Ohio geologists link small quakes to fracking

State: Company that set off the seismic events was following rules, but just got "unlucky"
Associated Press
Apr 12, 2014

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.

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 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 seismologist with the U.S. Department of the Interior's Bureau of Reclamation, 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

Publius

Perhaps fracking is a good thing releasing seismic pressure in small and insignificant doses rather than letting it build up for the big ones!

Chris P. Bacon

And so I axe ya: Is that like saying "I need to smack my wife around once in a while, so that this way I don't let the anger build up and just shoot her when she smartmouths me"?

Amythe K

Lol

Publius

Really? That is your response? I yield to your scholarly analogy.

Chris P. Bacon

Would you rather have me say that your remark sounds like it came from George W. “I reads every chance I can gets” Bush?

Dinghy Gal

Real stupid analogy

JMOP

The title is misleading:

Ohio geologists link small quakes to fracking

The second paragraph reads "may have" and "probable".

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."

Gotta love the the news! People will come to their own conclusions by just reading the headlines, and not the entire story.

holysee

FRACTURING THE EARTH. HOW COULD THIS POSIIBLY LEAD TO EARTHQUAKES?
Reasonable thinking should prevail!

sugar

More liberal DRAMA, it's death and mayhem everywhere in lib land, starvation , climate change, sickness , guns, earthquakes.....all caused by evil capitalist conservatives. ROTFLMAO!!!

IslandDweller

That's really funny! State Oil & Gas Chief Rick Simmers is a Republican, as is the person who appointed him, Director of the Ohio Department of Agriculture Jim Zehringer. Zehringer is part of Republican Governor John Kasich's cabinet and served as a Republican State Representative until Kasich appointed him to serve in his current role. Yep, all that liberal drama!

I'll give you a pass on this one. It sounds like you've got your head in the sand, and with all that fracking going on, it can really scramble your thinking!

sugar

And no one in that Department is saying it's an absolute, they are monitoring. This is fear mongering the left uses to control it's gullible masses.

coasterfan

Actually Sugar, manmade climate change is well past debate. 98% of scientific experts agree that it is real. You are correct about the evil, capitalist conservatives, however.

Why aren't conservatives worried about the state of the world that we will leave for are children? They hate government regulation of anything - especially the kind that protects our food and water supply, clean air, that helps prevent things like oil leaks. You know, all the things that humans truly need to survive...

Let the next generation fix the problems they say. Or rather, they pretend the problems don't even exist. But talk to them about passing a federal deficit on to the next generation, and suddenly, they're worried about the future... Rolls eyes...

JMOP

Where do you get your facts at?

The Hero Zone's picture
The Hero Zone

One can wonder that since the conversation is apparently over about climate change...where do we go from there? Humans are the only major influence on the climate (who cares about the sun, the infinitesimally small amount of time we have spent measuring things with any regularity, and other boorish/nonsensical things like that) so would that make war good for the planet? After all, we're eliminating the source of climate change.

Think of it! If only there were less humans there would be less pollution, less poverty, and less points of view getting in the way of hard, cold fact. Fact like we are foreigners on our own planet. Facts like the argument is over that we must eliminate ourselves to prevent more of what we believe is happening.

I wonder who gets to decide who is worthy to continue their destructive, polluting existence on this earth (did you know we naturally exhale the two largest greenhouse gasses: carbon dioxide and water vapor?) and who must be culled for the greater good of...not our race?

Men in Black (1997)

Edwards: Why the big secret? People are smart. They can handle it.

Kay: A person is smart. People are dumb, panicky dangerous animals and you know it. Fifteen hundred years ago everybody knew the Earth was the center of the universe. Five hundred years ago, everybody knew the Earth was flat, and fifteen minutes ago, you knew that humans were alone on this planet. Imagine what you'll know tomorrow.

sugar

If you knew anything about science you would know there are never any absolutes. A challenge to scientific fact is always welcome. Conservatives believe in reducing our impact on the planet but we are way to intelligent to fall for the ravings and fear mongering of the left. This planet will be here and healthy long after you imbeciles have gone to your graves whining.

eriemom

Just think it thru. Hydraulic Fracturing forces huge quantites of water, sand, and GNW chemicals into the ground. First stop and think about where the water used comes from. Then think about what happens to the contaminated water sludge. The earthquakes don't seem to be at a magnitude to cause above ground damage yet. The damage is below. Concrete and steel WILL fail. Not if. When.

Do any of you honestly believe that we can take this quantity of water out of the Lake Erie drainage basin, pollute it, inject that product into concrete crusted steel pipes, and it won't find a way back into the lake and ground water?

