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

sugar

Be the first in your neighborhood to over react and refuse to turn on your lights, heat your home and for Gods sake, turn off your computer !

coasterfan

I'm going to invoke the words of the anti-Christ, Dick Cheney. In 2002, he said "if there is even a 1% chance of another terrorist attack, shouldn't we take steps to prevent it?

By the same reasoning, if there is even a 1% chance that fracking harms our natural resources, shouldn't we think twice about doing it?
And in this case, way more than 1% of scientists agree that it causes huge problems.

The conservative response has been typical. When evidence arises to show that fracking is bad, deny the evidence is real, or better yet, deny that it even exists.

The Hero Zone's picture
The Hero Zone

I'm going to have to disagree with you here because statements like the one you quote are blatant power grabs that overreach the power and scope of government. It is ideas like that that lead to laws like the Patriot Act, which I presume you dislike. Just because there is a 1% chance for something doesn't mean the government gets to take over 100% of our lives.

Environmentally we see the battle where the EPA wants to control things like roadside ditches claiming them to be "navigable waterways" under redefinitions/interpretations of the Clean Water Act so that they can control those as well as private ponds on private land. I presume just as you don't want drones spying on you (or assassinating you) that you don't want the EPA harassing you on a regular basis because your drainage ditch has a grocery bag in it. Or mandating you to regularly pay for testing, etc., when you as a private citizen are hardly a Captain Planet villain dumping radioactive waste into your fire pond.

To literally illustrate: http://www.nam.org/~/media/B0D71...

Don't mistake this as a tirade against the armed forces or EPA, but I'd really urge you to be cautious about giving up so much of your own (and others' via your votes for elected representatives) life to other people.

"For the time being, certainly, it had been found necessary to make a readjustment of rations (Squealer always spoke of it as a "readjustment," never as a "reduction"), but in comparison with the days of Jones, the improvement was enormous. Reading out the figures in a shrill, rapid voice, he proved to them in detail that they had more oats, more hay, more turnips than they had had in Jones's day, that they worked shorter hours, that their drinking water was of better quality, that they lived longer, that a larger proportion of their young ones survived infancy, and that they had more straw in their stalls and suffered less from fleas. The animals believed every word of it. Truth to tell, Jones and all he stood for had almost faded out of their memories. They knew that life nowadays was harsh and bare, that they were often hungry and often cold, and that they were usually working when they were not asleep. But doubtless it had been worse in the old days. They were glad to believe so. Besides, in those days they had been slaves and now they were free, and that made all the difference, as Squealer did not fail to point out." - Animal Farm

http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_s...

The Big Dog's back

Gee, another right wingnut expert.

The Hero Zone's picture
The Hero Zone

Would you like to refute my sourced observations in any specific way?

grumpy

There is a big difference between "like to" and "be able to", especially when you included the word "sourced". Tis why it will go unrefuted.

sugar

Your next, turn off your lights, do not heat your home, and turn off your computer . Oh and be sure to stay a slave to the Arabs.

pntbutterandjelly

You forget Coasterfan...the far right don't believe in science (unless of course..it's in their favor).

Edog

TO Chris P. Bacon: it is very indicative that the first “analogy” that occurs to you is that of BEATING a woman.

Chris P. Bacon

Dear Edog: As a woman that has been beaten (yes Chris is a woman's name too), it is indeed an analogy that occurs to me. At least I had the good sense to get out.

pntbutterandjelly

Of course we need "natural resources". The question becomes, "At what price are we willing to pay in the future?". Those natural resources (potable water and oil precisely) are being depleted by the 7 billion humans who now inhabit our globe.
In my opinion...the risk of contaminations out weigh the benefits. Somewhere, sometime...we will pay dearly for what we have and are doing to our planet.

T. A. Schwanger
pntbutterandjelly

Some commenters are fracking stupid.

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