Print 61 comment(s) - last by ClownPuncher.. on Apr 16 at 3:45 PM

Fracking earthquakes...

There has been a lot of talk in the national news about fracking, and we aren't talking about "special time" for “Battle Star Galactica” geeks. Hydraulic fracturing (or fracking for short) is a process used in oil or gas drilling where water and other components are injected deep underground to fracture subterranian formations allowing natural gas to come to the surface. According to researchers from the U.S. Geological Survey, there has been a significant increase in earthquakes in the middle of the United States compared to previous years.
The U.S. Geological Survey reports that for the three decades until the year 2000, seismic events across the middle of the nation averaged only 21 per year. Then in 2009 events jumps to 50 per year, in 2010 they increased to 87 per year, and then in 2011 there were 134 reported seismic events. Some are pointing to fracking as the reason for the increase in seismic events across the middle of the United States, which historically has very few seismic events. However, scientists believe that these seismic events are perhaps more related to wastewater disposal underground than fracking.
“Our scientists cite a series of examples for which an uptick in seismic activity is observed in areas where the disposal of wastewater through deep-well injection increased significantly,” David Hayes, the deputy secretary of the U.S. Department of Interior, said in a blog post yesterday, describing research by scientists at the U.S. Geological Survey.
According to Haynes, the seismic events across the middle United States are generally "very small" and rarely cause damage. He also notes that not all instances of fracking or wastewater injection cause seismic issues. Fracking injects contents such as water and some chemicals, into the shale formations within the earth. The point is to break apart underground formations and free natural gas trapped there.

Hayes added, "We also find that there is no evidence to suggest that hydraulic fracturing itself is the cause of the increased rate of earthquakes."
Bloomberg reports that much of that wastewater comes back to the surface and has to be disposed of. This is where the difference between hydraulically fractured wells and disposal injection wells comes into play. Disposal injection is taking the wastewater created from fracking and injecting it back underground.
Daniel Whitten, a spokesman for the America’s Natural Gas Alliance, told Bloomberg, "[There is] a difference between disposal injection wells and hydraulically fractured wells. There are over 140,000 disposal wells in America, with only a handful potentially linked to seismic activity."
However, he did point out that the industry is committed to monitoring the issue and working with authorities when there's a concern about seismic activity in an area. 

Source: Bloomberg

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Good thing?
By bobsmith1492 on 4/13/2012 12:05:43 PM , Rating: 4
As the earth's crust moves, pressure can build up along seismic fault lines. When it gets too big, it slips, and causes a big earthquake.

Perhaps our minor shake-ups are keeping things sliding along and helping prevent major stress build-ups that could result in large damaging quakes later.

RE: Good thing?
By Uncle on 4/13/12, Rating: -1
RE: Good thing?
By Mitch101 on 4/13/2012 1:06:09 PM , Rating: 5
There is a huge chance you will get your wish in Yellowstone since its a super volcano/caldera thats overdue and the ground has been rising quite a bit lately.

RE: Good thing?
By dgingerich on 4/13/2012 1:15:46 PM , Rating: 5
* "there" - location. "their" is for ownership.

Washington DC is really a beautiful city. It would be a shame to lose all those monuments and cherry trees. (The cherry trees were given to us by Japan back in 1912.) Let's just get rid of the people driving this country into the ground.

RE: Good thing?
By retrospooty on 4/13/12, Rating: -1
RE: Good thing?
By ClownPuncher on 4/13/2012 2:12:58 PM , Rating: 5
This is a tech site, where people are typically more educated. Thus, you'll often see people correcting each other on many things. Don't be insecure.

RE: Good thing?
By retrospooty on 4/13/12, Rating: -1
RE: Good thing?
By lelias2k on 4/13/2012 5:51:50 PM , Rating: 2
If he was just pointing that out, I'd agree with you, but he made a very compelling point afterwards.

And while I try not to go on correcting people, I'm amazed at how bad Americans are with homophones in general.

RE: Good thing?
By torpor on 4/13/2012 6:25:12 PM , Rating: 3
I'm amazed at how bad Americans are with homophones in general.

It's probably because we're so homophonphobic.

While I'm here, don't forget that the New Madrid fault promises to level much of the Midwest. It's not that there's no seismic activity, it just tends to be less severe than, oh, San Francisco.

Take Clintonville, WI. They've been having seismic events lately (duckduckgo for WI boom town) and are nowhere near any fracking operation. Clintonville is not exactly known for seismic it could also easily be coincidence.

RE: Good thing?
By teaman on 4/13/2012 6:07:16 PM , Rating: 5
* "typo's" is possessive. "typos" is for plurality.

Maybe you were baiting and I fell for it but I would have thought that when commenting on spelling/grammar, you would have to proofread your own...

RE: Good thing?
By sigmatau on 4/13/2012 6:38:14 PM , Rating: 2

RE: Good thing?
By retrospooty on 4/14/2012 10:17:19 AM , Rating: 2

Pretty sure that is proper grammar to describe you.

RE: Good thing?
By FaaR on 4/15/2012 4:21:05 PM , Rating: 5
Punctuation fail.

A proper response would have been composed thusly:

RE: Good thing?
By retrospooty on 4/16/12, Rating: 0
RE: Good thing?
By dark matter on 4/15/2012 2:12:53 PM , Rating: 2
Your comma is superfluous.

