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Oklahoma's Earthquakes Linked To Fracking

Soulskill posted about a month ago | from the evil-masterminds-should-invest-in-natural-gas dept.

Science 154

An anonymous reader writes Oklahoma has already experienced about 240 minor earthquakes this year, roughly double the rate at which California has had them. A recent study (abstract) has now tied those earthquakes to fracking. From the article: "Fracking itself doesn't seem to be causing many earthquakes at all. However, after the well is fracked, all that wastewater needs to be pumped back out and disposed of somewhere. Since it's often laced with chemicals and difficult to treat, companies will often pump the wastewater back underground into separate disposal wells. Wastewater injection comes with a catch, however: The process both pushes the crust in the region downward and increases pressure in cracks along the faults. That makes the faults more prone to slippages and earthquakes. ... More specifically, the researchers concluded that 89 wells were likely responsible for most of the seismic activity. And just four wells located southeast of Oklahoma City were likely responsible for about one-fifth of seismic activity in the state between 2008 and 2013."

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Has anyone seen my shoes (1)

For a Free Internet (1594621) | about a month ago | (#47387957)

I left them somewhere around here and now everything is the color purple.

Re:Has anyone seen my shoes (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a month ago | (#47387989)

make sure you bring them, so you have them.

Re:Has anyone seen my shoes (2)

ArcadeMan (2766669) | about a month ago | (#47388325)

That's weird, I found unknown shoes in my closet this morning and now everything tastes blue.

If it's the process of putting the wastewater back (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about a month ago | (#47387983)

Perhaps companies that do fracking should be regulated to treat wastewater like nuclear waste and prevent them from dumping it back in. It would stop the earthquakes and save them from the impending lawsuits that would follow. a Win Win aside from the cost of storage which should be less than a class action. Also who's to say it wouldn't be easier to treat the water a couple of decades from now to the point where it could then be poured out.

Missed it by that much. (4, Insightful)

rmdingler (1955220) | about a month ago | (#47387985)

Apparently, estimates of the distance that the wastewater travels from the SWD were off by nearly an order of magnitude.

seems to be a common theme (5, Insightful)

Trepidity (597) | about a month ago | (#47387987)

The weakest part of the whole fracking operation is really sloppy treatment of the wastewater. There have been large spills [pennlive.com] in some places [capebretonpost.com] , and the disposal is often questionable (as seen here). The fracking process itself gets the most scientific scrutiny, because it's what's technically new about fracking, but good ol' wastewater handling is a mess, just as it was in the mining days.

Re:seems to be a common theme (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a month ago | (#47388387)

Apparently, nobody has ever done a single environmental impact assessment or a performed an inspection related to a fracking operation.

Re:seems to be a common theme (5, Informative)

dcollins117 (1267462) | about a month ago | (#47388549)

Apparently, nobody has ever done a single environmental impact assessment or a performed an inspection related to a fracking operation.

Why bother? There's no point to it. The oil and gas companies have explicit exemptions and exceptions to most EPA oversight.http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Exemptions_for_hydraulic_fracturing_under_United_States_federal_law [wikipedia.org]

It matters not a whit how damaging their actions are to the environment when there is no possible recourse available.

Re:seems to be a common theme (4, Insightful)

Luckyo (1726890) | about a month ago | (#47388777)

In a democratic society, recourse becomes available after majority of population is informed of harm caused by the issue and pressure their representatives to change the law.

As a result, information and its presentation in mass media is important. Regardless of the fact that US is more of an oligarchy than democracy today.

Re:seems to be a common theme (0, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a month ago | (#47389245)

Frack here frack now. Fracked oil/NG is better than mideast oil/NG.

Re:seems to be a common theme (3, Insightful)

Luckyo (1726890) | about a month ago | (#47389289)

There are other choices than those two. Including choice of reducing usage of natural gas and oil in the first place because they become too costly.

Re: seems to be a common theme (3, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about a month ago | (#47388721)

They could (and can) clean and recycle the water. Oil companies are very skilled at water purification - having needed to separate oil from water from steam, or detergent, injection processes. It is more expensive - so they won't do it unless water is scarce or regulation requires it.

Re:seems to be a common theme (1)

Mister Liberty (769145) | about a month ago | (#47389607)

It's all by design. Ever heard of 'externality'?

Okay, so this has what to do with fracking then? (3, Insightful)

Rei (128717) | about a month ago | (#47388003)

Companies have been pumping water (usually wastewater or seawater) down wells since the start of the latter half of the 20th century, to restore pressure in oil reservoirs. So how is this anything new and anything connected with fracking?

Also, I don't unerstand why people make such a big deal out of these minor earthquakes which are general to small too feel even if you're paying attention for them. The amount of energy they're dealing with is only in the ballpark of these tiny quakes; compared to a large earthquake, it'd be like a mouse trying to push a boulder off a cliff. Either the boulder is ready to go or it's not, the mouse makes essentially no difference.

Re:Okay, so this has what to do with fracking then (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a month ago | (#47388043)

I don't think they make their point very well or it got taken out of context by the naysayers or something. But the point should be that fracking is helping to prevent the large, devastating quakes that would eventually happen by relieving some of the pressure in small, mostly unnoticeable quakes.

Re: Okay, so this has what to do with fracking the (2, Insightful)

Dixie_Flatline (5077) | about a month ago | (#47388053)

...
You know what 'fracking' refers to, right? Hydraulic fracturing?

