Environment

Fracking Fallout

A new Harvard study finds that there are significantly elevated levels of airborne radioactive particles up to 31 miles downwind of U.S. fracking sites.

Using 16 years of data from 157 federal radiation monitoring stations, researchers found that sites with 100 fracking wells within 12 miles upwind had an average of about 7% more radiation in the air.

The highest contamination was near the Marcellus and Utica shale fields in Ohio and Pennsylvania, where radioactivity was 40% higher than normal.

While conventional oil and gas drilling doesn’t result in much impact on underground rocks that contain uranium isotopes, hydraulic fracturing blasts through shale and other layers containing them. Scientists say the resulting radioactive particles are carried downwind.

Global Warming

US judge throws out climate change lawsuits against big oil

A U.S. judge who held a hearing about climate change that received widespread attention ruled Monday that Congress and the president were best suited to address the contribution of fossil fuels to global warming, throwing out lawsuits that sought to hold big oil companies liable for the Earth’s changing environment.

Noting that the world has also benefited significantly from oil and other fossil fuel, Judge William Alsup said questions about how to balance the “worldwide positives of the energy” against its role in global warming “demand the expertise of our environmental agencies, our diplomats, our Executive, and at least the Senate.”

However, in Monday’s ruling, the judge said he accepted the “vast scientific consensus” that the combustion of fossil fuels has contributed to global warming and rising sea levels.

Fracking Not a Solution to Climate Change

A new, comprehensive study of methane leaks in the oil and gas industry is the final piece of evidence that natural gas is not part of the climate solution. Fracking and consequent natural gas production have been seen as a solution to climate change.

The findings confirm if a coal-fired plant is replaced with a gas-fired plant there is no net climate benefit for at least two decades. Natural gas is mostly methane (CH4), a super-potent greenhouse gas, which traps 86 times as much heat as CO2 over a 20-year period. A very small leakage rate of methane from the natural gas supply chain (production to delivery to combustion) can have a large climate impact  —  enough to gut the entire benefit of switching from coal-fired power to gas for a long, long time.

In November, another study found the methane emissions escaping from just New Mexico’s gas and oil industry are “equivalent to the climate impact of approximately 12 coal-fired power plants.” In January, NASA found that most of the huge rise in global methane emissions in the past decade was in fact from the fossil fuel industry — and that this rise was “substantially larger” than previously thought.

It’s time to acknowledge that fracking is truly part of the climate problem, and likely to become a bigger problem over time as natural gas competes more and more with renewable energy sources.

Earthquakes

Magnitude 5+ Earthquakes – Global

5.8 earthquake hits the Bali Sea.

5.1 earthquake hits the Kuril Islands.

5.0 earthquake hits Seram, Indonesia.

5.0 earthquake hit South of Java, Indonesia.

5.0 earthquake hits Coquimbo, Chile.

Oklahoma Suffers Its 2,724th Earthquake Since 2010

A cluster of earthquakes in Oklahoma earlier this month helped push the state to 62 temblors this year alone of magnitude 3.0 or more — and 2,724 of that magnitude or more since 2010.

This year is on track for a huge decline from the peak of Oklahoma’s restlessness in 2015, when the state felt a staggering 903 quakes of magnitude 3 or greater. But it’s also a far cry from Oklahoma’s norm before 2009, when the state recorded an average of one or two magnitude 3.0 or more earthquakes each year.

The rapid rise in quakes and subsequent fall bolsters the findings that Oklahoma’s foundations are moving because of oil and gas activities. Most quakes are due to the injection of large amounts of wastewater from wells into subterranean rock layers. A few localized quakes are likely the direct result of fracking, in which underground charges are set off to puncture rock and improve the flow of oil and gas into a well. As Oklahoma regulators have finally limited the amount of wastewater that oil and gas operators can inject underground, quakes have fallen off.

Global Warming

Fracking could be behind US methane surge

Startling increases in one of the main pollutants that cause global warming have been unexpectedly discovered over the United States – and the main suspect is the country’s booming fracking industry.

New Harvard University research, drawing on satellite measurements, concludes that US emissions of methane – a much more powerful warming gas than carbon dioxide – have “increased by more than 30 per cent over the past decade”.

The researchers say they “cannot readily attribute” the rise to any particular source but point out that US production of shale gas increased nine times during the same period, while other studies show that many fracking operations are emitting much more methane than has been officially recognised.

If the extraction process proves to be the culprit, it will show that exploiting and burning shale gas has been much more potent in global warming even than using coal, severely undermining energy and climate-change strategies. Both the British and US governments have been banking on shale gas as a relatively clean fuel that would act as a “bridge” to the low carbon economy needed in the next few decades if the world is not to heat up uncontrollably.

