Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Is That So?

Apparently, fracking (hydraulic fracturing or projecting highly pressurized fluid into rock)  for oil can cause earthquakes:

Two separate studies are providing insights into the earth-shaking consequences of the controversial gas extraction process known as fracking.

Both studies confirm that hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, can trigger manmade earthquakes when water, sand and chemicals are blasted deep into the ground to fracture rock to obtain oil and natural gas.

Energy companies are increasingly using the technique across Canada, including in B.C. where there is already regular seismic activity and an ever looming threat of various sized tremors.

The U.S. Geological Survey is set to release its findings Wednesday that a "remarkable" increase of quakes in the U.S. midcontinent since 2001 is "almost certainly" the result of oil and gas production.

U.K. experts, meanwhile, point to a study released Monday that found recent earthquakes in northwest England were caused by fluid injection into a nearby fault zone as evidence fracking can be safe when conducted by responsible operators.

Opposition to fracking has ramped up since the release of the 2010 documentary "Gasland," which shows residents of small town Colorado setting alight tap water they charge was soured by nearby oil industry activity.

I hate to burst one's eco-bubble but it's no secret that displacement of earth with water, massive coal mining, mine collapses and heavy-duty extraction cause minor earthquakes. However, these are minor quakes that barely register or cause serious damage or injury. An earthquake that measures two on the Richter scale will be picked up by a seismograph but an earthquake that measures nine (such as the one in Japan in 2011) will definitely be seen and felt. This is a map of the earth's major fault lines. Is it no coincidence that earthquakes, particularly serious ones, happen along these fault lines? I'm sure these things will have found their way into the reports.

"Gasland", by the way, contains some errors of which one might wish to be aware:

Gasland features three Weld County landowners, Mike Markham, Renee McClure, and Aimee Ellsworth, whose water wells were allegedly contaminated by oil and gas development. The COGCC investigated complaints from all three landowners in 2008 and 2009, and we issued written reports summarizing our findings on each. We concluded that Aimee Ellsworth’s well contained a mixture of biogenic and thermogenic methane that was in part attributable to oil and gas development, and Mrs. Ellsworth and an operator reached a settlement in that case.

However, using the same investigative techniques, we concluded that Mike Markham’s and Renee McClure’s wells contained biogenic gas that was not related to oil and gas activity. Unfortunately, Gasland does not mention our McClure finding and dismisses our Markham finding out of hand.

“What I didn’t know was that the 2005 energy bill pushed through Congress by Dick Cheney exempts the oil and natural gas industries from Clean Water Act, the Clean Air Act, the Safe Drinking Water Act, the Superfund law, and about a dozen other environmental and Democratic regulations.”
  • This assertion, every part of it, is false. The oil and natural gas industry is regulated under every single one of these laws — under provisions of each that are relevant to its operations. See this fact sheet for a fuller explanation of that.
  • The process of hydraulic fracturing, to which Fox appears to be making reference here, has never in its 60-year history been regulated under the Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA). It has, however, been regulated ably and aggressively by the states, which have compiled an impressive record of enforcement and oversight in the many decades in which they have been engaged in the practice.

(with thanks)

No comments: