US State regulators ordered a gas drilling company to halt operations in an area of northeastern Ohio after three minor earthquakes were felt in the area. Ohio authorities shut down a hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”) natural gas operation in Mahoning County on Monday after two earthquakes were felt in the area, which is near the Pennsylvania border, local newspapers and broadcasters reported.
The first quakes occurred about 2:26 am and measured 2.8 magnitude. It was later upgraded to 3.0 magnitude.
It was reportedly under the Carbon Limestone Landfill where Hilcorp Energy is drilling some of its wells.
The second quake occurred after 11 am and the epicenter was to the southeast of the first quake. It measured a 2.6 magnitude.
The Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) halted operations of Texas-based Hilcorp Energy — which conducts fracking in the area — while experts from the department analyze data from the earthquakes, the Columbus Dispatch newspaper said, citing a statement it received from the ONDR.
“Out of an abundance of caution we notified the only oil and gas operator in the area, and ordered them to halt all operations until further assessment can take place,” the department was quoted as saying.
There were no immediate reports of injury or damage.
The use of fracking — a gas-extraction process in which sand, water and chemicals are pumped into the ground to release trapped fuel deposits — has increased significantly in the United States over the past decade. Five years ago, the US produced 5 million barrels of oil per day; today, it’s 7.4 million, due largely to fracking.
Supporters of the process say it creates jobs and spurs the economy, while critics say that its development is largely unregulated and that too little is known about pollution and health risks.
The process of drilling so-called injection wells to dispose of fracking wastewater has been blamed for some minor earthquakes, and activists said Monday they hope the latest quakes will lead Ohio officials to halt fracking operations conducted near fault lines.
Ohio already has regulations prohibiting the disposal of fracking wastewater in certain counties. In January 2012, the state halted the disposal of oil and gas waste disposal in injection wells within a five-mile radius of a well in Youngstown, Ohio, that was linked to a series of earthquakes in 2011.