Earthquakes

Magnitude 5+ Earthquakes – Global

5.8 Earthquake hits Tonga.

5.8 Earthquake hits the Hindu Kush, Afghanistan.

5.2 Earthquake hits off the west coast of northern Sumatra, Indonesia.

5.1 Earthquake hits Kepulauan Talaud, Indonesia.

5.0 Earthquake hits Tarapaca, Chile.

5.0 Earthquake hits Samar in the Philippines.

Fracking operation closed indefinitely after earthquake

A hydraulic fracturing operation near Fox Creek, Alberta, Canada, has been shut down after an earthquake hit the area Tuesday.

The magnitude 4.8 quake was reported at 11:27 a.m., says Alberta Energy Regulator, which ordered the shutdown of the Repsol Oil and Gas site 35 kilometres north of Fox Creek.

The energy regulator automatically shuts down a fracking site when an earthquake hits a magnitude of 4.0 or higher in the area in which a company is operating.

The quake was “quite large for the area, larger than normal”, according to the regulator.

Earthquakes

Magnitude 5+ Earthquakes – Global

5.2 Earthquake hits near the coast of Nicaragua.

Injection Well Shuttered Because of Quakes

State regulators shut down an injection well in north-central Oklahoma following a series of quakes suspected to be related to its operation.

Injection wells are used to dispose of wastewater, laden with salt and toxic chemicals, that is produced by oil and gas wells.

The use of fracking, or hydraulic fracturing, has allowed a huge expansion of gas wells across Texas, Oklahoma and southern Kansas in recent years.

All three regions have experienced a sudden emergence of tremors that coincided with the new wells and their accompanying disposal operations.

Dozens of studies have shown a link between the injection wells and earthquakes.

Under a system established by the Oklahoma Corporation Commission, wells within a six-mile radius of a magnitude-4.0 earthquake are placed under operating restrictions.

If additional earthquakes occur within six miles of an active well in that area, the commission can order the operator to halt injection while tests are conducted.

The well, operated by SandRidge Energy in Alfalfa County near the Kansas border, is the second active wastewater injection well directed to halt operations by the commission since it began a new monitoring system was established in 2013.

Earthquakes

Magnitude 5+ Earthquakes – Global

5.6 Earthquake hits South Island, New Zealand.

5.3 Earthquake hits the Aukland Islands off New Zealand.

5.2 Earthquake hits the Izu Islands off Japan.

5.0 Earthquake hits the Pacific-Antarctic ridge.

5.0 Earthquake hits the Izu Islands off Japan.

Fracking Led to Ohio Earthquakes

A hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, well in Ohio triggered scores of small earthquakes in March 2014, including one large enough to be felt in nearby towns, a new study confirms. The biggest quake, a magnitude 3, was one of the largest ever caused by fracking. State officials shut down the well two days after the earthquake hit.

Fracking involves the high-pressure injection of water, sand and chemicals into rock to break it up and release trapped oil and gas. In Ohio, fracking triggered earthquakes on a hidden fault in ancient crystalline rock beneath a natural gas well in the Utica Shale, according to the study, published in the Bulletin of the Seismological Society of America.

No earthquakes were ever recorded in this region of Ohio before fracking started, and the shaking stopped after the well was shut down. Researchers identified 77 earthquakes with magnitudes ranging from 1 to 3 that occurred from March 4 to 12.

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Earthquakes

Magnitude 5+ Earthquakes – Global

5.4 Earthquake hit the north Pacific Ocean.

5.0 Earthquake hits the Solomon Islands.

5.0 Earthquake hits Tonga.

Pressure From Fracking Found to Cause Oklahoma Quakes

A new Cornell University study found that the dramatic increase in central Oklahoma earthquakes since 2009 is likely due to wastewater injection, or fracking, below the surface at just a few wells.

Lead researcher Katie Keranen says that it would be possible to expand shale gas and other hydrocarbon extraction without triggering so many tremors if the industry adhered to a uniform set of standards.

“The best practices include avoiding wastewater disposal near major faults and the use of appropriate monitoring and mitigation strategies,” said Keranen.

She added that earthquakes can be triggered up to almost 20 miles from where injection wells operate.

That’s far beyond the approximately 3-mile distance that was previously estimated.

The study found that as the increased subsurface pressure from the wells expands, it increases the probability that it will encounter a larger fault and trigger stronger quakes.

Fracking from only four of the highest-volume injection wells in Oklahoma are believed to have caused 20 percent of all recent central U.S. quakes.

