Ohio geologists link small quakes to fracking

Geologists in Ohio have for the first time linked earthquakes in a geologic formation deep under the Appalachians to hydraulic fracturing, leading the state to issue new permit conditions Friday in certain areas that are among the nation's strictest.
AP Wire
Apr 12, 2014

A state investigation of five small tremors last month in the Youngstown area, in the Appalachian foothills, found the injection of sand and water that accompanies hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, in the Utica Shale may have increased pressure on a small, unknown fault, said State Oil & Gas Chief Rick Simmers. He called the link "probable."

While earlier studies had linked earthquakes in the same region to deep-injection wells used for disposal of fracking wastewater, this marks the first time tremors in the region have been tied directly to fracking, Simmers said. The five seismic events in March couldn't be easily felt by people.

The oil and gas drilling boom targets widely different rock formations around the nation, so the Ohio findings may not have much relevance to other areas other than perhaps influencing public perception of fracking's safety. The types of quakes connected to the industry are generally small and not easily felt, but the idea of human activity causing the earth to shake often doesn't sit well.

The state says the company that set off the Ohio quakes was following rules and appeared to be using common practices. It just got unlucky, Simmers said.

Gerry Baker, associate executive director of the Interstate Oil and Gas Commission, said state regulators across the nation will study the Ohio case for any implications for the drilling industry. A consortium of states has already begun discussions.

Fracking involves pumping huge volumes of water, sand and chemicals underground to split open rocks to allow oil and gas to flow. Improved technology has allowed energy companies to gain access to huge stores of natural gas but has raised widespread concerns that it might lead to groundwater contamination — and, yes, earthquakes.

A U.S. government-funded report released in 2012 found that two worldwide instances of shaking can be attributed to actual extraction of oil and gas, as opposed to wastewater disposal in the ground — a magnitude-2.8 quake in Oklahoma and a magnitude-2.3 quake in England. Both were in 2011.

Later, the Canadian government tied quakes in British Columbia's Horn River Basin between 2009 and 2011 to fracking. Those led to stricter regulations, which news reports indicated had little effect on the pace or volume of drilling.

But for the region encompassing Ohio, Pennsylvania and West Virginia, where energy companies have drilled thousands of unconventional gas wells in recent years, it's a first. The Utica Shale lies beneath the better-known Marcellus Shale, which is more easily accessible and is considered one of the world's richest gas reserves.

Glenda Besana-Ostman, a former seismologist with the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, confirmed the finding is the first in the area to suggest a connection between the quakes and fracking. A deep-injection wastewater well in the same region of Ohio was found to be the likely cause of a series of quakes in 2012.

Under Ohio's new permit conditions, all new drilling sites within 3 miles of a known fault or seismic activity of 2.0 magnitude or higher will be conditioned on the installation of sensitive seismic-monitoring equipment. Results will be directly available to regulators, Simmers said, so the state isn't reliant on drilling operators providing the data voluntarily.

If seismic activity of 1.0 magnitude or greater is felt, drilling will be paused for evaluation. If a link is found, the operation will be halted.

"While we can never be 100 percent sure that drilling activities are connected to a seismic event, caution dictates that we take these new steps to protect human health, safety and the environment," said James Zehringer, director of Ohio's natural resources department.

Ohio has also imposed an indefinite drilling moratorium at the site of the March quakes. The state is allowing oil and gas extraction to continue at five existing wells at the site.

Such events linked to fracking are "extremely rare," said Shawn Bennett, a spokesman for the industry group Energy In Depth, who described the new rules as safeguards that will prevent similar future quakes in Ohio.

Comments

Interestedreader

just what the anti-frackers want to hear!

LessThanAmused

"Anti-Frackers"? You mean people who understand "cause and effect"? I don't know of anyone with any sense at all that would want to support man-made earthqakes and the ensuing damage to the planet for the benefit of a small group of short-sighted oil barons.

Bottom line is that the oil will eventually run out, unless we wipe ourselves off the face of the earth first. Personally that's what I'm hoping will happen. At least then the rest of the life forms on the planet won't suffer their own demise because of human greed and stupidity.

How long do you think life on this planet will last without water to drink?

Robinson Reader

I was taught, taught, at Grand Valley State College back in 1980 that we would run out of oil by the year 1998. They had all kinds of facts, figures and estimates to back it up. They were also dead wrong. They were wrong because they didn't back up what they were saying with real facts and figures...but hand selected and modified data that attempted to bolster what was primarily an emotion based argument.
That was one of the experiences that showed me that those on the left are willing to do and say anything to push an ideological agenda. Including rhetoric of doom and gloom and woe if we don't go along with their group think and agenda.

owell

Another all knowing, understanding all, liberal. Why not show action behind your words. Take yourself out of the picture and your wish is that much closer to being fulfilled. Thank god the liberals know all and they can save us from ourselves.

