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Thread: Could fracking tech be used to defuse large destructive earthquakes?

  1. #1 Could fracking tech be used to defuse large destructive earthquakes? 
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    ETA: This thread is not for pro/con of current fracking!!!!!

    Fracking (hydraulic fracturing) may be causing minor earthquakes. This has been in the news for quite some time now.

    If the above is true, could fracking in a known transform fault, like the Andreas fault, be used to intentionally cause minor quakes, thus bleeding off some of the energy of the fault so that large quakes could be eliminated or at least lessened in strength? I picture the fracking being used all along the fault line, getting the water mixture right into the fault if possible.

    I realize that convergent plate boundaries would not be suitable for this type of tech. Convergent plate boundaries are not easily accessible and divergent plate boundaries aren't a problem.


    Last edited by Chucknorium; May 16th, 2014 at 08:59 AM.
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    I would imagine it would depend on the fault lines themselves , ie How deep and long they run, what is the under-lying activities or substances that are exposed.

    Some crevices and holes could be there there for natural ventilation, if you stifle or plug it, it will find an outlet somewhere else, depending on the pressure or force behind it.

    It has been said that fault lines are a product of the earths main plates that formed together ( with weakened seams).

    I believe the earth itself has it's own unbalances but have we worked them all out yet, or have we fully understood, the many differing aspects that have effects on us all?

    I believe the right word to use would be 'Harmony'.

    If we are just going to drill the crap out of it and just move it from land to air then what is the point?


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    I don't want this thread to degenerate into a fracking pros and cons thread. That is not my intention.

    I want to know if this technology could be used to "lubricate" a transform fault in many places so that smaller less destructive earthquakes may be intentionally generated that will, in effect, bleed off the energy stored up in a "frozen" fault line so that it may prevent a larger, more destructive earthquake. I don't see this tech being put into use in the near future, but maybe a 100 years from now we could use it to lessen the strength of future earthquakes.

    Any geologists here?
    Last edited by Chucknorium; May 15th, 2014 at 07:38 PM.
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    While it probably could be used to initiate an earthquake, I'm not sure the technology is there to predict the actual magnitude nor is the infrastructure in place to support such an attempt.

    The limited evidence I've seen so far is that fracking could potentially cause unwanted seismic activity, so I don't see why it couldn't be intentionally applied. Of course, the companies in charge of fracking operations certainly wouldn't want the public to know if fracking were capable of initiating even minor quakes so I'm guessing we won't find out any time soon.
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    I am not a geologist, but I thought larger quakes were deeper and the near surface quakes were milder because the stresses were not as high near the surface.
    If that is the case then there would be a problem stress relieving the deeper faults just because you would have to do extremely deep drilling and be able to pump fluids under extreme pressure.

    Unfortunately most articles that might help understanding are behind paywalls but this abstract from Nature gives an idea of the depths and pressures involved.

    Anticrack-associated faulting at very high pressure in natural olivine

    HARRY W. GREEN II*, THOMAS E. YOUNG*, DAVID WALKER & CHRISTOPHER H. SCHOLZ
    *Department of Geology, University of California, Davis, California 95616, USA
    Lamont-Doherty Geological Observatory of Columbia University, Palisades, New York 10964, USA

    SHALLOW earthquakes are produced by brittle shear fracture of rock and/or fictional sliding on pre-existing fault surfaces1. At very high pressures, however, brittle fracture and frictional sliding are impossible because frictional resistance to movement on any potential fault surface is so great that ductile stress-relief processes accomodate strain at lower shear stresses than those necessary to activate faulting. Nevertheless, more than 20% of earthquakes with magnitudes greater than five occur at depths greater than 300km, where the pressure exceeds l0 GPa (ref. 2). Possible explanations for this paradox have been offered by several recent experimental studies of shearing instabilities associated with phase transformations at high 3–8. One of these mechanisms is associated with anticrack development during the olivine spinel (α γ) phase transformation in Mg2GeO4 at pressures of 1–2 GPa (refs 4–6); it is particularly attractive because it operates between mineral structures known to occur in the mantle. We show here that this mechanism also can operate in natural silicate olivine, (Mg,Fe)2SiO4, during onset of the α β transformation at the much higher pressures at which deep earthquakes occur. These results lend strong support to the hypothesis that the anticrack mechanism is responsible for such earthquakes4.
    Last edited by dan hunter; May 16th, 2014 at 06:42 AM. Reason: putting the R back into nature
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    I got this idea from reading The Fountains of Paradise by Arthur Clarke. The main character, the chief architect of the first space elevator, was also on the board of a Tectonic Company that specialized in this very thing: creating smaller earthquakes in order to bleed off the stored energy so that a larger quake would not occur. In the novel, the firm is only successful 75% of the time. The story takes place 200 years in the future.