The rocks are being purposely stressed by high pressure liquids and crack under the pressure, releasing oil/gas that was previously trapped and irretrievable.

So what this has to do with fracking is that they thought that just pumping fluid back in would hold things up, but clearly that's not true. The integrity of the final rock/fluid combination is inferior to the original. Old wells were like sticking a straw in a drink and sucking it up. It's not really the same (though old oil wells have been known to sink and collapse as well, so it's not like that was risk free either).

Is it a real problem? Well, I don't live there, so I don't know. I don't think it's wise to tinker with geology that we clearly don't understand well yet, however.

Re: Okay, so this has what to do with fracking the (5, Informative)

kick6 (1081615) | about a month ago | (#47388365)

So what this has to do with fracking is that they thought that just pumping fluid back in would hold things up, but clearly that's not true.

That's not at all how it works. The fluid exists to create hydraulic pressure. They put sand or tiny ceramic balls in the water to fill the voids created by the fractures to "hold things up."

This article relates to what they do with all the water after it returns to surface. They go find another well that doesn't produce anymore (or drill a new one into a non-producing zone) and pump the water in. HOWEVER, salt water disposal (SWD) is an operation that has been going on for decades. It's not new or unique to fracturing in the slightest making this article just more incorrect bullshit, and your post only adds to that. Please stop posting if you don't know what you're talking about as this only adds to the incorrect info that surrounds this issue.

Re: Okay, so this has what to do with fracking the (2)

niftymitch (1625721) | about a month ago | (#47389327)

So what this has to do with fracking is that they thought that just pumping fluid back in would hold things up, but clearly that's not true.

That's not at all how it works. The fluid exists to create hydraulic pressure. They put sand or tiny ceramic balls in the water to fill the voids created by the fractures to "hold things up."

......

And the interesting part is that there are quakes and there are QUAKES.

Not just energy but location. The serious risk of quakes involves some darn
deep structures. Deeper than any well and with vastly greater risk to
life and property.

Hydraulic fracturing and pumping waste to include CO2 into deep wells
can be expected to generate measurable seismic events. Some might
be felt without instruments.

Recall the coal fire and collapse in Utah generated a 3.9 on the Richter scale.
http://www.seis.utah.edu/Repor... [utah.edu]

This is a far cry from the New Madrid quakes. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1... [wikipedia.org]
with magnitudes of 7.0 to 8.1.

The seismic risk of the central US is not well understood and is not well considered in
building and construction codes. Also no large quake is well considered in disaster
planning. Worse the impact of a large mid-west quake has much larger geographic
reach than a similar quake in Alaska or California.

Sadly the fracking fools will take this as a reason to stop fracking at any depth.
Most of the New Madrid seismicity is located between 3 and 15 miles (4.8 and 24.1 km) beneath the Earth's surface.
Most fracking in OK is shallow by comparison (1-2 miles).

Some believe that shallow releases of energy is a good thing and minimizes the
size and impact of deeper quakes. I am of the opinion that injecting fluids
does not increase the energy of natural quakes but might alter the
timing and energy dispersal profile. My opinion like most is not supported
by experimental facts and is just that opinion.

Hidden in the report is a disclosure of many seismic sensors and
plans to obtain funding for more. More science is good but the
social media and news outlet ignorance is being manipulated by
a plethora of interests one of which is network ratings where facts
are not an issue.

Re: Okay, so this has what to do with fracking the (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a month ago | (#47389369)

Nice job, shill. Go fuck yourself.

Re: Okay, so this has what to do with fracking the (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a month ago | (#47388967)

You don't understand how it works. After the high-pressure injection of fluids for the hydraultic fracturing, they introduce sand (propant) to hold the cracks open, and then they release the fluid pressures. So it doesn't stay pressurized. It's just the opposite, because the next stage is to pump out the hydrocarbons.

What the article describes is something else: waste-water disposal. And while hydraulic fracturing does produce a lot of waste water needing proper disposal, so do plenty of other industries. This sort of problem has been indentified in several places. I recall injection wells in parts of Ohio and Colorado that had similar issues decades ago that had nothing to do with hydraulic fracturing for petroleum exploration. On top of that, the simple solution to stop the earthquakes is to stop injecting the water (the earthquakes will wane over time), and the vast majority of injection wells have no issues (only certain areas are prone to earthquakes if fluid is injected). If you find one of those areas, as in this part of Oklahoma, then you stop doing it there.

Re:Okay, so this has what to do with fracking then (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a month ago | (#47388067)

"Also, I don't unerstand why people make such a big deal out of these minor earthquakes which are general to small too feel even if you're paying attention for them. "

People don't want private companies to rock their world. Literally!

Re:Okay, so this has what to do with fracking then (5, Interesting)

mewrei (1206850) | about a month ago | (#47388111)

A majority of them are too small to be felt, but we have had 5.9's and 4.0's before. Even a 3.5 can easily be felt if the epicenter is close enough (of which, my house is only about 3-4 miles away from the epicenter of quite a few of them). The big deal is that it's starting to damage buildings. My house is developing a few cracks here and there, and some people are even getting serious enough as to having some foundational issues. When did it all start? When they started fracking. When did it stop? When they paused fracking for a while. When did it start up again? When they started fracking again. I know correlation does not equal causation but damn if that doesn't provide at least some necessitation to investigate.

