Fracking and Earthquakes

No, Drillers, they are not being imagined”

From 1976 to 2007, Oklahoma each year averaged about one quake of magnitude 3 or more — strong enough to feel locally but too weak to cause damage. But from 2008 to 2013, the state averaged 44 earthquakes of that size every year. So far this year there have been another 233,


A new study shows why:

[four massive] wells daily pour more than 5 million gallons of water a mile or two underground into rock formations, the study found. That buildup of fluid creates more pressure that “has to go somewhere,” said study lead author Cornell University seismologist Katie Keranen.

Researchers originally figured the water diffused through underground rocks slowly. But instead, it is moving faster and farther and triggers quake fault lines that already were likely ready to move, she said.

“You really don’t need to raise the pressure a great deal,” she added.

NY Times: Science

Fracking in CA: Not Banned but Beseiged

“Despite heated opposition from the oil industry and many environmentalists, a bill to regulate fracking in California passed the state Assembly on Wednesday, and Gov. Jerry Brown indicated he would sign it.

The legislation from Sen. Fran Pavley would trigger a sweeping study of fracking’s potential risks, as the controversial oil production technique spreads across California. The bill would also force oil companies to obtain a specific permit to frack a well, notify neighbors in advance and disclose the chemicals used in the process.

The same requirements would apply to “acidizing,” which uses powerful acids to extract oil from rock.”

SF Chron: David Baker

Fracking: Banks, Insurers Not So Sure

  • When Benjamin [a Pennsylvania real estate broker] fills out an appraisal for a lender, he has to note if there is a fracked well or an impoundment lake on or near the property. “I’m having to explain a lot of things when I give the appraisal to the lender,” he says. “They are asking questions about the well quite often.”
  • Lawyers, realtors, public officials, and environmental advocates from Pennsylvania to Arkansas to Colorado are noticing that banks and federal agencies are revisiting their lending policies to account for the potential impact of drilling on property values, and in some cases are refusing to finance property with or even just near drilling activity.
  • Last month, a landowner in Madison, N.Y., was surprised when their insurance company refused to renew their homeowners policy because there is a conventional gas well on their property.
  • “Whether you are the homeowner trying to get homeowners insurance or the neighbor [to a fracking site] who is trying to refinance, there are just so many tentacles to this. I don’t think people are grasping all the impacts of natural gas drilling.”

Grist and more at the Akron Beacon


Gangplank to a Warm Future

Environmental engineer, Anthony Ingraffea, spells it out in a NY Times opinion piece: fracking is a bridge to nowhere; walk it into a world of trouble.

MANY concerned about climate change, including President Obama, have embraced hydraulic fracturing for natural gas. In his recent climate speech, the president went so far as to lump gas with renewables as “clean energy.”

As a longtime oil and gas engineer who helped develop shale fracking techniques for the Energy Department, I can assure you that this gas is not “clean.” Because of leaks of methane, the main component of natural gas, the gas extracted from shale deposits is not a “bridge” to a renewable energy future — it’s a gangplank to more warming and away from clean energy investments.

My Water’s On Fire Tonight — The Fracking Song

From ProPublica and its great series about fracking….

Fracking in Ohio Causing Earthquakes

“A dozen earthquakes in northeastern Ohio were almost certainly induced by injection of gas-drilling wastewater into the earth, Ohio oil and gas regulators said Friday as they announced a series of tough new regulations for drillers.

“The report’s findings, the Ohio regulator said, show the earthquakes were based on “a number of coincidental circumstances.” For one, investigators said, the well began operations just three months ahead of the first quake.

They also noted that the seismic activity was clustered around the well bore, and reported that a fault has since been identified in the Precambrian basement rock where water was being injected.

USA Today

Fracking: What Is It and Do We Want It?

Bill McKibben, in the March 8, 2012 issue of the New Yorker, reviews two books and a documentary whose subject is the recent “explosive” rise of “fracking” as a way towards energy independence for the U.S.  As in many NYRB reviews, there is little review and much essay, typically by well chosen and knowledgeable writers.  McKibben has much to say, of importance both in the political short-run and the life-of-the-planet long run.

[Fracking] is short for “hydraulic fracturing” and in the words of Seamus McGraw, it works like this: having drilled a hole perhaps a mile deep, and then a horizontal branch perhaps half a mile in length, you send down a kind of subterranean pipe bomb, a small package of ball-bearing-like shrapnel and light explosives. The package is detonated, and the shrapnel pierces the bore hole, opening up small perforations in the pipe. They then pump up to 7 million gallons of a substance known as slick water to fracture the shale and release the gas. It blasts through those perforations in the pipe into the shale at such force—more than nine thousand pounds of pressure per square inch—that it shatters the shale for a few yards on either side of the pipe, allowing the gas embedded in it to rise under its own pressure and escape.

The books both contribute much needed people centered stories on what fracking brings.  Better than the two books, however, McKibben says,

… the most remarkable work on the subject has been done by Ian Urbina, a New York Times journalist, and by the rebel filmmaker Josh Fox. Urbina’s stories, which seem likely to win a Pulitzer, demonstrate why we can’t do without serious newspapers. Beginning last spring, he documented the health risks, lax regulation, industry overstatement, and general corruption that have surrounded the boom.Fox, for his part, grew up in rural Pennsylvania, and when a drilling company offered $100,000 for rights to his family land, he took his camera to Dimock, and then out west to communities where fracking had been underway for a few years longer, to investigate. The documentary he produced, Gasland, earned an Emmy and much critical praise.

Fracking Frucks Up the Neighborhood

Of course those whose income depends on the latest wild idea for extracting fossil fuels from every piece of dirt on the planet, will deny it.  The climate change deniers will pass on their lessons of pissing in the water to the the fracking earthquake deniers.

fficials said Saturday they believe the latest earthquake activity in northeast Ohio is related to the injection of wastewater into the ground near a fault line, creating enough pressure to cause seismic activity.

read (and support) RSN

For more on fracking, and which U.S. public official helped make it possible, see the for this story:

The practice of hydraulic fracturing (fracking) has taken center stage this year as one of the most important environmental threats facing North America (and increasingly in other parts of the world). Thanks to inadequate state oversight and Dick Cheney’s hamstringing of EPA oversight with the Halliburton Loophole, fracking has expanded through the United States incredibly rapidly over the past few years. In 2011, fracking faced much closer scrutiny as scientists, researchers and affected communities continue studying water, air and property impacts reported in areas where the controversial unconventional energy drilling is taking place.

Fracking awareness received a huge boost this year with “Gasland,” a documentary film which earned director Josh Fox an Academy Award nomination. Featuring interviews with landowners and families affected by fracking, the film is helping to bring the issue to the mainstream.