Shaken, Stirred, Or Fracked
MAY 17, 2012: A magnitude 4.3 earthquake shook Timpson, Texas this morning at about 3 AM. Timpson is located in Shelby County near the Louisiana border. Timpson had another 3.9 magnitude quake on May 10. The quake was felt 75 miles from the epicenter.
This morning´s quake was the third largest in East Texas´ history.
Timpson is the site of two wastewater injection wells that take toxic fracking water from Louisiana. The wells are very close to the epicenter of the quake.
APRIL 18, 2012: Fracking and injection wells are causing earthquakes around gas fields across the United States. This is a fact.
Is it from waste-water injection wells or the production of gas? Geologists are not sure. The earthquakes could be caused by either or both practices. What is abundantly clear is that it is happening. It is imperative that the American public pays attention and controls the expansion of fracking. It would be best if action were taken before the advent a major seismic disaster, but given the increase of fracking activity, that appears to be simply a matter of time.
There has been a historically unnatural increase in quakes in the Central US, an area that is relatively stable geologically. The United States Geological Survey (USGS) reports that the number of quakes of a magnitude 3 or higher was steady at about 20 a year until 2000. Since then the number has jumped to 29 in 2008, 50 in 2009, and 134 last year. This corresponds directly with the timeline of increased fracking activity, and further has occurred in the immediate area of gas fields in Arkansas, Texas, Oklahoma, Colorado, and Ohio. [ Source: UPI ]
In 2009, the small town of Cleburne, Texas, experienced the first recorded earthquake in this Texas town’s 140-year history, quickly followed by another four shortly afterwards. Natural gas drilling — which began in earnest in 2001 and brought great prosperity to Cleburne and other towns across North Texas is causing the quakes. Including one of 3.2 magnitude last January. [ Source: Cleburne Times-Review ]
“I think John Q. Public thinks there is a correlation with drilling,” Mayor Ted Reynolds said. “We haven’t had a quake in recorded history, and all the sudden you drill and there are earthquakes.” [ Source: FoxNews.com ]
An ongoing cluster of quakes in Central Arkansas caused officials to shut down two injection wells that appeared to be the cause. The Center for Earthquake Research and Information recorded around 100 earthquakes in the seven days preceding the shutdown, including the largest quake to hit the state in 35 years — a magnitude 4.7 on Feb. 27. A dozen of the quakes had magnitudes greater than 3.0. In the days since the shutdown, there have been around 60 recorded quakes, with only one higher than a magnitude 3.0. The majority were between magnitudes 1.2 and 2.8.
The two injection wells are used to dispose of wastewater from natural-gas production. One is owned by Chesapeake Energy, and the other by Clarita Operating. They agreed March 4 to temporarily cease injection operations at the request of the Arkansas Oil and Gas Commission.
The commission said preliminary studies showed evidence potentially linking injection activities with nearly 1,000 quakes in the region over the past six months. The number and strength of earthquakes in central Arkansas have noticeably dropped since the shutdown of two injection wells in the area, although a state researcher says it’s too early to draw any conclusions.
“We have definitely noticed a reduction in the number of earthquakes, especially the larger ones,” said Scott Ausbrooks, geohazards supervisor for the Arkansas Geological Survey. “It’s definitely worth noting.” [ Source: Huffington Post ]
More alarming is the 5.8 magnitude tremor that shook the East Coast last year. The epicenter of the quake that shook buildings in New York was in Mineral, Virginia, an area so seismically calm it was chosen as an ideal site for nuclear reactors. The odds of a quake exceeding a magnitude of 5.5 occurring in central Virginia are so slim that Dominion Power determined only around six quakes of that size would occur in the area over the next 10,000 years. Dominion was looking at building a third nuclear reactor at their power plant in North Anna, VA, where facilities had to be taken offline as a result of the quake. Despite predicting that the site would be scarcely affected ever by a tremor, the quake´s epicenter was only mere miles from the nuclear facility.
There are at least 7700 natural gas wells in the immediate area. And as much as 3 million gallons of wastewater can be injected into the earth for each well. An earthquake that shakes the entire mid-Atlantic is no small matter given the population density of the region. [ Source: TV-Novosti ]
A series of quakes in Ohio have been directly linked to fracking. The state Department of Natural Resources announced the tough new brine injection regulations because of the report’s findings on the well in Youngstown, which it said were based on “a number of coincidental circumstances.”
For one, investigators said, the well began operations just three months ahead of the first quake.
They also noted that the seismic activity, which began in March 2011 and ended at the end of the year, was clustered around the well bore, and reported that a fault has since been identified in the rock layer where water was being injected. [ Source: Huffington Post ]
One of the strongest quakes in Oklahoma history occurred last November. It a 5.6 magnitude event followed by a series of smaller quakes. Oklahoma is one of the most active fracking regions in the country. [ Source: Reuters ]
The evidence has been mounting for several years now that fracking causes earthquakes. The actual production is a possible culprit, and the injection of wastewater into the ground. As seismologist Stephen Horton of the University of Memphis stated, “Injecting wastewater into a well raises the pressure of water already trapped in the particles or rock around it. It’s kind of like sticking a straw into a soupy souffle and blowing water into it. It moves things around underground, things like a fault. That’s when you get a quake.”
Last year a swarm of earthquakes occurred in Colorado and New Mexico, centered in a gas field in Trinidad, Colorado. The largest of these was a magnitude 5.3 quake that shook the entire state. According to Arthur McGarr of the United States Geological Survey´s Earthquake Science Center “the quake turned out to be really close to two of the highest injection volume waste water disposal wells in the field. So that gives us quite a strong hint that these earthquakes are being triggered by these wastewater disposal facilities.” [ Source: Reuters ]
This is ironic as Colorado has experienced injection well earthquakes before, and in Denver, by far the largest city in the area. In 1961, a 12,000-foot well was drilled at the Rocky Mountain Arsenal, northeast of Denver, for disposing of waste fluids from Arsenal operations. Injection was commenced March 1962, and an unusual series of earthquakes erupted in the area shortly after.
It was 32 minutes after 4 a.m. on April 24 when the first shock of the Denver series was recorded at the Cecil H. Green Geophysical Observatory at Bergen Park, Colorado. Rated magnitude 1.5, it was not strong enough to be felt by area residents. By the end of December 1962, 190 earthquakes had occurred. Several were felt, but none caused damage until the window breaker that surprised DuPont and Irondale on the night of December 4. The shock shuffled furniture around in homes, and left electrical wall outlets hanging by their wires at Irondale. [ Source: USGS ]
As is standard practice for the gas industry, the lobbying group America´s Natural Gas Alliance said it was difficult to conclude anything. That is the only play they have left, to cast doubt on the obvious by saying, “we need more study” or “we aren´t sure.”