Re:Okay, so this has what to do with fracking then (5, Informative)

jythie (914043) | about a month ago | (#47388141)

*nod* one of the issues is that buildings on the east coast are not built with earthquakes in mind like west coast ones, so it takes much smaller quakes to do economic damage. And once you start to see damage (and the economic impact of repairs) you get into the classic sore point of 3rd parties paying a price for industry profits, which pisses people off.

Re:Okay, so this has what to do with fracking then (2, Funny)

kick6 (1081615) | about a month ago | (#47388371)

buildings on the east coast are not built with earthquakes in mind like west coast ones

TIL: Oklahoma City is on the east coast.

Re:Okay, so this has what to do with fracking then (-1, Troll)

rally2xs (1093023) | about a month ago | (#47389169)

The politics of jealousy once again, as someone is upset that a CEO somewhere is getting >1M in salary, but fail to realize that the "industry profits" go to making more and more industry, which employs more and more people, sometimes in some fairly good jobs if there's competition locally to make labor scarce. Go to the Bakken and get a job in the oil fields, and make 6 figures while making an oil drilling rig go or driving a truck. "Industry profits', and only industry profits can bring back prosperity to America. The gov't can't do it, other than getting the H out of the way of industry so that THEY can do it. The gov't doesn't create wealth, industry does that. There's only 3 ways of creating wealth - wealth being something tangible that you didn't have before - and they are mining, manufacturing, and agriculture. Drilling is mining. We should be trying to get MORE of these 3 things into the USA, not less. And if there's a price to pay, then get on with it and build your buildings to withstand the "minor" earthquakes that sometimes occur, and buy insurance.

Re:Okay, so this has what to do with fracking then (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a month ago | (#47389295)

The politics of not having my property and quality of life destroyed by an asshat company's pursuit of profits. And by the way, trickle-down economics policies don't work.

Re:Okay, so this has what to do with fracking then (3, Insightful)

FuzzNugget (2840687) | about a month ago | (#47388511)

Reproducibility is a key element in scientific research. I've think you've demonstrated a pretty strong case for it right there.

Also: Occam's Razor. You didn't have earthquakes before and they started when the practice of crumbling the foundational geology beneath you. And this is happening in many places where they never previously experienced earthquakes. As if we even need a scientific study commissioned to determine this? The repeated, consistent anecdotal evidence is overwhelming proof enough on its own.

Re:Okay, so this has what to do with fracking then (0, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | about a month ago | (#47388801)

"The repeated, consistent anecdotal evidence is overwhelming proof enough on its own."

The plural of anecdote is NOT data...

Re:Okay, so this has what to do with fracking then (4, Insightful)

bzipitidoo (647217) | about a month ago | (#47389035)

Standard denialist garbage. What amount of fact is enough to convince you? Think about that for a moment. What data would you have to see, to be convinced that fracking is causing earthquakes?

As to proof, how do you know anything is real? We might be living on a roughly spherical shaped object lit by a much larger nearby roughly spherical object, or we might not. We could be living in a giant simulator that is so good, supernaturally good, that we can't tell it apart from reality. God could have created the universe in 7 days. How can we tell? We can't! We understand that we can make good conclusions from observable reality, no matter whether it is real or not. To the best of our knowledge, what we observe is real, but we understand there could be a deeper reality. Whether there is or not does not affect our work.

Re:Okay, so this has what to do with fracking then (2)

Rei (128717) | about a month ago | (#47389769)

Standard denialist garbage. What amount of fact is enough to convince you?

How about peer-reviewed data with a peer-reviewed statistical correlation?

Is that really that unfair of a requirement?

Re:Okay, so this has what to do with fracking then (2)

niftymitch (1625721) | about a month ago | (#47389391)

A majority of them are too small to be felt, but we have had 5.9's and 4.0's before. .....
The big deal is that it's starting to damage buildings. ......

Historic building codes in OK are not seismic risk aware.
Only recently have the codes in the hot spot around New Madrid
been partly addressed. In Calif there is a major industry
retrofitting buildings. It is costly and it is being driven by
an industry that profits from it. It is a good thing to reinforce
buildings, it is less good when the invoice arrives.

The cost of seismic retrofit in the Midwest could bankrupt
many states... and for the same reason tornado shelters
are not part of all schools, offices, shopping malls and homes
are not going to happen over night.

First building codes for new construction need to
be considered. Trailer houses like many single
story wood frame houses have less risk from quakes
than they do from tornadoes.... I hope regulators do
not bankrupt the Midwest....

Ground water pollution. (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a month ago | (#47388159)

It's the ground water pollution [scientificamerican.com] , for one.

For the other, this is completely different than the old days of shooting sea water or many times they used steam; so comparing fracking to old ways of getting oil is irrelevant.

Thridly, there are quite a few issues that are coming to light but the industry - like all induestries - is stone walling and as far as I am concerned, lieing until proven otherwise because ALL businesses will lie through their teeth to protect profits.

Money rules. Human wellbeing drools - in our society.

Profits turn people evil.

Re: Ground water pollution. (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a month ago | (#47388509)

Ground waters is near the... Ground. The depths they pump to are so far below ground water tables... Oh forget it. I know you... Capitalism bad, corporations that provide our standard of living bad, blah blah blah

Re: Ground water pollution. (0)

rally2xs (1093023) | about a month ago | (#47389187)

You got it - these people that attack any economic activity at all are enemies of the country. Hang 'em from the lamp posts, I say. They will all have us crawling around with sub-poverty income if we let them make us afraid of absolutely everything that involves turning a wrench or drilling a hole...

