The State of Corporate Knowledge on Injection Induced Earthquakes:

An Informal Survey

Darlene A. Cypser & Scott D. Davis


In order to determine the knowlege and attitudes of injection companies regarding induced seismic hazards, we sent letters to 112 companies known to be engaged in deep well injection for waste disposal or secondary recovery. Each query was a variation of the form:

	"I have heard that sometimes pumping fluids into deep wells
       causes earthquakes. Is this true?  How often does this happen?
       Is this a serious problem? What does your company do to prevent

The recipients of this survey included oil and gas companies (32), utilities (27) and miscellaneous corporations such as chemical companies (53).

The owners and operators of injection wells have a legal and professional obligation to understand the risks inherent in operating such wells and to take reasonable action to minimize those risks. However, despite the extensive literature existing on injection-induced seismicity, we found an alarming number of errors and misinformation in the 42 responses we received.

Only eight companies correctly reported that injection can occasionally induce earthquakes, while twelve contended quite clearly that injection cannot cause earthquakes. Seven companies claimed to have never heard of injection-induced earthquakes, while fifteen did not address the issue at all. Many companies blindly assumed that all potential risks could be avoided merely by following various state and federal regulations. In addition, numerous companies reported glaring fallacies including:

The survey demonstrates the inability of many companies to address environmental concerns raised by the public, and suggests a need for increased awareness of these issues. By educating professionals about the risks of induced earthquakes, the scientific community can help companies avoid potential liability by encouraging them to perform better site investigations, understand the benefits of seismic monitoring, and recognize when a potentially hazardous situation may develop.