Skip to main content
U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government

Injection-induced earthquakes

January 1, 2019

Earthquakes in unusual locations have become an important topic of discussion in both North America and Europe, owing to the concern that industrial activity could cause damaging earthquakes. It has long been understood that earthquakes can be induced by impoundment of reservoirs, surface and underground mining, withdrawal of fluids and gas from the subsurface, and injection of fluids into underground formations. Injection-induced earthquakes have, in particular, become a focus of discussion as the application of hydraulic fracturing to tight shale formations is enabling the production of oil and gas from previously unproductive formations. Earthquakes can be induced as part of the process to stimulate the production from tight shale formations, or by disposal of wastewater associated with stimulation and production. Here, I review recent seismic activity that may be associated with industrial activity, with a focus on the disposal of wastewater by injection in deep wells; assess the scientific understanding of induced earthquakes; and discuss the key scientific challenges to be met for assessing this hazard.

Publication Year 2019
Title Injection-induced earthquakes
DOI 10.1126/science.1225942
Authors William L. Ellsworth
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Science
Index ID 70203307
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Earthquake Science Center