Re:Ground water pollution. (1)

rally2xs (1093023) | about a month ago | (#47389207)

The "ground water contamination" is, if you look at the article, from METHANE, where some water wells have had methane for decades. Its not a big deal, you can drink water with methane in it, and you only need a simple construction to vent off the dissolved gas so that it doesn't accumulate in the house and blow something up.

Methane in drinking water occurs naturally, and as a result of coal mining operations, and sometimes any sort of drilling, with or without fracking. The whole thing is yet another "Lets tear America down" pack of lies, and the sooner we buck up and quit being scared of the boogey men that are peddling this nonsense, the better off we'll all be.

Re:Okay, so this has what to do with fracking then (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a month ago | (#47388273)

"So how is this anything new and anything connected with fracking?" SCALE, to make no mention of the fracking fluid's nasty toxic composition...

Re:Okay, so this has what to do with fracking then (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a month ago | (#47388301)

You are the most obvious shill on the planet, or very, very stupid.

This is connected to fracking because fracking generates the wastewater _specific_ to these earthquake events.

Minor earthquakes are a big deal because they can close off aquifers and reroute groundwater. That's significant for people who rely on well water, which is a huge part of America.

Take that joint out of your mouth and give your pot-addled brain a rest. You aren't making any sense and these statements of yours are pointless.

Re:Okay, so this has what to do with fracking then (1)

Charliemopps (1157495) | about a month ago | (#47388337)

Companies have been pumping water (usually wastewater or seawater) down wells since the start of the latter half of the 20th century, to restore pressure in oil reservoirs. So how is this anything new and anything connected with fracking?

Also, I don't unerstand why people make such a big deal out of these minor earthquakes which are general to small too feel even if you're paying attention for them. The amount of energy they're dealing with is only in the ballpark of these tiny quakes; compared to a large earthquake, it'd be like a mouse trying to push a boulder off a cliff. Either the boulder is ready to go or it's not, the mouse makes essentially no difference.

The difference is where the fluid is going. In a normal oil well, the introduce pressurize fluids to increase pressure and push the oil up the well. They're introducing fluid to a geological area that's had fluid in it for millions of years. There's no real change there, no reason for the earth to shift.

What this study shows is that after they are done fracking they need to dispose of their fluids so they're digging a NEW well and pumping the fluid down to an area that's been dry for millions of years. They are changing the deep geological structure of the rock, and therefor causing shifting and of course, earthquakes. They likely do this because the fluids they are using are highly toxic, they wont admit what's in them. It seems more and more likely that fracking itself isn't so bad, the feds just need to regulate the fluid they are using to do it. If they were just using brine, they could have just left it near the surface without fear of contamination.

Re:Okay, so this has what to do with fracking then (1)

Jim Sadler (3430529) | about a month ago | (#47388499)

It doesn't take much of a quake to cause a lot of harm to a home. What do you do when a foundation or a slab cracks? How about water pipes that start leaking at the joints or a lovely crack in a ceiling. This is a classic case of industry not being able to contain negative effects upon others and is probably actionable. Loss of peace of mind and loss of property value re enough to generate a huge law suit. Florida has already had one man swallowed alive in his bedroom by a sinkhole. Those sinkholes are caused by pumping water for an increasing population that leave voids below towns and suburbs. The city of Naples Florida is so undermined with caves, partially emptied by water pumping that any home in the area is at risk of suddenly sinking.

I wonder... (1)

thieh (3654731) | about a month ago | (#47388007)

How long would it take to regulate fracking? Hopefully it won't take forever to do that.

Re:I wonder... (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a month ago | (#47388037)

Regulation will happen when most of the resources that fracking allows us access too have been used up.

Fracking doesn't cause trouble... people do! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a month ago | (#47388015)

The problem here doesn't seem to be the Fracking processes as much as it is the other things that are going around, like the water cleanup and what they do once they have clean water.

Tunnels USA (0, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about a month ago | (#47388023)

There are huge tunnels under the United States and other countries being constructed by governments. Shoring up the earth use HAARP technology to set off unstable areas increases stability and then tunneling through the area afterwards is a standard practice. These tunnels extend from sea to shining sea with great bunker complexes in between.

Re:Tunnels USA (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a month ago | (#47388095)

+1 Funny

Re:Tunnels USA (0, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about a month ago | (#47388611)

Trying to diffuse the monumentality of the truth by making this comment of governmental transcontinental tunnels appear to be a joke won't lessen the truth that you are either ignorant of or perhaps being paid to dissuade the populations of what is really going on. It really depends on who writes your paychecks. Maybe you are part of a UN agenda. Maybe, you are one of the team Maybe you are trying to get a free pass. It still doesn't change the facts, Jack. These tunnels do exist.

Maybe, your eyes are rolling around inside their sockets, and you have a crazed look on your face.. And, just maybe, you are now staring blankly into space in disbelief and your pupils are an inch wide and you are sweating profusely. AND, quite possibly, your face is beet red with a holier than thou anger, your fists are clenched and behind grinding teeth, you are murmering death threats under your breath. Maybe you have been promoted several times for being one cool cookie and have already ordered countless suicides, being, of course, an extremely capable person of few words with a bottomless budget.. Who are you kidding?