AprilMayJune

I had heard of "peak oil" in the 1980's that was predicted to take place after the turn of the century. National Geographic ran an article about the end of oil production as they knew it in that day, coming some time in the 21st century, maybe around 2030. I think it was a 1988 National Geographic.

I am against fracking due to the vast amounts of chemicals blasted into the ground, that are mixed with water, millions of gallons of water are used in combined operations. That water is contaminated now. It's really a mess and all so that we can continue with our wasteful, destructive lifestyles. If this is the way it's supposed to be, well then I can only hope that evolution will come along and help us out somehow, because we aren't doing enough on our own.

nextdoor

leave a big hollow spot in the earth pretty good chance it will cave in sooner or later.

AprilMayJune

Fracking is a short sighted energy strategy that poisons our air and water. Watch the documentary Gasland, there's another one called Gasland 2 as well.
Forbes.com has a number of articles about fracking that point out the downside of fracking of which there are so many. A recent article is titled: "Pollution Fears Crush Home Prices Near Fracking Wells". Another article points out how there is radiation coming off of fracking waste, to the point that some fracking waste was turned away from a landfill it was destined for.

Creative distribution of fracking waste has been suspected.

Millions of gallons of frack waste water has been contaminated with radioactive particles that are found deep underground where the fracking takes place. We are assured that such waste water is being contained in underground wells or holding areas. There is a saying "Water always wins" meaning that you cannot contain water indefinitely, it works its way to where ever it will go.

Meanwhile renewable energies are left to lay fallow.

Barry Soetoro

I'm betting that if I keep posting NYT links, Lani is going to want to buy me a beer...

http://www.nytimes.com/gwire/201...

Lanivan

Here's that tardy high-5!

Lanivan

AprilMayJune: Have you seen this?

"GasFrac is one of a growing number of companies, including giant GE and the oil services firm Halliburton, that are pioneering technological improvements to mitigate some of the environmental downsides to the process that has spurred a North American energy boom. (See Interactive, "Breaking Fuel From Rock.") Besides GasFrac's water-free method, other companies are working on ways to use recycled frack water or non-potable brine in fracking. Some are working on replacing harsh chemicals used in the process with more benign mixtures, or to cleanse water that's been used in fracking. Other innovators are looking to replace diesel-powered drilling equipment with engines or motors powered by natural gas or solar energy, and to find ways to find and seal leaks that allow methane, a potent greenhouse gas, to escape."

http://news.nationalgeographic.c...

Robinson Reader

The only reason that there is so much anti-fracking propaganda (and that's what it is) is that it's a way to produce cheap energy. Leftists are against ALL forms of cheap, affordable, energy and will invariably demonize and stigmatize these things. The only "good" energy sources for them are those that are expensive and not efficient. Why? Because in general they believe there should be a lot less people and no capitalism. Cheap energy means a better economy which equals a higher standard of living which leads to more people. That's exactly why you will never....never find a leftist embracing cheap energy regardless of it's origin.
Try these articles to see how leftists are once again propagandizing the American people in an attempt to implement their agenda:

http://www.forbes.com/sites/grea...

For a simple, easy to understand video about how fracking ACTUALLY works and not how leftists SAY it works, watch this:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=...

The video is from this website which has a comprehensive explanation of fracking.

http://www.energyfromshale.org/h...

In short, don't believe those who post propaganda without facts. You'll notice a pattern with leftists....scare mongering with little or no basis in facts.

AprilMayJune

Thank you for the link Lanivan. The National Geographic article titled "Green Fracking? 5 Technologies for Cleaner Shale Energy" certainly gives me some hope for the industry going forward. As the article points out "Critics decry the practice for consuming vast amounts of fresh water, creating toxic liquid waste, and adding to the atmosphere's greenhouse gas burden, mostly because of increased risk of leaks of the potent heat-trapping gas, methane."

The "greening of fracking" is the use of new technologies to mitigate the problems mentioned. These new technologies are not being used industry wide, yet. If no one had spoken up about the environmental degradation, then mitigation would not have likely occurred. It costs money to mitigate.

Here is an interesting article about the seismic activity that can occur from injection wells used to dispose of fracking waste.

http://energyblog.nationalgeogra...

Please also see the following link to see what's going on in our neighborhood:

http://www.miottawa.org/Departme...

The energy from shale videos are comforting and informative about fracking. They are supported by a long list of energy industries and most especially by The American Petroleum Industry. Propaganda at its finest.

Robinson Reader

From the article: "adding to the atmosphere's greenhouse gas burden, mostly because of increased risk of leaks of the potent heat-trapping gas, methane."

This is a typical propaganda sentence. It's presented without context or explanation with scary words like "increased risk", "leaks", "potent" and "heat-trapping". It's designed to make us think that fracking will release methane which will increase global "warming" which is bad.

