Issue Brief

The Shale Revolution and Earthquakes

Jan 31, 2018 | Daniel Raimi

Summary

This brief provides an overview of the key causes of earthquakes related to oil and gas activities, along with how new technologies and policies can reduce the risks.

Key Findings

  • Disposal of oil and gas wastewater has recently caused thousands of earthquakes in the United States, particularly in Oklahoma.
  • Most other producing regions have experienced little or no seismicity due to oil and gas activities.
  • Most quakes have not caused damage, but several of magnitude 5.0 and above have damaged property.
  • Hydraulic fracturing can also cause quakes directly, but these have been smaller and less frequent.
  • Proactive monitoring and policy can substantially reduce, though likely not eliminate, the risks from induced quakes.