Colorado Suspends Fracking Wastewater Disposal After Quake

01.07.2014 -

Disposal of wastewater from oil and gas drilling into a Colorado well has been ordered halted after seismic activity was detected in the area.

The Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission ordered High Sierra Water Services to stop disposing wastewater for 20 days into the well in Weld County after seismologists detected a small 2.6-magnitude temblor on June 24. A 3.4-magnitude earthquake shook the area on May 31.

This was the latest in a string of events linking oil and gas operations with seismic activity in the US as energy drilling increases, but was probably the first time seismic activity has been linked to wastewater disposal in quake-prone Colorado, the Commission said.

In hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, much of the water underground to release oil and gas comes back to the surface after drilling and is disposed of in large underground wells. There were about 145,000 of these wells in the United States in 2012 and 309 in Colorado, according to the Colorado Geological Survey.

Both fracking and wastewater disposal have been linked to increased seismic activity in US states where energy production is on the rise. Recent small earthquakes in Ohio were likely triggered by fracking, state regulators said in April, establishing a new link that went beyond just the impacts of disposal wells.

Fracking is seen to be adding to the threat of earthquakes in Colorado, According to a Colorado Geological Survey report from 2012, nearly 200 quakes with a magnitude 2.8to 3.4 were recorded between 2007 and 2009 in the Paonia area, largely due to coal mining activity.