After years of official skepticism, Oklahoma’s government has at last embraced the scientific consensus that the earthquakes now rocking the state are largely caused by the reinjection underground disposal of billions of barrels of wastewater from fracking.
The state is now having an average of 2.5 earthquakes of at least magnitude 3 every day, when it used to average only 1.5 a year.
It isn’t the fracking that actually causes the earthquakes, but the disposal of the wastewater created during the process. Fracking companies pump this dirty water into the earth in a place with deep underground faults, so it doesn’t return to the surface. The theory is that this activity on the fault line lubricates Earth’s plates where they rub against each other, allowing them to move more freely, causing more frequent earthquakes.
The largest registered a magnitude 5.7. It injured two people, destroyed 14 homes, toppled headstones, closed schools, and was felt in 17 states. It was preceded by a 4.7 foreshock the morning prior and followed by a 4.7 aftershock. The home of Joe and Mary Reneau (less than two miles from the epicentre of the quake) took six months to rebuild
UK geology is thought to be more heavily fractured and faulted than that of the US, so we would expect more earthquakes from the same amount of activity, as the limited experience in Lancashire has shown.
In 2011 the US House of Representatives Committee on Energy and Commerce asked 14 leading oil and gas service companies to disclose the types and volumes of the hydraulic fracturing products they used in their fracking fluids between 2005 and 2009.
The resulting report can be accessed here.
The relevant extract from the Executive Summary reads [emphasis added]:
“Between 2005 and 2009, the 14 oil and gas service companies used more than 2,500 hydraulic fracturing products containing 750 chemicals and other components. Overall, these companies used 780 million gallons of hydraulic fracturing products – not including water added at the well site – between 2005 and 2009.
“Some of the components used in the hydraulic fracturing products were common and generally harmless, such as salt and citric acid [though do you want these added to your groundwater?]. Some were unexpected, such as instant coffee and walnut hulls. And some were extremely toxic, such as benzene and lead.
“The most widely used chemical in hydraulic fracturing during this time period, as measured by the number of compounds containing the chemical, was methanol. Methanol, which was used in 342 hydraulic fracturing products, is a hazardous air pollutant and is on the candidate list for potential regulation under the Safe Drinking Water Act.
“Between 2005 and 2009, the oil and gas service companies used hydraulic fracturing products containing 29 chemicals that are (1) known or possible human carcinogens, (2) regulated under the Safe Drinking Water Act for their risks to human health, or (3) listed as hazardous air pollutants under the Clean Air Act. These 29 chemicals were components of more than 650 different products used in hydraulic fracturing.
“The BTEX compounds – benzene, toluene, xylene, and ethylbenzene – appeared in 60 of the hydraulic fracturing products used between 2005 and 2009. Each BTEX compound is a regulated contaminant under the Safe Drinking Water Act and a hazardous air pollutant under the Clean Air Act. Benzene also is a known human carcinogen. The hydraulic fracturing companies injected 11.4 million gallons of products containing at least one BTEX chemical over the five year period.
“In many instances, the oil and gas service companies were unable to provide the Committee with a complete chemical makeup of the hydraulic fracturing fluids they used. Between 2005 and 2009, the companies used 94 million gallons of 279 products that contained at least one chemical or component that the manufacturers deemed proprietary or a trade secret. Committee staff requested that these companies disclose this proprietary information. Although some companies did provide information about these proprietary fluids, in most cases the companies stated that they did not have access to proprietary information about products they purchased “off the shelf” from chemical suppliers. In these cases, the companies are injecting fluids containing chemicals that they themselves cannot identify. “
Ryedale Resident Robert has been in correspondence with an old friend called David, who lives in Pennsylvania, to ask him about his experiences of having fracking on his doorstep. The email correspondence, which we have had permission to include on our website, makes very interesting reading and gives a powerful account of what it’s like living in the middle of the gaslands.
Here are a few of David’s comments about fracking near his home in Pennsylvania:
Basically our township is being transformed from a rural residential area into a more heavy industrialized zone in some respects.
When a new well pad was beginning to be developed only ½ mile from the local high school and middle school challenges were made. This is ongoing.
The major impact so far has been the tremendous increase in tanker truck and heavy equipment traffic on our local roadways. Trucks hauling water in for fracking is a continual operation day and night for months.
