Skip to main content

Monitoring seismicity

Unconventional gas exploration and production are one of many industries that can induce seismic events or above-ground movements/vibrations.

Quarrying, tunneling, coal mining, geothermal energy production, mineral mining, pile driving, vibrating rollers, industrial presses and heavy vehicle movements can all create nuisance vibrations.

There is essentially no increased risk to the public, infrastructure, or natural resources from induced seismicity related to hydraulic fracturing. The microseisms created by hydraulic fracturing are typically around -1.5 on the Richter scale, thus too small to be felt or to cause damage at the ground surface or to nearby wells. It can be compared to dropping a 3 liter bottle of milk on the floor from shoulder level and requires extremely sensitive instruments for detection.

The United States National Academy of Sciences has recently published a comprehensive study of the induced seismicity potential associated with energy technologies, which also finds the process of hydraulic fracturing does not pose a high risk for inducing felt seismic events. This report further notes the injection for disposal of waste water derived from energy technologies into the subsurface does pose some risk for induced seismicity, but emphasizes only a few rare events have been documented relative to the large number of disposal wells in operation (e.g., tens of thousands).

Very low-level seismic events are a normal part of the earth’s geological activity. Before any wells are drilled, all responsible companies carry out detailed planning, site characterization, and risk assessment to study the locations of the underground natural gas reservoirs and ensure the minimal impact of operations on the local community.

In 2007, the German Oil and Gas Producers Association introduced a seismic monitoring system in Lower Saxony; the monitoring system continues to be improved and additional monitoring wells are being drilled.