1. Methane is a tiny fraction of so called greenhouse gases. Water vapor constitutes 95% of all "greenhouse" gases. This fact is hardly ever made clear and water vapor is routinely ignored by the left when talking about global "warming".
2. Carbon Dioxide, the stuff humans and animals exhale, is the 2nd most prevalent greenhouse gas. It makes up 3.618% of these gases.
3. Methane makes up .360% of so called greenhouse gases.

Out of this, nearly all methane (and all other greenhouse gases including water vapor of course) are natural in origin. The amount of human contribution is nearly statistically insignificant.

And consider that there actually has been no global "warming" for almost two decades. For the last 17 years the earth has been getting cooler, not warmer. It's why we hear "climate change" and not "global warming".

So the amount of methane produced by fracking is so small in the grand scheme of things as to be non-existent. At least compared to the methane from natural sounces such as earthquakes (which happen ALL the time regardless of fracking), volcanic eruptions, and people and animals farting.

In short scaring people about methane from fracking is like telling people with a straight face that if we don't stop fracking a scary clown is going to come into our home and kill our children. There's no logic or facts to prove it.

For an excellent breakdown and analysis of so called greenhouse gases see:

http://www.geocraft.com/WVFossil...

For a general overview of how the earth is NOT warming read:

http://www.forbes.com/sites/larr...

The Chicken Little tactics used by the left are designed to scare the public into allowing increased taxes and curtailment and elimination of cheap and abundant energy sources.

Lanivan

Sorry, Robinson Reader - you just wasted your time with this comment. The fact is that the US and the entire world is way down the road on this issue. Your "leftist" argument is so old-school, it's, frankly, laughable. World-wide, transnational corporations, small start-ups, energy investors, scientists, inventors, and governments are focusing on renewable energy sources - wind, solar, biomass, geothermal, wave - as well as fossil fuels.

As a major profit source, capitalists all around the world are focusing on renewables. If you want to argue Climate Change, feel free - but the scientific data of 97% of climate scientists and the Big Money is on renewables regardless of your antiquated opinion.

Tri-cities realist

From the Forbes link "Yet last February even IPCC’s chairman Rajenda Pachuri has admitted that world temperature data has been flat for the past 17 years."

Lanny, are you calling Pachuri a liar, or will you admit that world temp data has been flat for the past 17 years?

Lanivan

This might bring some perspective to the table....

Who Created the Global Warming "Pause"?
How climate skeptics and the media—with a little inadvertent help from scientists themselves—forged a misleading narrative.

http://www.motherjones.com/envir...

Robinson Reader

Wasted my time? The truth is never time wasted.

The only reason that any company is interested in wind, solar, geothermal, wave, etc. is that they are disproportionately subsidized by the government.

Government subsidies to companies (corporate welfare) for traditional energy sources such as nuclear, coal and diesel are at around 90 billion dollars.

Government subsidies for renewable energy sources are around 88 billion dollars.

That might SEEM equal. But in reality traditional energy sources still supply about 97% of all energy in the US. Alternative energy supplies about 3% of the energy usage. So alternative energy is much more heavily subsidized.

In other words, companies get a lot of free money from the government to invest in alternative energy. Otherwise the technologies are impractical...they are not profitable nor as efficient as present technologies in producing electricity.

Take 10 minutes and research how inefficient wind and solar are for energy production and the actual costs incurred. This Forbes article is a good place to start.

http://electronics.wesrch.com/pd...

And solar has its own problems. Read these links to understand how much trouble solar is in. Corporate greed, funded and fueled by our government, is rampant.

http://www.foxnews.com/us/2013/1...

http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/poli...

The leftists (I'll continue to use the term because it's accurate) who control our government do not want abundant, affordable energy.

And this is the MAIN reason they oppose fracking. Fracking produces tons (well billions of tons) of natural gas. Natural gas is about as clean an energy as it gets. It's cheap and abundant and coal plants can be relatively easily converted to burn natural gas.

It's why the Obama administration won't approve the Keystone Pipeline. Ask yourself why a President wouldn't want to have MORE cheap and affordable energy?

Because of fracking the United States is close to being energy independent...in other words if current trends continue we will no longer have to import oil and could become an exporter. In a perfect worlds this would translate directly to cheaper prices on...well...everything. But because leftists control our governmental policies we'll have most savings offset by increased taxation.

Anyways, the issue is easy to understand if one would only take a moment to do a little research. But I suppose it's easier to to make a neanderthal argument of "Ooh...fracking bad and scary".

Lanivan

Many thanks, AprilMayJune. As you know, fracking has been around for a long time, as has the knowledge of the inherent dangers of it's implementation. Natural gas being a cheap, clean, and abundant fuel source, fracking is not going away. At least new technologies are addressing the problem, and are actively working on less damaging processes. I do believe that the emphasis on spreading the truth about fracking the last few years has helped the clearer, greener fracking technology.

Besides, capitalism as it is, these new technologies are profitable and are attracting global energy investors. Yes - it costs lots of money to mitigate and create, but the potential to make lots of money is also a major driver. I suppose it can be viewed as a win-win for all involved!

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