colorado at Boulder.
Credit Shemin Ge

Drilling for oil and gas brings up a lot of water. If operators don’t reuse it for something else, they often pump it back down into the ground. The water goes down in what are called  injection wells-- and new research shows they can definitely cause earthquakes, at least in Oklahoma. Geology Professor Shemin Ge is with the University of Colorado at Boulder. She worked on the study, and spoke with APR’s Elise Thatcher. Ge says it took different kinds of scientists working together to figure out what’s going on.

Aspen Public Radio toured a WPX Energy drilling and fracking site near Parachute. You can see that story on our website, Aspen Public Radio dot org. We asked WPX what their procedures are with injection wells, and their spokesman sent this statement.

Jeff Kirtland: “Regarding injection wells, companies operating in the Piceance Basin, like WPX Energy, have utilized injection wells safely for years.  WPX injection wells are set in approved formations ideal for injection, and are reviewed and qualified by our geosciences teams to ensure we are not in close proximity to any faults.  This is validated by our seismic operations and finally reviewed by the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission (COGCC) and US Geological Survey. We have strict injection pressure guidelines that must be followed, including EPA standards. All WPX injection wells are controlled through automation and programmed to automatically shut down if the surface injection pressure approaches the limits set by COGCC.”