I also failed to mention the noise, 24 hours a day for 6 months that we had to deal with while the one closest well was being drilled.
You can read the full correspondence by clicking here: Robert and David in conversation.
Also please read this article in West Coast Conservative News about the water contamination in Pennsylvania, where water was found to have been contaminated 243 times.
In a landmark ruling, Governor Cuomo has declared a ban on fracking in New York State. “I will be bound by what the experts say,” Cuomo said at a press conference.
In his remarks at the conference, Cuomo lamented the emotionally charged nature of the debate over fracking and quickly turned the press conference over to state health and environmental officials.
The officials said the potential health and environmental impacts are too great to allow fracking to proceed in the state at this time, and pointed to a dearth of studies regarding the long-term safety of hydraulic fracturing. The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation will issue a legally binding, supplemental environmental impact statement next year outlining its findings on the issue.
This is a huge win and shows that when politicians actually take time to look at the science and health reports, then they come to the conclusion that the health and environmental impacts of fracking are too dangerous to allow this to happen. If only our government would read a health impact assessment once in a while …
You can read and download the full report here.
(If that fails you can also download a copy of the pdf from our website here (1.6MB).)
He opens by saying that he had recently attended two key meetings, that between them “gathered just about all the expertise in the planet on shale oil and gas and fracking issues.”
And then he summarises the current situation, and lessons learned from the USA, before drawing five conclusions for fracking in the UK.
I’ve summarised his points below, though to be honest his piece is very short and you would likely be better off reading the whole thing here.
And what I think this means for us in Ryedale is:
Remember also that since this article/viewpoint was published,
i) Rather than trying to negotiate, the government has chosen the path of confrontation, seeking to impose fracking via the so called ‘Infrastructure Bill’, currently before the House of Lords.
ii) Third Energy has made planning applications to NYCC to put in place some of the critical infrastructure without which it would not be able to frack.
A Yale-led study has found a greater prevalence of health symptoms reported among residents living close to natural gas wells, including those drilled by hydraulic fracturing, including a marked increase in respiratory problems and skin conditions.
The researchers conducted a random survey of 492 people in 180 households with ground-fed water wells in southwestern Pennsylvania, where natural gas extraction activity is significant. According to the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection, there were 624 active natural gas wells in the survey area. Of those, 95% produce gas via hydraulic fracturing.
Read the full article on the Yale News website.
A reader complained to the ASA that the claims were misleading because they exaggerated the extent of Britain’s gas shortage, the supposed benefits of fracking were not known, and Russia did not supply gas to the UK.
The ASA ruled against Breitling on all counts. It told the company it must not make its claims again and that future ads should be supported by hard evidence. Read the full article here.
Six years into a natural gas boom, Pennsylvania has for the first time released details of 243 cases in which companies prospecting for oil or gas were found by state regulators to have contaminated private drinking water wells.
The 243 cases, from 2008 to 2014, include some where a single drilling operation impacted multiple water wells. The problems listed in the documents include methane gas contamination, spills of waste water and other pollutants, and wells that went dry or were otherwise undrinkable. Some of the problems were temporary, but the names of landowners were redacted, so it wasn’t clear if the problems were resolved to their satisfaction. Other complaints are still being investigated.
Read the full article in the Wall Street Journal.
This news will worry anyone in the UK who is close to a fracking site, which is pretty much all of us. We believe that fracking can never be safe, as wells and their casings crack over time and accidents happen during the fracking process. If you value your drinking water, say no to fracking.
Sorry to be the bringer of bad news, but this is the reality of fracking.
Accidents happen, however good the legislative framework. And it’s no good saying sorry afterwards.
Another reason why we have to stop fracking in Ryedale.
“An acid spill on Monday in rural Kingfisher County northwest of Oklahoma City, Oklahoma could turn out to be the largest spill “in relation to fracking materials” in the state according to an Oklahoma Corporation Commission spokesman.
“Spokesman Matt Skinner said 480 barrels of fracking-related hydrochloric (HCL) acid, nearly enough to fill an Olympic-sized swimming pool, emptied out of a tank where it was stored. Acid is used in the fracking process to both clean wells and stimulate the flow of oil and gas. The cause of the spill, which occurred in an alfalfa field, is under investigation.”
Full story here.
And according to the oil industry, those numbers are pretty good!