Not drama; reality check please. I'm not describing evil capitalist conservatives. I'm describing morons.

Rosa

Thanks Eriemom, your statements are point on. But we know GREED and AVARICE rule in these cases. The rich always think "I don't have to live there" or "I don't have to drink that water", and they always think what they want NOW. They do not think of the future and what a damaged earth we give to our children.

sugar

And what water do you think the rich drink??? Special pure Godly water?

looking around

They buy their drinking water at the grocery store.

coasterfan

Greed and Avarice. Ah, Republicans, you mean...

grumpy

Fracking happens at depths below the bottom of any of the Great Lakes and the water table, Especially Erie which is 210 feet. Somehow it doesn't seem likely that water will go up in the ground unless under pressure and the wells would dissipate that pressure. Much like many wells and mines and such are now being used to inject liquid hazardous wasted below the water table... and have been done for many decades. Water flows down, not up. This is for the idea that fracking solution could end up in the lake.

The Big Dog's back

Boy, these right wingnuts are experts at everything.

grumpy

Some people can read and remember facts about current events that they have read. Then again some folks only read left wingnut blogs they copy and paste articles, or parts of articles... when they don't do the same with opinion pieces from left leaning sources they try to pass off as their own, or at least fail to give the citation where they cam from.

grumpy

.

The Hero Zone's picture
The Hero Zone

"The early apples were now ripening, and the grass of the orchard was littered with windfalls. The animals had assumed as a matter of course that these would be shared out equally; one day, however, the order went forth that all the windfalls were to be collected and brought to the harness-room for the use of the pigs.  Squealer was sent to make the necessary explanations to the others.
"Comrades!" he cried. "You do not imagine, I hope, that we pigs are doing this in a spirit of selfishness and privilege? Many of us actually dislike milk and apples. I dislike them myself. Our sole object in taking these things is to preserve our health. Milk and apples (this has been proved by Science, comrades) contain substances absolutely necessary to the well-being of a pig.  Do you know what would happen if we pigs failed in our duty? Jones would come back! Yes, Jones would come back! Surely, comrades," cried Squealer almost pleadingly, skipping from side to side and whisking his tail, "surely there is no one among you who wants to see Jones come back?"
Now if there was one thing that the animals were completely certain of, it was that they did not want Jones back. When it was put to them in this light, they had no more to say." - Animal Farm

Sorry grumpy, apparently science only works one way and seems only to be invoked to make a predetermined point.

"

From the Grave

Boy, it's quite a piece of dialogue when you intellectual masterminds get together!

ohioengineer

All human endeavor involves risk. The question is how we as a society respond to that risk. Do we learn from it, make adjustments and move on or do we throw up our hands in despair and give up. Fortunately, throughout our history mankind has chosen the former - otherwise we would still be stumbling around our caves in the dark.

The economic, sociological and political benefits from fracking are undeniably huge. No matter which aspect you consider - more jobs, lower gas prices, freedom from Middle East dictators - there is a tremendous up-side to allowing fracking to continue to grow in this nation. Simultaneously, we must be responsible stewards of our environment. And despite the screaming on both sides of this issue, these are not mutually exclusive goals.

In spite of the usual over-the-top AP headline on the above article, I am quite encouraged by this incident and the very reasonable response of both industry and government. It appears that we have learned a lot over the past half century and are now actually applying those lessons to fracking. While allowing a valuable resource to be extracted, we are carefully controlling that process and applying the lessons learned to make that process even safer and less obtrusive on the environment.

Now if the fanatics on both sides of the issue will just step back and allow the system which is in place to work, the United States will soon be both energy independent and a great place to raise our children.

Dr. Information

They haven't linked anything. Read the article, its says MAY HAVE.

eriemom

First, who is they?

Second, who said that any poster was against the mining of the gas?

I am a pragmatist. Take the natural resource in a way that our children do not need to pay "Superfund" clean up in the future. Can we afford to replace our water treatment plants with reverse osmosis systems.

We MAY HAVE snow next winter.

Amythe K

Here's the thing, we are forcing massive quantities of toxic chemicals into the earths crust to squeeze gas out of the shale. Extracting natural gas this way leaves years of waste water and other pollutants for at best three years of relief from fuel shortages. The shortsightedness of this push for increased fracking makes me smh at the level of greed and stubbornance displayed. We know better but don't care because there are jobs created and we can run our vehicles and heat our homes for a while. We do not know the extent of the damage we are causing, earthquakes are just one small warning sign. Of course they will use terms like probable and may...if the experts told us the little people all they know we'd never sign our land over to them.

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