Pennsylvania regulators said Tuesday that they would step up efforts to monitor for both naturally occurring and human-induced earthquakes throughout the state in a partnership that's expected to improve the safety of oil and gas permitting decisions and geologic mapping.
The Pennsylvania Departments of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR) and Environmental Protection (DEP) would contribute about $531,000 to maintain a real-time network of 30 seismic monitoring stations in conjunction with Pennsylvania State University (PSU). PSU has already been monitoring seismic activity in the state for years.
"This initiative will help our Bureau of Topographic and Geologic Survey continue to map what is underground and give us increased knowledge about naturally occurring events, as well as induced seismic events resulting from quarry blasts, injection [wells] and hydraulic fracturing," said DCNR Secretary Cindy Dunn.
Many of the monitoring stations would be located on state park lands, DCNR said. In addition to the 30 stations, five temporary stations would be maintained for rapid deployment to investigate seismic events of interest.
"This effort will give us a better overall understanding of the state's geology," said DEP Secretary John Quigley. "It will allow us to know what is normal, and to be able to identify what isn't normal -- whether man-made or natural. We can then apply this important information to permitting decisions and other work that protects public safety."
Pennsylvania has relatively low levels of natural earthquake activity, but small tremors do occur in the state. No noticeable seismic events -- like others in nearby Ohio that have been linked to injection wells and well stimulation -- have happened in Pennsylvania.
The move brings the state closer in line with its neighbors in Ohio and Kentucky. Last year, after Ohio regulators had previously linked a 2011 4.0 magnitude earthquake to an injection well in Youngstown and a series of earthquakes to hydraulic fracturing outside the city, the state participated in the installation of more than 30 seismic monitoring stations (see Shale Daily, May 22, 2014). The Kentucky Geological Survey also recently started installing a network of 15 seismic monitors to track natural and induced earthquakes (see Shale Daily, June 30).