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Breaking Quaking News: Ohio Finds Fracking Waste Injection Well Caused 12 Earthquakes

By Joe Romm on March 9, 2012 at 3:25 pm

"Breaking Quaking News: Ohio Finds Fracking Waste Injection Well Caused 12 Earthquakes"

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A dozen earthquakes in northeastern Ohio were almost certainly induced by injection of gas-drilling wastewater into the earth,” Ohio oil and gas regulators said today.

Youngstown protest meeting

Citizens respond to speakers during a community forum in Youngstown, Ohio, to discuss seismic activity related to deep wastewater injection wells. Source: AP.

These quakes weren’t caused by the original fracking — that is, by injecting a fluid mixture into the earth to release natural gas (or oil). It was caused by a Class II disposal well used to reinject the resulting brine deep underground. That reinjection is banned in some states.

The Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) has issued a preliminary report “on the relationship between the Northstar 1 Class II disposal well and 12 Youngstown area earthquakes” (news release here). They spell out what happened and the steps they will take to make sure it doesn’t happen again.

Specifically, ODNR found:

Geologists believe induced seismic activity is extremely rare, but it can occur with the confluence of a series of specific circumstances. After investigating all available geological formation and well activity data, ODNR regulators and geologists found a number of co-occurring circumstances strongly indicating the Youngstown area earthquakes were induced. Specifically, evidence gathered by state officials suggests fluid from the Northstar 1 disposal well intersected an unmapped fault in a near-failure state of stress causing movement along that fault.

As fracking has exploded onto the science, it has increasingly been connected to earthquakes — see my November 2011 post, Shale Shocked: “Highly Probable” Fracking Caused U.K. Earthquakes, and It’s Linked to Oklahoma Temblors.

Here are some of the steps ODNR is doing to prevent this from reoccuring:

  • Requires a review of existing geologic data for known faulted areas within the state and avoid the locating of new Class II disposal wells within these areas;
  • Requires a complete suite of geophysical logs (including, at a minimum, gamma ray, compensated density-neutron, and resistivity logs) to be run on newly drilled Class II disposal wells;
  • Requires operators to plug back with cement, prior to injection, any well drilled in Precambrian basement rock for testing purposes.
  • Requires the submission, at time of permit application, of any information available concerning the existence of known geological faults within a specified distance of the proposed well location, and submission of a plan for monitoring any seismic activity that may occur;
  • Requires a measurement or calculation of original downhole reservoir pressure prior to initial injection;
  • Requires the installation of a continuous pressure monitoring system, with results being electronically available to ODNR for review; •
  • Requires the installation of an automatic shut-off system set to operate if the fluid injection pressure exceeds a maximum pressure to be set by ODNR;
  • Requires the installation of an electronic data recording system for purposes of tracking all fluids brought by a brine transporter for injection;

In January, the Department of Energy set up a committee to examine the full range of environmental impacts of fracking.  I testified to the members and, in addition to raising the issue about methane leakage and global warming, I brought up the earthquake issue.

The committee said that they were indeed aware of this issue and ultimately the seven-member panel released a report of environmental guidelines for the natural gas industry, which included call on more research on “Understanding induced seismicity triggered by hydraulic fracturing and injection well disposal.”

I don’t consider this to be one of the 2 or 3 biggest concerns around fracking, but it is now clear that more study and national standards are needed.

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17 Responses to Breaking Quaking News: Ohio Finds Fracking Waste Injection Well Caused 12 Earthquakes

  1. fj says:

    Duh. Is this is what they mean by the stuff hitting the fan?

  2. Raindog says:

    Thank you for getting it right. Many seem convinced that fracking caused the earthquakes when it was the deep injection wells.

    Eventually the companies will need to reach a point where they recycle 100% of the water they use for reuse in the next well so this deep injection is no longer necessary. Some companies claim to be at 100% recycling now and most recycle at least 70%.

    • Ellen says:

      Ohio Department of Natural Resources, who has much authority over this drilling, have recently verified that BOTH the injection wells and deep shale fracking have caused earthquakes. Don’t believe me then read their report or contact them.

      When they recycle the water the wastes taken out of the water (carcinogens, heavy metals ect.) are buried on site of landfilled. These wastes can then become leachate and go to a local water treatment plant where they do not have the facilities to get these harmful chemicals out – or they enter water streams through run off. There is always more to this then there seems. Even if the water issue could be resolved what about VOC, H2S, ground level ozone air pollution as well as massive deforestation. Why are we resorting to this when renewable energy is ready to be implemented and create sustainable jobs?

  3. Tom King says:

    Once again I can’t help but notice that earthquakes generate more attention then climate events. Any evidence that Antarctic ice loss causes earthquakes will quickly reverse public inaction.

    http://earthquake.usgs.gov/earthquakes/eqarchives/year/graphs.php

  4. John Tucker says:

    I never got how this was swept under the rug for so long. FRACKING IS GEOLOGIC FORMATION CRACKING!

    Is it so unbelievable a stretch that it might cause earthquakes, ground water pollution and god knows what else.

    The whole process of it becoming widespread practice, in a few years really, seems totally unreal.

  5. Rabid Doomsayer says:

    I hope no one is surprised. The correlation between fracking and earthquakes is not entirely new and stands to reason. Enough force to crack the gas bearing formation is enough force to move things.

