Injecting wastewater deep underground as a byproduct of oil and gas extraction techniques that include fracking causes human-made earthquakes. A special satellite radar InSAR is to aid in the pinpointing of man-made tremors.
Scientists have discovered a novel tool that could help predict earthquakes that are caused by pumping wastewater from oil and gas operations beneath the earth. This tool is in orbit by the way. It happens to be a satellite radar.
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The radar information coming in from the Japanese Advanced Land Observing Satellite (ALOS) showed the land deforming in such regions where man-made operations were extant. Pretty soon earthquakes rocked the regions and this was sufficient proof of the value of this airborne tool.
ALOS’s interferometric synthetic aperture radar (InSAR) is a boon for predicting man-made seismic reactions in the earth. A group of researchers that studied the data forthcoming from the radar found that from 2007 to 2010, the ground rose by 3 millimeters above a pair of wastewater wells.
They used simulation models to see how this was possible. The pore pressure caused underground strains. Thus earthquakes were created out of nowhere. The study was published in a journal. This, by the way, is the first study to go into the details of ground uplift from wastewater injections.
While everyone knows that when liquid was injected into the ground it caused surface deformation, no one had actually seen it happen before their very eyes.
The researchers were really lucky that they got to see it in the form of visible proof before them this time around thanks to the study. Why some injections cause earthquakes while others don’t remains a moot point yet the research is ongoing in this regard.
The use of InSAR data is a huge advancement over previous primitive methods. A clear radar signal was a miracle of sorts yet it was something which occurred without fail.
The cause-and-effect ratio was not as simple as it was supposed to be at the beginning of the study. Apparently, whereas the liquid injections were given at certain points, the reactions occurred elsewhere thereby making the results rather complex to decipher.
There were many underground features that made the earthquakes behave in the manner they did in the final analysis. Even if injections were to be stopped, the tremors would still continue for decades afterwards.
Thus it is not a simple case of a knee-jerk reaction we are seeing here. The data is valuable and must be thoroughly perused before any conclusions can be drawn.