In the remote case you verifiably and unequivocally do just find it genuinely funny,,, nevermind..

Misinformation (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a month ago | (#47388029)

Hydraulic fracturing does NOT cause earthquakes. You wouldn't realize that unless you read the article, but misleading headlines like this are designed to confuse people over what are the actual risks. Why didn't the headline say earthquakes linked to deep waste injection? Frankly the environmental lobby is following the science regarding hydraulic fracturing about as much as the global warming deniers.

Re:Misinformation (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a month ago | (#47388113)

"fracking" refers to the whole process. and that process as it is right now seems to cause earthquakes. if that is because the company owner have godlike powers or because they pump water back in causing issues is irrelvant.

Re:Misinformation (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a month ago | (#47388449)

You probably think that hacking involves building a computer then.

No accountability (4, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a month ago | (#47388033)

It's really interesting to see the lengths that fracking companies put between themselves and wastewater, basically outsourcing the wastewater manage process to entirely separate companies explicitly for the purpose of no longer being responsible for the wastewater. They've done this pretty much from the start, too.

At the beginning it was most likely to give themselves a buffer when the environmental problems or health problems arose due to all those unclassified chemicals of dubious safety used in fracking that remain in the wastewater. Now it may provide them another buffer when it comes time to blame a party for the cause of these earthquakes.

Much like the GMO argument, it is the strange and suspicious actions of the companies that raises concerns rather than what they are doing. I'm sure more ethical businesses could frack and dispose of wastewater safely; none do. Just as I'm sure Monsanto could make GMO products without such bizarre legal actions that leverage their product to punish farmers.

People wouldn't bat an eye if the fracking or GMO industry had transparency, honesty, and responsibility rather than endless misdirection and threats.

Re:No accountability (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a month ago | (#47388119)

It is likely they misdirect and threat because in reality they do cause the problems they are accused of... unless they open up and prove otherwise, i can only assume they are up to no good based on their history.

Re:No accountability (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a month ago | (#47388539)

Monsanto doesn't sue farmers unless they have good evidence that a farmer has either violated their technology agreement or has used their intellectual property without a license.

The people who are batting eyes over GMOs are for the most part not properly informed about the issues they are up in arms about or simply wish to harbor some sort of resentment and hostility for its own sake regardless of the facts presented to them.

Regulation (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a month ago | (#47388045)

You must limit your injection of water to the rate of pressure drop caused by your extraction of oil or natural gas; this rule usually takes the form of government regulation.

A good thing (4, Interesting)

arielCo (995647) | about a month ago | (#47388057)

That makes the faults more prone to slippages and earthquakes.

If my meager understanding of earthquakes is correct, these small slippages release in small bits the tectonic stress that could otherwise build up until a bigger quake happens. So, frack away?

Re:A good thing (1)

bongey (974911) | about a month ago | (#47388091)

Mod parent up. NOVA had a earthquake eposide. The more the plates stick, the more energy builds up and then leads to a major quake. The actually can calculate the amount of energy that is current stored because of the sticking.
So frack away.

Re:A good thing (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a month ago | (#47388143)

So they CAN cause earthquakes. then yes indeed they should frack. but only for the reason of earthquake prevention (that it happens to be a lucky sideeffect does not count) and do it scientifically, controlled and safe. right now they claim fracking does not cause earthquakes, so you must be wrong - right? WHICH IS IT DEAR INDUSTRY?

Re: A good thing (4, Interesting)

arielCo (995647) | about a month ago | (#47388203)

Both. Since you can't be bothered to read what I wrote attentively, I'll tryoto expand and break it down:

Fracking releases the energy in the faults, thus fracking triggers quakes. But the energy doesn't come from fracking - it comes from plate tectonics. And the quake would have happened anyway, possibly causing more damage like a pressure pot with a defective release valve. So fracking doesn't cause *additional* quaking - it replaces a few (possibly) big quakes with several smaller ones.

Not a good thing (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a month ago | (#47388321)

Look at the earthquakes that have been happening due to this. They are bigger than before. This is not good, it is bad. Oklahoma and surrounding states are considered quiet, they do not build for quakes. They build for tornadoes and fires and floods. Which are much different than quakes. These companies are causing damage to tens of thousands of private citizens and other businesses for their own profit.

Fracking = more geologic activity, and more intense. That's not good for anyone. There was little risk of large quakes in the region before this.

Now, how does that affect the surrounding areas of the plate? is it still good if it starts to cause draining of aquifers in regions further to the north? Or the resettling begins to cause sinkholes, mudslides, etc?

Re:Not a good thing (1)

arielCo (995647) | about a month ago | (#47388397)

Now we're talking. There's one thing that doesn't add up to me: does the energy delivered by the process approximate the energy released seismically?

Re:Not a good thing (2)

MightyMartian (840721) | about a month ago | (#47388479)

I'm not clear why it should. If you have geological structures under stress, there is already considerable energy in the system, and it may only take a small amount of additional energy to release the much larger amount being pent up.

If you have a bowling ball balanced at the top of a cliff, the energy released by it falling and hitting the ground far below is far greater than the energy required to push it over the cliff.

Re:Not a good thing (1)

arielCo (995647) | about a month ago | (#47388701)

That analogy doesn't resemble fault dynamics at all. Perhaps a better one would be pushing a heavy object along a hard floor; as it moves, some points of contact stick, flexing the structure a tiny bit until the stress exceeds the static friction, and every little jolt is like a seismic event. That's how regular fault accommodation causes quakes, and the longer the points of friction are stuck a bigger jolt becomes more likely.

