Tuesday, May 19, 2015

US Finally Admits Fracking Causes Earthquakes

A man works to clear up bricks that fell from his in-laws' home in Oklahoma in 2011. Earthquake frequency rose from 20 in 2009 to 585 in 2014. (photo: Sue Ogrocki/AP)
A man works to clear up bricks that fell from his in-laws' home in Oklahoma in 2011. Earthquake frequency rose from 20 in 2009 to 585 in 2014. (photo: Sue Ogrocki/AP)

By Heather Smith, Guardian UK

US Geological Survey backpedals on previous research on wastewater fracking-induced earthquakes that have shaken eight states in last seven years
s the US Geological Survey confirmed on Thursday, in the last seven years, geologically staid parts of the US have seen earthquakes like they haven’t seen for millions of years. And they were triggered by drilling for oil and gas.

The drilling – or rather, the process of injecting water deep underground – has been triggering earthquakes in Alabama, Arkansas, Colorado, Kansas, New Mexico, Ohio, Oklahoma and Texas.

The most obvious question is: what took you so long, USGS? Over those seven years, other scientists have speculated about whether this rise in earthquakes has anything to do with the injection wells used by the fracking industry to dispose of the water used in the process.

For the most part, the report does not pin the blame on fracking itself – pumping large volumes of water, sand and chemicals into rock formations in order to free oil or gas – but rather on the associated process of injecting wastewater deep underground using injection wells.

The rise of fracking after 2005’s Energy Policy Act slightly preceded and coincided with the rise in earthquakes.

Oklahoma averaged a handful of earthquakes of magnitude 3 or greater from 1975 to 2008.

Then, in 2009, it had 20.

In 2011, the number of earthquakes in the state rose to over 60, and Oklahoma was hit by its largest earthquake in recorded history – magnitude 5.7. Immediately after the quake Katie Keranan, an assistant professor of geophysics at the University of Oklahoma, partnered with scientists from the USGS and Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory to install two dozen seismometers in Prague.

Within a year, Keranan had data that indicated that the pressure from injecting water deep beneath the earth had snapped three fault planes, one after the other.

Not long after, in 2012, an injection well was linked to quakes in Youngstown, Ohio.

The state’s governor issued an executive order requiring operators to conduct seismic studies before the state would issue well permits.

In that same year, David J Hayes, deputy secretary of the US Department of the Interior, wrote a public letter stating that USGS research showed that there were no conclusive examples that wastewater injection triggered major earthquakes, even when it happened near a known fault.

The USGS report published on Thursday does provide such examples.

Not every well triggers an earthquake. In fact, a relatively small number of wells seem to have caused the majority of earthquakes, according to a report led by Keranan, which found that out of the thousands of disposal wells in the central US, just four them induced 20% of the seismicity from 2008 to 2013 in the central US.

In September of 2013, the Society of Petroleum Engineers held an unprecedented meeting on “injection-induced seismicity”, though they did not invite the press or the public. The number of earthquakes in Oklahoma reached 103 in 2013.

In November of last year, the USGS and the Oklahoma Geological Survey co-hosted a workshop that included about 150 participants from academia, industry and government – the result of that meeting is the report that was released this week.

That year, 2014, the number of earthquakes in Oklahoma reached 585 in one year.

Compared to earlier statements, the USGS report is a sharp turnaround from its previous stance. But it’s still a relatively mild document – one that advises more research, rather than specific actions. The work of clarifying connections between injection wells and earthquakes has been left to people such as Keranan, who left Oklahoma shortly after the Oklahoma Geological Survey published a rejection of a study she had placed in geology, which linked the quakes to nearby disposal wells.


+29 # franpryor 2015-04-27 09:18
Finally, someone agrees with me. What are these oil tycoons going to do with all their money when there is nothing left? The earth is being raped. The food is being poisoned and the water polluted. Where do we go from here.
+7 # Granny Weatherwax 2015-04-27 14:11
Easy: whatever there is left, they will own it.
Not you.
Essentially this is the same as with Wall St: they may be making money on phony schemes, peddling imaginary value but the $$ they rake in is real and buys a real(ly huge) share of the real world, therefore it is indeed a "theft from the hungry who is not fed" (in the words of that great liberal Eisenhower).
+15 # fredboy 2015-04-27 09:41
Tycoons who are buffoons.

Slow murderers. Not just of the planet, but of the people who live near their mayhem.

Come on, Karma. Here's your chance!
+12 # PABLO DIABLO 2015-04-27 11:03
Plus, using millions of gallons of water per well. But, what the Hell, we got cheap gas to sell to Europe and try to cut those "evil" Russians out of the European market. Billions of gallons of water, numerous earthquakes, as yet a tally on health effects in the area (dead livestock for sure). The oil companies getting filthy rich. Isn't that the American way?
+3 # Dust 2015-04-27 13:16
Poor Midwest Tom. Whatever will he do now? Oh, that's right - accuse scientists, researchers, and everybody else of massive fraud and conspiracy to defeat true-blooded capitalist, Jesus-loving Americans.
+9 # Malcolm 2015-04-27 13:47
Even if fracking DIDNT cause earthquakes, even if the steel liners and cement seals WERE always installed correctly, even if certain drilling contractors DIDN'T have a propensity to water down their cement seals, even if ZERO oil and gas wells have polluted water pass AROUND these seals, even if casing welds NEVER failed, I'd still oppose fracking. That's because-accordi ng to the data I've read-the cement and steel is only expected to last about 100 years before failing.

What a despicable legacy to leave for our progeny! "Sorry, guys. Too bad all your groundwater is FUBAR". But really, don't you prefer drinking Coke?
+3 # Ken Halt 2015-04-27 17:39
There are many reasons that fracking is just plain wrong and should be banned. Some hardcore apologists want us to ignore the tapwater that can be set aflame, or the health problems of those who live near fracking sites, or the degradation of the environment, or the profligate use of water in dry states. That fracking-induce d earthquakes affect the safety of millions of people and their property in a broad swath of territory may focus enough public opinion to make a serious discussion of the merits of fracking imperative. "What fools these mortals be!" - W. Shakespeare
0 # RnR 2015-04-28 05:29
I would like an honest investigation into the effects of the vibrations caused by fracking and the effect of them planet wide. Are Nepal and the various earthquakes
and landslides and other eruptions of the shell of the planet related? Everything is.

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