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Environment

Colorado, USA Fracking

Colorado is one of the most densely fracked areas in the United States, and people are now beginning to worry about the stability of those fracking sites and wells, many of which have been completely covered by the floodwater. At least one pipeline has already been confirmed to be broken and leaking, and as the Colorado flooding subsides, it is only expected that more broken infrastructure and leaks will begin to surface.

Although no wells appear to be leaking, there are even more serious potential worries. Well sites often contain tanks of toxic wastewater and supplies of potentially hazardous chemicals used in the drilling or extraction processes, which might be damaged by floodwaters and spring leaks. The sites also contain a “spider web” of myriad pipes connecting the wells to tanks or processing equipment, any of which potentially can fracture. If such failures occur, these substances could be picked up by floodwaters, and then contaminate streams, rivers, reservoirs, and other bodies of surface water.

Groundwater contamination, however, probably isn’t a major worry. Although the drilling practice of hydraulic fracturing creates fissures that critics say put groundwater at risk of contamination, almost all of the wells in the affected area appear to be active wells that already have been drilled, and little or no fracking currently is going on.

Potential leaks of chemicals and toxic wastewater from the well sites was a “reasonable concern,” but so far, there’s no evidence of it occurring. To the contrary, inspectors have found only “minor incidents” at the sites, including a free-floating tank that turned out to be empty, and other tanks that had been knocked askew on their foundations by floodwaters, but which hadn’t failed. There also were two broken pipelines – one of which was repaired by an on-site crew, while the other was shut down remotely.

Earthquakes

Magnitude 5+ Earthquakes – Global

6.1 Earthquake hits Guerrero, Mexico.

5.6 Earthquake hits southeast of the Loyalty Islands.

5.5 Earthquake hits the Kuril Islands.

5.3 Earthquake hits the Bougainville region, Papua New Guinea.

5.2 Earthquake hits Guerrero, Mexico.

Earthquakes and Fracking

Since records began in 1776, the people of Youngstown, Ohio had never experienced an earthquake. However, from January 2011, 109 tremors have been recorded – reportedly due to shale fracking.

Earthquakes

Magnitude 5+ Earthquakes – Global

5.2 Earthquake hits the Rat Islands in the Aleutian Islands.

5.1 Earthquake hits the Cook Strait, New Zealand.

Oil Companies Begin ‘Fracking’ in China’s Most Dangerous Earthquake Zone

The Chinese want to join the shale gas revolution, even if it means drilling for oil in China’s earthquake hot bed in the Sichuan region, where nearly 70,000 died in an earthquake in 2008.

Royal Dutch Shell Plc and China National Petroleum have started ‘fracking’ operations in the province.

China hopes to boost annual shale gas production to 6.5 billion cubic meters by 2015, and reserves are estimated at about 1,115 trillion cubic feet, according to the US Energy Information Administration, higher than the estimated 665 trillion gas reserves on American soil.

China gas shale earthquake si

Earthquakes

Magnitude 5+ Earthquakes – Global

5.5 Earthquake hits Vanuatu.

5.5 Earthquake hits the Cook Strait, New Zealand.

5.2 Earthquake hits the Santa Cruz Islands.

5.0 Earthquake hits near the east coast of Honshu, Japan.

5.0 Earthquake hits Sumbawa, Indonesia.

Fracking Appears to Cause Quakes – USA

The deep injection into the ground of wastewater byproducts from hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, has caused a significant increase in U.S. earthquakes since the practice has recently become more widespread.

The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) reports that there were more than 300 earthquakes above magnitude 3.0 from 2010 to 2012, which is a five-fold increase from the average number of 21 tremors per year measured from 1967 to 2000.

There are now more than 30,000 deep disposal wells in the country, typically injecting leftover fluids from fracking wells used for natural gas extraction.

And while the actual practice of fracking has not been found to cause any significant seismic events, the far deeper injecting of wastewater from the practice has.

Sometimes the water is blasted into deep, dormant faults. USGS geologist William Ellsworth says that even faults that have not moved for millions of years can be made to slip if conditions are right.

But he points out that only a few of the approximately 30,000 wastewater wells appear to have caused the increase in tremors.

Columbia University scientists caution that powerful earthquakes thousands of miles away can trigger swarms of minor quakes near injection wells as the arriving seismic waves help release the local built-up pressure.

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Earthquakes

6.3, 5.0 and 5.0 Earthquakes hit the Banda Sea, Indonesia.

6.0 Earthquake hits the Gulf of California.

5.8 Earthquake hits Antofagasta, Chile.

5.1 Earthquake hits Azerbaijan.

The recent small Dallas, Texas Earthquakes may be tied to wastewater disposal from fracking. Three unusual earthquakes that shook a suburb west of Dallas over the weekend appear to be connected to the past disposal of wastewater from local hydraulic fracturing operations.