Could fracking technology possibly be of any use to manipulate quakes and such?

So everyone knows the controversy over fracking causing earthquakes. That made me wonder: is it at all possible, using either current or reasonable future technology, to use the same equipment and principles to manipulate plate tectonics in that way deliberately? Ease pressure on faults? Let the Yellowstone supervolcano let off steam slowly?

Obviously, the wisdom of meddling deliberately in such forces is an open question, but I was wondering about the possibility.

The Yellowstone ecosystem is a protected area. It would take an act of Congress to do it. Considering the current anti-science atmosphere of both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue, not to mention the world-wide outcry, it won’t happen.

Attempting to manage and control earthquakes is like controlling the weather.

Yea, that would not be something i would pick as a learning experience.

I doubt that even if all the fracking equipment in the world is used, that it could release the pressure on the major faults.

There is not as much operational equipment as many people think especially with this downturn

Fracking technology as distinct from the ability to inject fluids under high pressure is really all about controlled fractures and the ability to prop the fractures open once the fracturing is complete - ensuring flow out of the fracked rock. It includes horizontal boring (for those wells that need to open up large horizontal strata) technology to seal and open up sections of the well for fracking, explosive peroration of the well bore to allow flow of fracking fluid into the right strata, and a lot of experience about how to make it all work. Just injecting fluid deep down - say into a fault - has been around for a very long time before fracking.

I remember a long time ago there was a well bored very deep into a fault for the disposal of military nerve agents. Whenever they injected into the well it would trigger small scale earthquakes - and it was realised they were essentially freeing some of the fault up enough for it to move. There was a serious suggestion that, indeed, very careful use of such injection could be used to perform localised controlled slipping of the San Andreas Fault. However the “controlled” bit was something of a concern. Nobody could really claim to have enough understanding of the geophysics to know if a slight freeing of the fault would allow it to fully let go. The idea was to drill wells all along the fault, and to pump water out of some wells to hopefully isolate a section from the rest of the fault, and then to relieve just that section. Rinse and repeat up and down the fault until it is stress free.

So, the answer is yes, there have been thoughts about how to manage faults with high pressure injection of fluids. But fracking technology isn’t really part of what is needed. However, it may be that some experience with specialised fracking fluids and propants might aid such an endeavour. The development of pump rigs as a commodity item would help reduce the costs.

I really doubt anyone has the stomach to take the risk.

There’s the suggestion that injecting water could “lubricate” fracture joints in faults and let the plates slide more easily. I guess the question is - would this cause a gradual release of pressure, or simply “grease the skids”, allow the initial movement that carries on into a massive major earthquake? As the joke goes… “There’s only one way to find out…”

OP: “Controversy” or the claim is nonsense?

In general the claim that fracking causes earthquakes is total nonsense. Fracking can be detected by seismometers - and indeed this is done to try to determine the progress of the fracturing - but the amplitude of the vibrations is so low it is usual to put the seismometers in the well itself. You would not be able to detect the vibrations yourself even if you stood over the operations. The vibration from the pumping rigs would be greater. The idea that fracking operations causes earthquakes otherwise might have its origin in the work I mentioned above. One thing fracking avoids is pumping into a fault. Not because it will cause an earthquake, but because the fluid just vanishes into the fault and not into the structure you want to frac - basically rendering the well useless. Fracking does not pump enough fluid to open up a fault. Its whole point is to open up relatively small sections of otherwise solid rock. And it does this section by section, not in one hit. The amount of fluid pumped is tiny on any sort of geological scale.

I kind of had to giggle about the San Andreas fault thing.

Totally SciFi but lets imagine you could shoot some Geo-Lube down into it and alleviate
the rumbling bits of what is going on, and lets pretend it lubed it up real good that it just went about sliding really smooth like (and faster)

End result is an ass load of sheared roads, power lines, gas and water mains, etc and San Francisco parked besides Los Angeles for a minute before LA heads south of the border and becomes one with Mexico.

Maybe, unless of course it pulls back from the NA plate, in which case it might be like a pile of rubble after you take away the wall it was leaning against.
Then you could have diving tours of old LA :smiley:

Yea i know it sounds kind of silly like that but it is what the slip fault is doing
Part of Cali is the edge of the pacific ocean plate crunched up against the NA plate, and its making its way southwards as mother nature organizes the next Pangea.

She is doing it slow on her time table, we probably should avoid pouring liquid wrench on her tools.
Not that i think we remotely had the ability to exert that much influence to move an entire tectonic plate, but i suppose you could create a localized mess if you tried hard enough?