January 5, 2012
Ohio Officials Suspend Fracking Operations At Well
Ohio officials said Tuesday that the state has suspended operations at a well used to dispose of waste water from "fracking".
The suspension comes after suspicion that disposal of waste water by reinjecting it into the ground may have triggered seismic activity.
The latest earthquake measured 4.0 on New Year's Eve and was near the well operated by D&L Energy in Youngstown.
The state shut down operations at the Youngstown injection well after a 2.7 magnitude quake on December 24.
John Armbruster, a seismologist with Columbia University's Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory who studied the quakes, told AFP that after measuring the latest 11 earthquakes, "the link between them (fracking and earthquakes) seems pretty good and they decided to shut down the well, which was their responsibility."
A spokesman for the Ohio Oil and Gas Association said the suspension was the right thing to do until the event was better understood.
"We also believe that while we may have a suspicious event here, nonetheless we do not have a direct link. That needs to be established by using good scientific measurements," Tom Stewart, the association's executive vice president, told AFP.
Fracking is a process in which high pressure injections of water, sand and chemicals are used to blast through rock to release oil and gas trapped inside.
The process leaves behind toxic wastewater that must be treated or else pumped deep into the Earth. The wastewater is extremely briny and can contain toxic chemicals from the drilling process.
The state's oil and gas industry has a lot riding on the development of this industry because the huge oil shale formation in Ohio are believed to hold potentially 5.5 billion barrels of oil and 15 trillion cubic feet of natural gas.
Stewart said there are 180 water injection wells in operation in Ohio, taking in seven million barrels of waste water a year.
A large cluster of earthquakes in Arkansas last year prompted authorities to suspend operations at two water injection wells, while seismologists at Southern Methodist University in Dallas found links to quakes near an injection well in the Forth Worth-Dallas area in 2009.
By the end of 2011, 11 earthquakes occurred in Youngstown, all in virtually the same location and at the same depth.
On the Net:
- D&L Energy
- Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory
- Ohio Oil and Gas Association
- Southern Methodist University