    This is a preliminary report, expect political interference prior to the final report.

  6. Roger says:

    Finally saw the fracking documentary, “Gasland” this week; I’d highly recommend it to anyone who hasn’t had a chance.

    I knew a bit about fracking but had no idea how quickly it was expanding, how brutal the results were, and how roughshod the companies.

    My wife just went to northeast Ohio to make sure that her 91-year old mom didn’t sign the lease that the ‘nice man’ dropped off!

    This entire addiction to fossil fuels is insane. Somebody (Obama) needs to stand up and show some leadership on the big picture.

    How about taking a minute, gentle readers, to help us get to 10K signatures on this:http://www.change.org/petitions/obama-please-educate-and-lead-on-climate-change.

    You can also call Obama’s comment line M-F, 9-5PM at 202-456-1111 to tell the sweet volunteer operators about your concerns.

    Face it folks, if we don’t speak up, the fossil fuel greed for a quick dollar is gonna ruin a livable climate for all of US.

    • Mossy says:

      I can’t find the lease! Next time I come back here there will be a big gas drilling well in the middle of the pond…or maybe they’ll use the pond as a fracking waste site!

  7. So given the DOE’s projected forecasts for increased shale gas production, what do geologists forecast for fracking-caused earthquakes state-by-state? And how much will this cost? How much will it cost vs. investing in energy efficiency? PV? Wind? Biofuel? Electrofuels?
    Burnet

  8. Mike Roddy says:

    Those guys don’t care. Hansen said that our fossil fuel and other emissions are the energy forcing equivalent of 300,000 Hiroshima bombs a day.

    In other words, the gas, coal, and oil companies are OK with blowing up the planet so they can keep their jobs and move up to bigger cars and houses.

    The press is afraid to frame it that way, but somebody has to.

  9. john tucker says:

    did you all see this CNN article?

    Fracking in New York: Risk vs. Reward

    Judy Whittaker hopes to one day have a drilling rig on her property if and when that moratorium is lifted. The 1,000-acre dairy farm in Whitney Point, a small town in rural northwest New York, has been in her family for more than 100 years.

    A pair of university studies that came out over the past few months, one from the University of Texas and the other from Stanford, showed the process of fracking itself doesn’t appear to pose a risk to drinking water. The studies found no record of a drinking water supply being contaminated by fracking fluids injected into shale formations several thousand feet below the Earth’s surface.

    “There are 384,000 oil and gas wells that have been drilled in the state of Pennsylvania and more than 150,000 of those wells have been hydraulically fractured,”

    ( http://www.cnn.com/2012/03/09/us/new-york-fracking/index.html?hpt=hp_bn1 )

    No mention of climate at all.

    • john tucker says:

      I was wondering if this was something new or had fracking been implicated before this and what happened – here is some older stuff I came across.

      It had problems before:

      Evaluation of Impacts to Underground Sources of Drinking Water by Hydraulic Fracturing of Coalbed Methane Reservoirs Study (2004) [ http://water.epa.gov/type/groundwater/uic/class2/hydraulicfracturing/wells_coalbedmethanestudy.cfm ]

    • john tucker says:

      Whats strange about that report is they found many problems but didn’t attribute them to fracking without some degree of doubt, they didn’t consider any longterm problems really and diesel was bing used at that time as a fracking fluid additive(which has been mostly stopped).

      Something else it mentioned I thought worth looking into:

      Hydraulic fracturing may have increased or have the potential to increase the
      communication between coal seams and adjacent formations in some instances. For
      example, in the Raton Basin, some fracturing treatments resulted in higher than expected
      withdrawal rates for production water. Those increases, according to literature published
      by the Colorado Geologic Survey, may be due to well stimulations creating a connection
      between targeted coal seams and an adjacent sandstone aquifer (Hemborg, 1998).

      in the immediate time-frame they are withdrawing fluids to the point of creating a negative gradient, I wonder what the potential is for future contamination?

  10. john tucker says:

    Worth a read :

    The Big Fracking Bubble: The Scam Behind the Gas Boom

    It’s not only toxic – it’s driven by a right-wing billionaire who profits more from flipping land than drilling for gas.

    ( http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/news/the-big-fracking-bubble-the-scam-behind-the-gas-boom-20120301 )

  11. john tucker says:

    So joe is the entire “fracking fluids not found in wells” argument a canard in the water quality discussions?

    I mean as the injection sites are usually far below water wells, and as fracking fluids, hydrocarbons, and gases are actively pumped out you shouldn’t be looking for that anyway.

    I mean you wouldn’t dump a toxin out midway up a mountain then research its effects at the top of the mountain and push that as proof the situation was harmless.

    What could be expected in the short term if there was a problem would be things like changes in water pressure in nearby wells, changes in dissolved minerals/gases, etc…

    And as not all fracking fluids are recovered, down the road we could even see problems with them as gradients and concentrations equilibrate.

  12. look up any FRACKing group discussion on Facebook; then go find the Lake Peigneur disaster vids; what happens when you drill into salt or other liquefied formations… we found Geiger counters in Kansas; PA and West VA, that you can drive a truck thru, at local salvage yards. Someone knows that the Frackin Frackers are dumping radioactive wastewater down any well they can reach. message me if you want to be part of our forensics teams…via Facebook (Frackbook).