But never mind - there are other replies to my top-level comment that propose other sources of stress / energy.

Re:Not a good thing (1)

MightyMartian (840721) | about a month ago | (#47388817)

The analogy seems fine to me. In both cases you have a large amount of potential energy (in one case gravity, in the other frictional forces) and in both cases a catalyst of relatively small amounts of energy can upset the system and cause a much larger release of energy.

Re: Not a good thing (1)

arielCo (995647) | about a month ago | (#47388937)

Yes, the "small force triggering a big release" part is alright. The flaw lies in assuming theres a single bowling ball; to follow your analogy, imagine that balls keep coming in at a more or less constant rate until the shelf flexes and all come down (avalanches work like this too). Wouldn't you rather shake the shelf to make one ball fall at a time? (IIRC, avalanches are sometimes triggered on purpose).

Plate movement doesn't stop either, and the fault can accommodate and dissipate its stress in big or small jolts. But again, read the other post I told you about.

Re:Not a good thing (1)

ganjadude (952775) | about a month ago | (#47388519)

bigger than before, but the potential energy was still stored. so again it still boils down to a few smaller quakes, or a large deadly quake sometime in the future. Its not as if they are creating quakes where there never would be quakes.

Re:Not a good thing (1)

sjames (1099) | about a month ago | (#47388965)

Your honor, I assure you those people would have died eventually anyway. I didn't kill them, I just got it over with a few decades early!

Re: A good thing (2, Insightful)

twistedcubic (577194) | about a month ago | (#47388367)

Fracking releases the energy in the faults, thus fracking triggers quakes. But the energy doesn't come from fracking...

That's like someone pushing you off a cliff and then blaming gravity for your death.

...And the quake would have happened anyway...

OK, Nostradamus, we believe you...

Re: A good thing (1)

Paradise Pete (33184) | about a month ago | (#47388493)

Well obviously there is a certain amount of energy building up that is going to be released somewhere, at some time. Breaking that up into small, tolerable releases seems like not such a bad thing. I have no idea if fracking is good or bad overall, but this might be a small positive.

Re: A good thing (1)

AmiMoJo (196126) | about a month ago | (#47388517)

Then why does it generate quakes in areas that previously had no big ones on record? What you say does happen sometimes, but often the slippage might never have happened at all, at least not for thousands of years.

Re: A good thing (1)

arielCo (995647) | about a month ago | (#47388723)

Yes, there's a reply to my original post that the fillers do not stabilize the damage well enough, and that's causing new dynamics in faults that were until now quiescent.

Re: A good thing (2)

sjames (1099) | about a month ago | (#47388951)

Except that it increases the energy in the next sticking point causing it to build faster than the little quakes they naturally have can release it. So they get a big quake they never would have had.

Re:A good thing (2)

OnTheEdge (136784) | about a month ago | (#47388123)

I've heard this conjecture before, and it certainly seems to make sense. Can anyone point to any evidence that this might be true?

Re:A good thing (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a month ago | (#47388133)

Not in this case. These earthquakes are occurring on previously quiescent faults. The faults don't have tectonic stress accumulating (or if they do, the accumulation is very slow) because they aren't on plate boundaries or in other geologically active areas.

The energy that's being released in these earthquakes has been in these rocks for millions of years. It would never have been released at all, if it weren't for the fracking.

Re:A good thing (2)

lesincompetent (2836253) | about a month ago | (#47388257)

The stress is just being transferred to an adjacent fault. It doesn't magically disappear.

Re: A good thing (2)

arielCo (995647) | about a month ago | (#47388277)

Huh? Don't all quakes release energy?

Re:A good thing (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about a month ago | (#47388383)

That makes the faults more prone to slippages and earthquakes.

If my meager understanding of earthquakes is correct, these small slippages release in small bits the tectonic stress that could otherwise build up until a bigger quake happens. So, frack away?

Well, that's why a little bit of knowledge is dangerous. The problem is that they are pumping wastewater back into the area they just fracked thinking they can use the same mediocre methods of disposal and stability management used in non-fracking well processes. What we are seeing is that the hydraulic fracturing used to release the oil and gas from inside pockets of shale that are trapped inside other geologic strata. If the fracturing only affected the shale there may not be so much issue, but the fracturing is doing enough damage to the surrounding strata that just pumping wastewater into the area where the oil or gas was is not enough to stabilize the surrounding rock. Think of it this way. When a house is new it takes time to "settle" on its foundation. The new weight of the house on the disturbed soil causes the structure to sink, sometimes irregularly causing structural damage. When the rock strata is fractured and millions of years of stresses redistributed the ground is going to move in response to that as it settles. Just like the house you really have no idea how things will settle, and in some cases if they settle without causing damage. Where the examples differ is in the scope of the consequences. Fracking has the potential to cause an unimaginable amount of damage to land, water and life. It should be stopped. We have a sufficient number of studies and real world examples to say this is not a good thing and should be scrapped.

Re:A good thing (1)

arielCo (995647) | about a month ago | (#47388805)

So it's not really about faults accommodating plate displacement, but about new dynamics created by collapse in the fractured rock. And the statistics suggest that something is indeed changing. Are there any measurements of the strata backing up this?

