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Greenhouse gas injections may unleash earthquakes

Plans to sequester carbon dioxide by pumping it into the ground could create other problems

By
3:40pm, November 4, 2013

Pumping carbon dioxide into the bowels of the Earth seems like an appealing way to ditch the greenhouse gas. But such injections could trigger earthquakes, geophysicists report November 4 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Petroleum companies already use CO2 injections to flush out underground oil. Now researchers have found that such gas injections into an oil field in northwestern Texas sparked dozens of small earthquakes.

“It’s inconceivable that the injection wells weren’t contributing to these earthquakes,” says study coauthor Cliff Frohlich of the University of Texas at Austin. The study provides some of the first evidence that gas injections may lead to earthquakes.

For decades, scientists and engineers have known that injecting some fluids such as waste from hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, can alter underground stresses and lead to moderate

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