Date of Award

5-1-2011

Degree Name

Master of Science

Department

Geography and Environmental Resources

First Advisor

Dziegielewski, Benedykt

Abstract

The drive to find reliable sources of fuel that follow our green concerns and reduce our dependence on foreign sources of fossil fuels has pushed exploration and recovery of natural gas from within the United States to a top priority. Earthquakes generated from the use of hydraulic fracturing techniques and/or use of high pressure injection wells are occurring at an alarming rate due to increases in hydrocarbon exploration and recovery. While the link between earthquakes and hydrocarbon production is still uncertain, earthquake induced changes to groundwater chemistry are clear. Yet it has not been determined if repetitive, smaller earthquakes, i.e. earthquakes with magnitudes less than Mw<4.5, can result in similar disturbances to water chemistry as the more significant events have been proven to cause. Two known earthquake swarms, each having repetitive, small earthquake events, occurred in an intraplate setting in Faulkner County, Arkansas. Testing for groundwater chemical changes related to the timing of earthquake events and total energy released show that small earthquakes indeed create changes to groundwater chemistry most probably due to fluid intrusion from deep, chloride, calcium, and magnesium rich waters. The reduction of the United States dependence on foreign sources or finding green sources of fuel should not be the only mitigating factor for our decisions concerning our natural resources.

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