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Upcoming UGGS Fracking Report Game Changer?
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Upcoming UGGS Fracking Report Game Changer?

  #1 (permalink)
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Upcoming UGGS Fracking Report Game Changer?

There is currently no more contested U.S. energy initiative than to pen up the country’s vast potential reserves of natural gas by utilizing the “hydraulic fracturing” technique, more familiarly known as “fracking.”

To its proponents, fracking offers a way out of U.S. dependence on foreign energy imports, and is relatively environmentally benign.

To opponents of the technique, it not only has the potential to pollute underground water reserves, but leads to an increased possibility of earthquakes, as the injection of massive amounts of water underground along with chemical mixtures which the industry is fighting to not disclose increase the possibility of seismic activity.

Now, the federal U.S. Geological Survey has reluctantly waded into the debate, with a USGS research team saying in a just released abstract of an upcoming study that a remarkable increase in earthquake occurrence in the U.S. in the Midwestern region of the country, from Alabama to the Northern Rockies in the past decade is “almost certainly man-made.”

The full study will be presented at the upcoming annual meeting of the Seismological Society of America later this month. The el Cerrito, California-based Seismological Society of America, which describes itself as “an international scientific society devoted to the advancement of seismology and its applications in understanding and mitigating earthquake hazards and in imaging the structure of the earth.”

The USGS study acknowledges "a remarkable increase in the rate of (magnitude 3.0) and greater earthquakes" in the United States, noting, "While the seismicity rate changes described here are almost certainly manmade, it remains to be determined how they are related to either changes in extraction methodologies or the rate of oil and gas production," avoiding drawing an explicit link to oil and gas production activities as the sole causal event in the increased appearance of earthquakes in areas subjected to fracking.

The study scrutinized an increase in annual recorded earthquakes from 1.2 per year in the past 50 years to more than 25 per year since 2009, noting, "A naturally-occurring rate change of this magnitude is unprecedented outside of volcanic settings or in the absence of a main shock, of which there were neither in this region."

That said, the abstract notes, "The acceleration in activity that began in 2009 appears to involve a combination of source regions of oil and gas production, including the Guy, Arkansas region, and in central and southern Oklahoma.

Horton, et al. (2012) provided strong evidence linking the Guy, AK, activity to deep waste water injection wells." The research team led by USGS geophysicist William Ellsworth noted however the frequency of earthquakes in areas subjected to fracking natural gas extraction techniques began rising in 2001 across a broad swath of the country between Alabama and Montana and culminated “in a six-fold increase over 20th century levels in 2011.”

In the absence of federal guidelines on fracking, a number of states have moved their own legislation to cope with the issues raised by the technique. A recent series of earthquakes in north-eastern Ohio, most recently on New Year's Eve, prompted the Ohio Department of Natural Resources to suspend development by natural gas drillers of five deep wastewater disposal wells, while Arkansas imposed a permanent moratorium on disposal wells due to enhanced seismic activity near the Fayetteville Shale deposit.

So, what are fracking opponents up against? Rising production of natural gas produced from fracking, much of it in economically depressed areas. According to the federal Energy Information Administration, from 2006 to 2010, U.S. shale gas production growth averaged nearly 50 percent annually.

The nationwide surge in shale drilling requires disposal of millions of gallons of wastewater for each well and the fracking industry has resisted all call to disclose the nature of the chemicals involved in the injection process, but which a number of independent studies have determined include a number of known carginogens.
While predicting the future is a murky business at best, expect a full blown counterattack by the shale gas industry prior to the presentation of the full USGS study.

For the past few months natural gas advocates, notably America's Natural Gas Alliance have launched a massive advertising television campaign to convince Americans that shale natural gas production is not only environmentally benign, but an asset to U.S. national energy security, stung by such negative publicity as the 2010 “Gasland” documentary, decrying opponents as radical environmentalists while establishing new “facts on the ground” by ramping up production in economically depressed areas as quickly as possible to insinuate the industry into local tax bases that politicians would be loath to take on..

It will prove far harder to tar the USGS, a branch of the federal government with such charges, and if a more than incidental link between fracking an increased seismic activity is established by the federal government, then the shale gas industry might better prepare itself for increased federal scrutiny than continue to churn out disingenuous advertising blurring the real issues involved in shale gas production.

Worse may be to follow for ANGA and its supporters. Now Hollywood is apparently poised to wade into the fracking debate, as Matt Damon is scheduled to star in an anti-fracking film, "The Promised Land," an "anti-fracking movie." Despite being regarded as a bastion of liberal thinking, Hollywood productions have influenced energy debates in the past – remember the 1983 film “Silkwood” about skullduggery in the U.S. nuclear power industry, or 1979’s “The China Syndrome?”

Perhaps ANGA should have spread a few more dollars around Tinseltown than prime time networks

Upcoming UGGS Fracking Report Game Changer?

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  #2 (permalink)
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Related: Fracking Tied to Unusual Rise in Earthquakes in U.S.

A spate of earthquakes across the middle of the U.S. is “almost certainly” man-made, and may be caused by wastewater from oil or gas drilling injected into the ground, U.S. government scientists said in a study.

Researchers from the U.S. Geological Survey said that for the three decades until 2000, seismic events in the nation’s midsection averaged 21 a year. They jumped to 50 in 2009, 87 in 2010 and 134 in 2011.

Those statistics, included in the abstract of a research paper to be discussed at the Seismological Society of America conference next week in San Diego, will add pressure on an energy industry already confronting more regulation of the process of hydraulic fracturing.

“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.

‘Fairly Small’ Quakes

The earthquakes were “fairly small,” and rarely caused damage, Hayes said.
He said not all wastewater disposal wells induce earthquakes, and there is no way of knowing if a disposal well will cause a temblor.

Last month, Ohio officials concluded that earthquakes there last year probably were caused by wastewater from hydraulic fracturing for natural gas injected into a disposal well.

In hydraulic fracturing -- or fracking -- water, sand and chemicals are injected into deep shale formations to break apart underground rock and free natural gas trapped deep underground. Much of that water comes back up to the surface and must then be disposed of.

There’s “a difference between disposal injection wells and hydraulically fractured wells,” Daniel Whitten, a spokesman for the America’s Natural Gas Alliance, which represents companies such as Chesapeake Energy Corp. (CHK) and Cabot Oil & Gas Corp. (COG), said in an e-mail. “There are over 140,000 disposal wells in America, with only a handful potentially linked to seismic activity.”

‘Committed to Monitoring’

“We are committed to monitoring the issue and working with authorities where there are concerns, but it should be noted that currently there is no scientific data associating hydraulic fracturing with earthquakes that would cause damage,” he said.

An abstract of the federal study, which was led by William Ellsworth, Earthquake Science Center staff director for the U.S. Geological Survey in Menlo Park, California, was published online earlier this month. A full version of the study wasn’t immediately available.

The area studied included a swath of the country running from Ohio to Colorado and Oklahoma, the study said.

“A naturally-occurring rate change of this magnitude is unprecedented outside of volcanic settings or in the absence of a main shock, of which there were neither in this region,” Ellsworth and his colleagues wrote.
The Environmental Protection Agency is preparing to release rules on air pollution from gas wells and on the treatment of wastewater. Other state and federal rules could force more disclosure of the chemicals used by the drilling companies.

The Interior Department is considering rules to update well-design standards and require disclosure of the chemicals in fracking on public lands.

Fracking Tied to Unusual Rise in Earthquakes in U.S. - Bloomberg

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