AEG: Fracking and fluid-induced earthquakes

Notice of Meeting
Announcement from the BWH Section of the
Association of Environmental &
Engineering Geologists
Date: Thursday, Jan. 17, 2013
Baltimore MD – Washington DC – Harrisburg PA
Toipic: Earthquakes Induced by Fluid Injection
PRESENTER: William (Bill) Leith, Ph.D., US Geological Survey, Reston, VA
Bill Leith is the Senior Science Advisor for Earthquake and Geologic Hazards at USGS. In this position, he
oversees the Earthquake Hazards, Geomagnetism, and Global Seismographic Network (GSN) Programs.
Leith joined the USGS in 1986, after receiving a doctoral degree in seismology and geology from Columbia
University, and a bachelor’s degree from the University of California at Berkeley. He served USGS as Chief
of the USGS Special Geologic Studies Group from 1990–2001, as Senior Technical Advisor to the Assistant
Secretary of State for Verification and Compliance, from 2001–2003, as the Coordinator of the Advanced
National Seismic System from 2003–2012, and as USGS Acting Associate Director in 2010–2011.
In recent years, as Associate Coordinator of the Earthquake Hazards, Geomagnetism, and GSN Programs,
Leith has led the development of the Advanced National Seismic System and the completion of the GSN.
Leith has over 100 publications in the areas of seismology, geology, engineering geology, tectonics, and the
applications of these subjects to earthquake safety, response and engineering, as well as to nuclear
weapons testing and test monitoring, treaty verification and compliance assessments, and other military and
national security interests.
ABSTRACT: To produce natural gas from shale formations, it is necessary to increase the
interconnectedness of the pore space (permeability) so that the gas can flow through the rock mass and be
extracted through production wells. This is usually done by hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”). In addition to
natural gas, fracking fluids and formation waters are returned to the surface. This wastewater is often
disposed of by injection into deep wells. The injection of wastewater deep into the subsurface can cause
earthquakes that are large enough to be felt and may cause damage. Only in very rare cases does fracking
cause small earthquakes, but they are almost always too small to be a safety concern. Of more than
150,000 Class II injection wells in the United States, roughly 40,000 are waste fluid disposal wells from oil
and gas operations. Only a small fraction of these disposal wells have induced earthquakes that are large
enough to be of concern to the public. Of the case histories for which there is a scientific consensus that an
injection operation induced earthquakes, the largest are just above magnitude 5. USGS scientists have
investigated a recent sharp increase in the number of magnitude 3 and larger earthquakes in the
midcontinent of the United States. These earthquakes are large enough to be felt by many people but are
small enough that they rarely cause damage. The average number of earthquakes occurring per year of
M3 or greater increased starting in 2001, culminating in 2008-2011 with a six-fold increase over 20th
century levels. Nearly half of these earthquakes are occurring in areas where hydraulic fracturing, and
hence wastewater disposal, is known to be occurring.

DATE: Thursday, January 3, 2013
TIME: 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m.
Hampton Inn (conference room, TBD)
5311 Buckeystown Pike
Frederick, MD 21704
(At I-270 & Buckeystown Pike MD-85)
COST (dinner & mtg):
Members and non-members: $30
Students: $20
6:30 to 7 p.m. Social and Registration
7 to 7:45 p.m. Dinner
7:45 to 8:30 p.m. Presentation
8:30 – ? p.m. Questions, Closing Statements
To reserve a seat, please email Kris McCandless by close of business Tuesday, January 15,
2013 at


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