Re:A good thing (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a month ago | (#47389015)

Unfortunately, the oil companies probably have that data and seeing it might be impossible. Getting independent data would be prohibitively expensive and would require the permission of the land holder, in this case the oil company. And it's not new dynamics. The stresses were there but had eqilibrized over time, so yes, you do have pressure/stress/tension built up in the rock that the water can't replace once that structure within the strata has been compromised. Just like what happens when you disturb any type of soil or rock and put new/different stresses on it. Nature finds balance by releasing some energy somewhere else in the system, i.e., along the fault lines where the rock is fractured elsewhere, naturally. The seismic data should say whether there was a side motion or an up-down motion, but how that relates would depend on what happened deep underground during the fracture and the pump back. Was there a collapse, a stretch, a little of each? USGS may be able to tell, but will the truth change anything. Look how long it took to get smoking banned. Dealing with a large industry with a lot of money on the table.

Re:A good thing (1)

sjames (1099) | about a month ago | (#47388941)

And build pressure upstream at the next sticking point so those people can have the big quake instead.

Power rule rules! (1)

140Mandak262Jamuna (970587) | about a month ago | (#47388117)

89 wells out of the thousands accounted for most of the miniquakes. Four wells accounted for 20% of all seismic activity. Such uneven distribution obeys the power rule. 80% of income earned by 20% of workers, 80% of crime committed by 20% of criminals, 80% of academic papers authored by 20% of the authors etc.

But it would be impossible to hold the owners of these four wells accountable for anything. There are "experts" available for hire whose specialization is to muddy the waters and raise enough reasonable doubt among the jury and the public. There is so much of money to be made by fracking and it has so much of political support it would be difficult to do anything. By the time their power wanes and something could be done the real culprits would have cashed their shares and moved on to the next venture.

My power rule? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a month ago | (#47388293)

It is better to have oil than not.

Re:My power rule? (1)

MightyMartian (840721) | about a month ago | (#47388497)

If extraction is causing property damage, then property owners should be compensated. If other forms of environmental damage are being caused by these practices, the practices should be evaluated.

A small problem... (2, Interesting)

cirby (2599) | about a month ago | (#47388211)

They're nice enough to put their numbers and charts online. Which is great. https://cornell.app.box.com/okquakes/1/2137038978/18684174734/1

Unfortunately, their own charts show a bit of a problem. Specifically Figure S1.

The increase in earthquakes over time is definite. And it's NOT generally where the actual injection wells are. Sure, there's a few quakes recorded in the middle of the injection well area, but they're not consistent, and they don't map with time.

The earthquakes do map well with one thing, though: they seem to swarm around active seismic stations that aren't near fracking disposal wells. Which seems to either show that seismometers create earthquakes, or that they have some instrumentation issues.

Re:A small problem... (3, Informative)

twistedcubic (577194) | about a month ago | (#47388439)

The increase in earthquakes over time is definite. And it's NOT generally where the actual injection wells are.

If you look at the charts again, you'll notice the earthquakes occur generally near the fault line, which is not surprising, is it? And the stations are near the fault line too, which probably is a good idea, don't you think?

Re:A small problem... (1)

cirby (2599) | about a month ago | (#47388587)

The small fault that seems to be generating most of the seismic activity in the study is not only quite a few miles away, it's not connected to any of the major faults in the area - and there's a long, major fault (Nemaha Fault) in between the injection wells and the earthquake zone. (Figure S9 shows this dramatically)

It gets better. According to the notes for Figure S3, water is extracted on the west side of the Nemaha Fault and re-injected on the east side. Which means that the earthquakes are increasing on the side nearest the extraction, and not increasing on the side where the water is re-injected.

Re:A small problem... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a month ago | (#47388989)

Threshhold for detection directly around the seismometers should be lower. That might be part of the effect you're noticing.

In addition to that, as the fluid propagates laterally (usually along a permeable layer that they've chosen for injection), the stress on the rock will spread out away from the injection point. It's a bit like inflating a spongey waterbed from one corner -- you're going to see an effect on the other corner as the fluid pressurizes. Rocks at depths like these don't allow water to flow very fast, so the earthquakes form a kind of spreading halo around the injection site that moves slowly away and eventually dissipates if you stop injecting.

Inspired (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a month ago | (#47388233)

As someone with a degree in geology, I'm glad to see these responses in the comments over the anti-fracing brigade. Releasing pressure in a fault system is theoretically an acceptable venture in some people's mind, there are large old faults in the middle of the country. Earthquakes occur when there is a sudden release or slip of movement between two rock bodies (not necessarily as large as plates) that have caught and were buckling in place. Perhaps releasing some of that potential energy in the form of sub 3.0 earthquakes by lubricating the system is better than waiting till it slips by itself with enough energy to level cities and cause the Mississippi River to run backwards (look that one up). It's not the fracing, it's the water disposal. Sometimes that water CAN be cleaned, BUT either no one wants it because it used to have things in it or due to water rights it can't be used and must be reinjected to deep formations. Water rights are convoluted, btw. We've been injecting water into formations for a very long time. And yes, estimates can be off. If it's a bad injector site, you're going to have to either find a different one or stop overpressuring the system. No company wants or needs to be responsible for property damage, or purposefully scaring their neighbors. Good job commenters, keep it up!

