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I remember reading about this geothermal project being cancelled due to concerns over (relatively) small seismic events caused by the drilling. Have there been any instances of, or reasonable scientific cause to believe a major seismic event might happen due to geothermal drilling?

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This is not a direct answer to your question, but the closest example that I know about. In 1980, Lake Peigneur, in Louisiana, suffered a man-made disaster when an oil-drilling rig hit a salt-mine shaft under the lake, causing the lake to drain. [Ref: <a href="en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lake_Peigneur">Wikipedia article on Lake Peigneur</a>] –  Oddthinking Mar 10 '11 at 5:13
    
major event? Highly unlikely given the scale. Small events? Heck yes. Oil and natural gas drilling can cause minor seismic events, geothermal isn't much different (except there the material pumped out is generally pumped back in after use, possibly relieving much of the problems as there's less of a void left behind underground to collapse). –  jwenting Mar 10 '11 at 8:44
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1 Answer

up vote 7 down vote accepted

Short answer: yes.

Longer answer: There's a statistically significant positive correlation between EGS and seismic activity.

Longer, peer-reviewed answer: http://escholarship.org/uc/item/0t19709v

BTW, the path I used to find that was

  1. Your link
  2. Google: "Besel geothemal" (mentioned in the article)
  3. Wikipedia "Enhanced geothermal system" (fourth from the top)
  4. Wikipedia "Induced seismicity in Besel" (linked by #3)
  5. Wikipedia "Induced seismicity" (linked by #4)
  6. Endnote 9 (citation on the sentence in #5 that says there's a link)

And no, I didn't read the paper, I'm (uncritically) assuming that Wikipedia wouldn't get the cite backwards on something that obscure. ;-)

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