- Associated Press - Monday, September 28, 2015

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) - The man who oversees Indiana’s oil and gas industries said the state is studying whether hydraulic fracturing used by many operators can cause earthquakes - a question that’s on the minds of regulators and academics in several states.

Although earthquakes linked to so-called fracking have been reported in several other states, no such quakes are believed to have occurred in Indiana, said Herschel McDivitt, director of state Department of Natural Resources’ oil and gas division.

But the DNR began a study about a year ago to take a deeper look at that issue in collaboration with the Indiana Geological Survey and others in light of concerns in Oklahoma, Texas, Colorado and other states that hydraulic fracturing and the disposal of fracking wastewater is causing quakes.

“We felt that it’s important for us to learn about what these other states are learning,” McDivitt said.

He’s a member of a group of U.S. drilling state officials, seismologists, academics and others called StatesFirst that released a report Monday looking at how states handled various seismic incidents linked to fracking, which blasts water and chemicals into shale formations to fracture the rock and release trapped oil, natural gas and natural gas liquids.

That report is the latest word on the topic since tremors across the mid-continent began being linked to fracking and deep-injection wastewater disposal in 2009.

The Indiana University-based Indiana Geological Survey states in an online history of Indiana’s six-decade-long history of hydraulic fracking states that “the risk of inducing earthquakes by disposing of waste fluids in deep wells is a serious and reasonable concern that deserves careful monitoring.”

McDivitt said the DNR’s study with its IU partners is focusing on deep-injection activities in Indiana to determine if they could potentially cause quakes.

About a quarter of Indiana’s oil and gas wells have been fracked. Most of that fracking has been done using 10,000 gallons or less of water and chemicals, what McDivitt called “a very small volume.”

But between 2011 and 2014, several vertical oil wells in southwestern Indiana’s Gibson County were fracked using 250,000 or more gallons of water and chemicals. He said that’s still a small volume compared with operations in other states.

The area of Gibson County that’s seen an increase in oil well fracking contains seismic faults that are part of the Wabash Valley Fault System, a system thought associated with Missouri’s New Madrid fault zone that unleashed a series of devastating earthquakes in 1811 and 1812.

“The fact that there are faults there is one reason why oil production is occurring there,” he said. “Those faults actually serve as a trap, if you will, for oil. Many of the wells are drilled in and around some of those faults.”

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