Earthquakes are deep, oil wells are not. (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a month ago | (#47388243)

I dont get it. The average depth of oil/gas wells here in Oklahoma is approx 5,000 ft. The typical depth of earthquakes here in Oklahoma is approx 16,000 ft. I'm not seeing a connection between the two. But there is a geographical correlation and here's why.
When I worked for a large oil exploration company here in Oklahoma, I wrote software to search for "fault zones" because areas where the formations are broken up due to tectonic activity is also an attractive place to explore for and produce oil, in other words, oil companies drill in tectonically active areas because the deep formations are "pre-fracked" ! And so now people are finding a statistical correlation drilling and earthquakes. tooo funny.

Re:Earthquakes are deep, oil wells are not. (1)

minstrelmike (1602771) | about a month ago | (#47388427)

That's my understanding, too. Small earthquakes can occur continually in the groundwater zone but major earthquakes, i.e. fault slippage, is far deeper and thus not subject to any easing of the tension from either fracking or injecting waste water.

Re:Earthquakes are deep, oil wells are not. (2, Funny)

MightyMartian (840721) | about a month ago | (#47388505)

Oil company employee finds no problem with oil extraction. News at 11.

Re:Earthquakes are deep, oil wells are not. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a month ago | (#47389175)

It depends on who has the deepest pockets to pay off the (un)scientists investigating the cause.

Re:Earthquakes are deep, oil wells are not. (1)

LynnwoodRooster (966895) | about a month ago | (#47389763)

Man surprised that experts in a field tend to be employed in the field. Interview at 10...

Just wait.. (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about a month ago | (#47388263)

One of these days, Fracking is going to cause an earthquake so large that it is going to cause Oklahoma to separate from the continental united states and drift off to sea.

A complete lack of understanding (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a month ago | (#47388489)

The ignorance of the science of geology here is astounding. Many of you don't understand the difference between hydraulic fracturing and deep waste injection. You don't understand the mechanisms of earthquakes, You don't understand rheology (look it up). You probably think that Zorin's plan in a "View to a Kill" was feasible.

Lies! (1, Informative)

p51d007 (656414) | about a month ago | (#47388969)

Yeah right! I'm not a geologist, but anyone with 1/2 a brain knows that earthquakes are caused by the plates in the earth shifting. Fracking doesn't drill down anywhere close to the plates.

Frak! President Roslin said we had to make babies! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a month ago | (#47389059)

After the Cylons killed most of humanity, Laura Roslin, formerly the Secretary of Education but now the President of the Twelve Colonies, proclaimed that we had to repopulate the race and make babies! So Frak away and make some babies. You're causing earthquakes? Good! Keep it up and make babies!

C'mon... Lets Attack America Some More... (-1, Troll)

rally2xs (1093023) | about a month ago | (#47389135)

Fracking causes "minor" earthquakes, quarrying produces local ground shaking, and you're getting jobs and economic prosperity back in return. Suck it up, cupcake, or otherwise they'll start putting up a bunch of regulations that will stop the whole thing, and then we can all go to the poor house together 'cuz there won't be ANYTHING in the country that someone can't yowl about and get stopped.

Poverty causes death, plain and simple. Kill another industry, and you're killing people, plain and simple. Right now, 1/6th of the USA struggles with hunger. Some don't survive it, 'cuz if they don't starve to death, then they get sick, can't afford doctors, and die that way. Good grief, this is supposed to be the "Land of Plenty" but we've driven jobs out of the country with income taxes that make industry unprofitable and now we want to regulate the rest of the industry that can't be shipped to China into inactivity as well.

Starve, then. I've got mine - retired with a lifetime $$$ stream, but you're making the USA a worse place to live if you go around making everything more expensive or impossible to do inside our borders.

Another example of the triumph of public education (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a month ago | (#47389189)

People who were too lazy to show up for class want everyone to share their panic, outrage and indignation. These same people used to ask me for extra credit work in geology lab to help them make up for not learning the primary lesson material.

These are waste water injection wells which exist in many places for waste disposal. They inject potentially harmful fluids 2-3 miles below the surface. Sometimes they cause minor earthquakes, but most of the time they don't. The solution is simple. Find a new disposal well. A depleted oil or gas well is best as they are at reduced pressure so the injection just raises the pressure back to previous levels. This has to be balanced against the fuel cost for transport. In some cases drilling a new disposal well close to the source of the waste water is cheaper.

You have to pay all the costs that you impose on the oil and gas sector. If you don't the companies will close up shop and there'll be nothing for you to buy. TANSTAFL

Of course, if you believe that printing money and giving it away solves every problem you'll not like this.

Test it in California (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a month ago | (#47389393)

Frack the San Andreas faultline, maybe a lot of little earthquakes will prevent the big one. It'll be a good testbed to find out one way or another if fracking causes quakes.

It's All Good (1)

rubycodez (864176) | about a month ago | (#47389459)

1. Good to relieve pressure in these mostly tiny, barely noticeable quakes
2. We need fossil fuel, that's reality for now
3. It's just Oklahoma for fuck's sake, so who gives a shit?

Please don't link to vox.com articles (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a month ago | (#47389547)

That site is a thinly disguised rework of Daily Kos, with some Huff Post thrown in. Don't believe me? Look at the owners/editors, they came straight from those two rags.

Good news (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a month ago | (#47389573)

If fracking or water deposition causes smaller quakes the by extension it is saving us from a future huge quake. I'll take several smaller quakes over a major distructive quake any day. Proving that you can even have this effect is good news in my book.

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