Pumping carbon dioxide deep underground may trigger earthquakes | Science News

Real Science. Real News.

Science News is a nonprofit.

Support us by subscribing now.


Pumping carbon dioxide deep underground may trigger earthquakes

The potential is there, but tests so far have shown only imperceptible rumbles

2:30pm, January 9, 2015
A corn processing plant in Illinois

CARBON QUAKES  Injecting CO2 deep underground offers a promising way to curb global warming, but the extra pressure may cause faults to slip or fractures to release the buried carbon dioxide.

The shaking in the nation’s midsection has been intense enough in the last few years to break chimneys and scatter dishes. Those alarming earthquakes are in places where such things have been about as common (and as welcome) as laughing hyenas. Their cause: injection of watery waste fluids deep underground as part of natural gas and oil retrieval.

This worries some scientists who have high hopes for a way to curb global warming by getting rid of carbon dioxide that comes from, among other things, combustion of coal, gas and oil. These CO2 emissions may be accelerating Earth toward a climate calamity as the land and seas warm and weather zones shift. One promising strategy for curbing climate change is to pump much of the CO2 from fossil fuel-fired power plants into deep underground storage where everybody hopes it will remain for millennia.

But in an ironic symmetry, in which a proposed solution to a problem shares one of its side effects, deep geological storage

This article is only available to Science News subscribers. Already a subscriber? Log in now.
Or subscribe today for full access.

Get Science News headlines by e-mail.

More from Science News

From the Nature Index Paid Content