Dirty Energy & Fuel Arkansas earthquakes

Published on February 18th, 2011 | by Zachary Shahan

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Arkansas Earthquakes Related to Hydraulic Fracking? (& Mass Bird & Fish Deaths?)

February 18th, 2011 by

Arkansas is now seeing a ton of earthquakes in what is the continuation of an “earthquake swarm” that has been occurring over the past couple of years. The cause is unknown, but could very well be from hydraulic fracturing (or fracking) in the area. Additionally, this was a leading possibility for why the area saw mass bird and fish deaths last month (click link above).

Recent Arkansas Earthquakes

“Several small earthquakes ranging in magnitude from 1.8 to 3.8 have rattled the north-central Arkansas cities of Greenbrier and Guy this week, and the cause is unknown,” the Associated Press wrote yesterday.

More earthquakes struck last night, “including a preliminary magnitude 4.0 quake in central Arkansas and a 3.2 magnitude tremor in the eastern part of the state,” KY3 reports. A dozen more earthquakes have struck today, the biggest of which was a magnitude 4.3.

Over 700 earthquakes have occurred in this region in the last six months, a few dozen or more this week.

Earthquakes Could Be from Fracking, Geologists Think

Geologists are still trying to figure out the cause of all the earthquakes that have been hitting this region in the last couple of years, but they have two basic theories at this point.

“It could just be a naturally occurring swarm like the Enola swarm, or it could be related to ongoing natural gas exploration in the area,” Scott Ausbrooks, geohazards supervisor for the Arkansas Geological Survey, said.

Yes, that would be fracking.

The geologists don’t think it’s the production wells, “but rather the injection wells that are used to dispose of ‘frack’ water when it can no longer be re-used.” The earthquakes are all happening near several injection wells. Local officials are now studying this theory:

Lawrence Bengal, director of the Arkansas Oil and Gas Commission, said a six-month moratorium was established in January on new injection wells in the area. He said four companies are operating already-drilled injection wells: SEECO Inc., Chesapeake Operating Inc., Clarita Operating LLC and Deep-Six Water Disposal Services LLC.

The moratorium, which is expected to end in July, is intended to allow time to study the relationship – if any – between the injection wells and earthquakes in the area.

Despite this moratorium, a disposal well in the area of these earthquakes started getting used to a greater degree recently, and is suspected by locals to be possibly causing the current swarm of quakes.

Up until this week the largest magnitude earthquake in this swarm was a magnitude 4.0 in October.

I’ll share with you again the map from last month on where the earthquake swarms were happening and where the mass bird and fish deaths were:

Arkansas map via ProAmLib

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About the Author

is the director of CleanTechnica, the most popular cleantech-focused website in the world, and Planetsave, a world-leading green and science news site. He has been covering green news of various sorts since 2008, and he has been especially focused on solar energy, electric vehicles, and wind energy since 2009. Aside from his work on CleanTechnica and Planetsave, he's the founder and director of Solar Love, EV Obsession, and Bikocity. To connect with Zach on some of your favorite social networks, go to ZacharyShahan.com and click on the relevant buttons.



  • tyler

    if we listen to you greenees you want to go back to the horse and buggy i like my 454 chevy

    • http://importantmedia.org/members/zshahan/ Zachary Shahan

      nope. actually, we want to go forward to clean energy..

  • http://Web Arkansan

    New Madrid Fault, Reel Foot Rift, BP Oil Blow Back, and salt water Injection all into a very naturally seismic area in Arkansas equals DESTRUCTION!!! Pandora’s box has already been opened I’m afraid. Oil and Gas industry folks say “no way” but the Quakes, Dead fish, Dead Birds, and other evidence proves they’re wrong. These “swarms” were probably started by the “fracking process” however now with extra lube from the BP disaster backing up after it was capped into our region is giving it an extra nudge. There is even a scarce Arkansas Gazette news report from I believe the 1700s that state what sounds like a small volcano noted by citizens around the location the fish died (I believe it was short mountain). Once you start to look at the geology of Arkansas you will soon see the possible effects that a large quake could bring to the region especially in the New Madrid Fault / Reel Foot Rift zones or even the possibility of a caldera forming…. Guess I’ll just hang out here in the natural state and see what happens!

  • http://Web Candi

    It would be interesting to note the locations of the wells and the quakes both…..the New Madrid Fault is actually northeast of the region indicated on your map in the article. ‘Lily’ may be a veteran of the industry, but fraking is a new technology. There is really no telling what other effects it may have. Other parts of the country are having water-well troubles in the areas they are fraking.

    • http://Web George Will

      Fracking is not a new technology; it’s been in use for more than 60 years. Mass die-offs of birds, fish (red tide off the Florida coast) have happened on several occasions; the cause is usually a naturally occurring toxin. Could drilling cause earthquake swarms? Geologists say it could. As for killing birds and fish, highly unlikely. Why would it happen in one area and not many others?

  • http://Web Lily

    I’m a veteran in the oil and gas industry and have worked in several states over the past 35 years. I have NEVER seen a single earthquake caused by any phase of oil and gas exploration. You would be much better served interviewing the USGS about emergency preparedness for these Acts of God. Also, you completely neglected to mention the New Madrid Fault and the history of seismic activity in this area.

  • http://Web Michelle Clark Bruce

    I live here in Greenbrier, Arkansas. It has become frightening & exhausting dealing with the earthquakes. I believe ALL of the Gas Work should come to a complete stop immediately. Then wait a year or two to see what happens. The damage has already been done but we could possbily stop a catastrophe (man made)from happening. There is no way any of these Gas Co. could ever pay for damages when/if they occur such as BP did with their huge problem in the Gulf of Mexico with their drilling oil spill. Not to mention there could easily be deaths & injuries.

    • http://importantmedia.org/members/zshahan/ Zachary Shahan

      Thanks for the comment, Michelle. It is always good to get the local experience expressed more. It is really a concerning issue & wish the best to you and your family & friends & everyone else!

  • http://Web Shutian Ma

    I am interested in the swarm. I developed/revised a computer program package that can be used to precisely relocate the events in the swarm. If you or you know some people who are interested in relocating those events precisely, let me know.

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