    (Of course, it is never stated in the novel what mechanism is used to create the smaller quakes.)
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    Quote Originally Posted by dan hunter View Post
    I am not a geologist, but I thought larger quakes were deeper and the near surface quakes were milder because the stresses were not as high near the surface.
    If that is the case then there would be a problem stress relieving the deeper faults just because you would have to do extremely deep drilling and be able to pump fluids under extreme pressure.
    I read somewhere that fracking companies were drilling down 10,000 ft to store their poisonous waste water. Almost two miles is not 20 miles, but maybe sometime in the future . . . .

    BTW, thanks for the above info.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Flick Montana View Post
    While it probably could be used to initiate an earthquake, I'm not sure the technology is there to predict the actual magnitude nor is the infrastructure in place to support such an attempt.

    The limited evidence I've seen so far is that fracking could potentially cause unwanted seismic activity, so I don't see why it couldn't be intentionally applied. Of course, the companies in charge of fracking operations certainly wouldn't want the public to know if fracking were capable of initiating even minor quakes so I'm guessing we won't find out any time soon.
    From what I've read, it seems that the evidence is stacking up that fracking is causing minor earthquake swarms.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Chucknorium View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by Flick Montana View Post
    While it probably could be used to initiate an earthquake, I'm not sure the technology is there to predict the actual magnitude nor is the infrastructure in place to support such an attempt.

    The limited evidence I've seen so far is that fracking could potentially cause unwanted seismic activity, so I don't see why it couldn't be intentionally applied. Of course, the companies in charge of fracking operations certainly wouldn't want the public to know if fracking were capable of initiating even minor quakes so I'm guessing we won't find out any time soon.
    From what I've read, it seems that the evidence is stacking up that fracking is causing minor earthquake swarms.
    There certainly has been an alarming correlation.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Chucknorium View Post
    I read somewhere that fracking companies were drilling down 10,000 ft to store their poisonous waste water. Almost two miles is not 20 miles, but maybe sometime in the future . . . .

    BTW, thanks for the above info.
    300 km is more like 186 miles than 20 miles.
    I just thought I should mention that because it is easy to miss a zero and not recognize how deep undergound they are talking about.

    By the way, 10Gpa comes out about 1,450,377psi
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    Quote Originally Posted by dan hunter View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by Chucknorium View Post
    I read somewhere that fracking companies were drilling down 10,000 ft to store their poisonous waste water. Almost two miles is not 20 miles, but maybe sometime in the future . . . .

    BTW, thanks for the above info.

    300 km is more like 186 miles than 20 miles.
    I just thought I should mention that because it is easy to miss a zero and not recognize how deep undergound they are talking about.

    By the way, 10Gpa comes out about 1,450,377psi
    You're right. I just threw '20 miles' out there without thinking or looking it up.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Chucknorium View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by dan hunter View Post
    I am not a geologist, but I thought larger quakes were deeper and the near surface quakes were milder because the stresses were not as high near the surface.
    If that is the case then there would be a problem stress relieving the deeper faults just because you would have to do extremely deep drilling and be able to pump fluids under extreme pressure.
    I read somewhere that fracking companies were drilling down 10,000 ft to store their poisonous waste water. Almost two miles is not 20 miles, but maybe sometime in the future . . . .

    BTW, thanks for the above info.
    I've seen references with depths of up to 30, 000 feet.
    Surely that water will turn nasty.
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    Quote Originally Posted by hannah40 View Post
    I've seen references with depths of up to 30, 000 feet.
    Surely that water will turn nasty.
    Please take time and READ! I already said, this thread is not intended as a pro/con of current fracking. Jeez!
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