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Seismic Risk: Fracking, Waste Water Disposal, and Deep Geothermal Energy

Prof Frank R. Schilling  Chair of Technical Petrophysics  |  Speaker KIT Climate and Environment Centre, Karlsuhe Institute of Technology, Institute of Applied Geosciences

Abstract: In our world today, fossil-energy carriers seem to be a driving force of development1. Within the transformation of a carbon dominated energy supply towards a lower CO2-emitting world (often called “carbon free”), different options are available. Some of them will be presented from the viewpoint of a geoscientist. Special focus is laid upon seismic risks discussed in the context of the following hypotheses:

  • Global change is real.
  • Germany is “Export World Champion” – in pollution.
  • “Wealth” and energy (CO2 emissions) are coupled.
  • The energy market is supply driven.

The assumptions will not be completely proofed or disproved during the discussion – however, some aspects will be highlighted.

A technical definition for risks will be used, whereas risk equals the costs of possible damage multiplied by the probability of a hazard. With this in mind, the required technologies for fracking, waste water disposal, and deep geothermal are described to derive the probability of seismic events and possible damage. The consequences on seismicity are modelled based for the different technologies, based e.g. on energy and entropy assumptions within the system.

As a systematic risk reduction relays on options, the risks are compared to other alternatives on our way towards a “carbon free” world.

Do not expect many answers – for me there are still more open questions.


1 Whatever development means…