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Energy and Environment

Scientists: Oil & Gas Disposal Wells Triggering Kansas Quakes

Tim Evanson, flickr Creative Commons

The Kansas Geological Survey has determined there is a connection between oil and gas production and earthquakes.

Oil and gas wells produce massive amounts of salty water, which is then pumped back down into the ground, under high pressure, in disposal wells. And that process, according to Survey Director Rex Buchanan, is triggering seismic activity.

"You produce a lot more saltwater than you do oil from most of the oil wells in the state," Buchanan says. "That water is injected into the deep sub-surface, and the pressure from the mass of that saltwater has probably allowed faults to move, in effect, reactivating faults in the subsurface and causing earthquakes."

Earlier this year, regulators ordered the industry to reduce the amount of waste water being pumped into individual disposal wells in the parts of south-central Kansas where earthquakes have been most active.