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Earthquakes merit additional study

January 9, 2012
The Herald-Star

A seismologist's conclusion an injection well used to dispose of fluids from oil and gas drilling is linked to minor earthquakes in that area should be investigated more thoroughly. If the Columbia University scientist is right, new restrictions on such wells will be needed.

Eleven minor quakes in the Youngstown area during the past year may have been caused by enormous amounts of brine wastewater pumped into the injection well, seismologist John Armbruster said last week. The well has been closed down while more information is gathered.

It is important to remember the difference between injection wells and holes drilled to produce gas and oil, however.

Compared to injection wells, most others use miniscule amounts of brine and other fluids in the fracking process. Injection facilities are used to dispose of fluid from scores of production wells.

In other words, the seismologist's report should not prompt worries about earthquakes caused by production gas and oil wells such as the vast majority of those in our area.

That said, the issue is a very serious one. Engineers, geologists and other scientists should mount a comprehensive investigation of injection wells, to guide legislators in deciding what, if any, special new regulations are needed for them. Officials in Ohio and West Virginia should be paying close attention.

 
 

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