RE: Good thing?
By ClownPuncher on 4/13/2012 7:14:39 PM , Rating: 2
It don't bother me none too much. When people correct me, I find it helpful.

RE: Good thing?
By DNAgent on 4/15/2012 12:06:57 AM , Rating: 1
where people are typically more educated

LOL...wait, are you serious?

RE: Good thing?
By ClownPuncher on 4/16/2012 3:45:32 PM , Rating: 2
Your "LOL" has me second guessing.

RE: Good thing?
By vol7ron on 4/13/2012 3:19:09 PM , Rating: 3
also include: "they're" - [they are] all in session, not "their all in session"

RE: Good thing?
By jimbojimbo on 4/13/2012 3:35:37 PM , Rating: 2
Don't for get his their and they're mistake as well. Truly an idiot.

RE: Good thing?
By Dorkyman on 4/13/2012 8:00:45 PM , Rating: 3
And another thing.

Would this be a good time to talk about "its?"

Drives me nuts to see people typing "the dog and it's fleas."

"It's" means "It is." It's not possessive.

And I do wish people would use their spell chekurs.

RE: Good thing?
By ShaolinSoccer on 4/14/12, Rating: 0
RE: Good thing?
By faster on 4/14/2012 4:22:50 PM , Rating: 1
Ok uncle, you can expect the FBI anytime now. You don't say things like that in the police state of amerika.

RE: Good thing?
By mars2k on 4/13/2012 1:52:31 PM , Rating: 2
Fracking creates fissures across the rock strata and the methane trapped flows out. There is no way to control where the fissures open. If they propagate where the water table is then what happens to the water?
There a lots of places where oil wells were drilled. These wells were sunk thousands of feet deep and many crossed though water bearing rock strata. The oil depleted and the wells get capped but the holes are still there and the pipe casing for the well has long since rusted out. Residual oil, gas, and salt water now contaminate the fresh underground water.
So if you had a choice between methane or the only source of water available which would you choose?
We keep making long term decisions for short term solutions. Once the ground water is ruined it stays ruined even if the gas is depleted

RE: Good thing?
By Solandri on 4/13/2012 4:23:32 PM , Rating: 5
The oil depleted and the wells get capped but the holes are still there and the pipe casing for the well has long since rusted out. Residual oil, gas, and salt water now contaminate the fresh underground water.

While I agree with you that contamination from the fracking itself is an issue, you have a lot to learn about oil wells. You do not just sink a pipe into a ground.

An oil well is probably best described as a straw within a straw. The outer straw is made of metal casing held in place against the surrounding rock by cement. The inner straw is a metal pipe. When drilling, you send the bore and lubricants down the inner straw, and the dirt and muck come up the outer straw (the lubricant is cleaned and recycled because it's a helluva lot more expensive than oil). Later, oil comes up the outer straw. Only the very bottom part of the well lacks this cement and metal outer straw.

Permanently "capping" a depleted oil well doesn't mean you just put a lid on it. It means you remove the inner straw, and fill the outer straw with mud and cement plugs (or sometimes cement all the way). The hole is not there anymore. The plug is not metal with a hole as you imply. It is cement - metal - cement with no hole.

The pressure differentials make it way too dangerous to leave any hole in a well you don't plan to use later. A well is like the weight of miles of dirt sitting atop a waterbed, pressurizing the water. If you drill a hole through that dirt and poke a hole in the bed, the water will squirt up through your hole. And you get the Deepwater Horizon blowout we had a couple years ago. They had oil coming up both the inner and outer straws, meaning they could not send heavy mud and fluid down the inner straw to repressurize the oil and stop its flow.

RE: Good thing?
By JediJeb on 4/13/2012 1:57:34 PM , Rating: 3
Perhaps our minor shake-ups are keeping things sliding along and helping prevent major stress build-ups that could result in large damaging quakes later.

Could be a good thing. Living in the area of the New Madrid fault I know the history and that around 1812 one of the largest quakes to ever hit the US in recent history was centered here. Though since then the whole area has been rather quiet. These could be due to fracking, or they could be the signs that the fault is becoming stressed again. Hard to tell when we really only have a few hundred years of any kind of data on how the central US faults behave.

The other thing to ask is how do the number of quakes compare to the rest of the world where there is no fracking taking place? It may just be in how the news works now, but I have been hearing of quakes around the globe more often now than say 10 or 20 years ago. Inclusion of more data may change how the events are viewed.

RE: Good thing?
By Iketh on 4/13/2012 10:56:01 PM , Rating: 2
Also, except in a perfect world, what we're doing is TRANSFERRING the stress elsewhere... I'm curious where mid-US stress is most likely to migrate...

RE: Good thing?
By rs2 on 4/14/2012 3:10:44 AM , Rating: 3
That might be true, if we were fracking along existing natural fault-lines. However that's not the case.

I'd say that at best these man-made earthquakes have zero net effect on plate movement and earthquakes along natural seismic fault lines. At worst they may be increasing the frequency (but not the intensity) of natural earthquakes, if the man-made quakes are powerful/widespread enough to actually carry any amount of force/pressure to areas where natural fault lines exist.

RE: Good thing?
By ShieTar on 4/16/2012 4:33:31 AM , Rating: 2
Actually, conservation of energy would dictate that an increase in frequency should decrease intensity. Thus the above comments on why the increased number may be a "good thing".

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