Tuesday, January 31, 2012


A lighthearted look at the industry's search for a word to replace "FRACK" from the Charleston Gazette's Rick Steelhammer:

According to an Associated Press story on Friday, the nation's natural gas industry is looking for a new word to replace "fracking" to describe the hydraulic fracturing process used to extract gas from subterranean rock.

Some industry executives apparently believe the word has been co-opted by environmentalists, and is now used as a slur, calling to mind a less socially polite word that sounds similar and begins with the same letter.

As controversy over natural gas production in the Marcellus shale formation continues to build, the gas industry is undoubtedly working with public relations pros to come up with a more benign name for the hydraulic fracturing process.

One approach may be to come up with a harmless-sounding acronym to replace "frack."

Something like Nuanced Underground Detonation Gas Extraction, or NUDGE, could fit the bill, allowing "nudging" to replace "fracking." But one can only imagine the word combinations that will be tried and rejected before a sanitized "fracking" replacement can be identified.

Five soon-to-be rejected acronym root words for frack:
  • Fracture Reactive Injection Compound Kinesis
  • Fluidized Agent Recovery Technology
  • Deep Earth Fracture-Injected Liquid Extraction
  • Pressurized Liquid UNderground Dispersed Energy Retrieval
  • Kinetic Introduction of Lateral Liquids 


Thanks for the chuckle Rick!

Wednesday, January 25, 2012


"Shale gas is vital to our energy independence, the energy industry and politicians tell us repeatedly. But it's cheap right now, which is great for us and shitty for the industry, so they're exporting that asset so vital to our national energy security, raising both the price of gas and electricity while making us more reliant on foreign sources of energy"

Shippin' Shale: Energy Independence Means Exporting It So We Can Import It. Got That?

By Brantley Hargrove Mon., Jan. 23 2012
Yeah, it doesn't make sense to us either. A couple of weeks ago we asked if America could stop pretending that politicians and their benefactors in the energy industry actually give two shits about "energy independence" or "energy security," or any of the other portent-laden, focus-grouped catch phrases they lob at us.

Reason being, a Houston-based company just won approval to begin exporting shale gas -- the vastest source of domestic fossil fuel we have -- to other countries. This was supposed to be the Methadone weaning us off of that Middle Eastern smack while we figure out the whole renewable thing.

Lawmakers, including the most senior member of the House Natural Resources Committee, worried that exporting this natural resource would accomplish nothing but increasing our dependence on foreign fossil fuels, raising energy costs for the rest of us and squandering a cleaner-burning way to keep the lights on. Turns out, he's probably right.

According to the Energy Information Administration, gas prices at the wellhead may increase by as much as 57 percent, which is exactly the point. Natural gas prices have been in the dumps since 2008, reducing the commercial viability of shale plays like the Barnett here in North Texas, and the Marcellus up in Pennsylvania. Things are so bad even shale cheerleader Chesapeake Energy announced Monday that it's slashing spending on gas fields after natural gas prices hit a 10-year low at $2.231 per million British Thermal Units. It's why everybody's in South Texas now, where there's oil and condensate in the shale going for around a bill a barrel. But if you can open new markets up for your gas, you increase demand and the price.

It's gonna suck for you and me, because as a result, we'll pay higher utility and heating rates, the agency reports.

But the EIA also points out an insidious side-effect we didn't see coming. The whole point of shale gas as a bridge fuel is that it burns cleaner the coal. When we export natural gas and its price gets jacked up, electricity generators will lean harder on coal. Back to square one.

The other ironic-as-hell consequence is that we'll have to import natural gas, primarily from Canada. So, let's recap: Shale gas is vital to our energy independence, the energy industry and politicians tell us repeatedly. But it's cheap right now, which is great for us and shitty for the industry, so they're exporting that asset so vital to our national energy security, raising both the price of gas and electricity while making us more reliant on foreign sources of energy. Because we sold ours.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012


The connection between high volume deep well injection and earthquakes is absolutely known and conclusively determined by objective studies, but those blinded (and prostituted) by wealth do not want to know the truth that sets us free from their direct threats to our safety, health and life.

Another Ohio community rocked by quakes

By Karl Henkel

Youngstown has become the poster city for potential injection-well-induced earthquakes.

But the Ohio Department of Natural Resources points to the success of 176 other injection wells throughout the state that have no history of inciting earthquakes.

Cue Washington County.

The Southeast Ohio county — an area that the ODNR has said is less prone to earthquakes than the rest of the state — hadn’t had an earthquake with an epicenter in the county before Oct. 24, 2010.

Since then, there have been four, with magnitudes ranging from 2.6 to 3.1 — large enough to feel, but small enough not to damage homes and infrastructure.

Sound familiar?

Like Mahoning County, Washington County shares another trait — brine-injection wells.

Injection wells are a disposal method for brine, a salty chemical byproduct of natural-gas fracking and oil drilling.

The ODNR has said it does not believe deep injections triggered the small quakes near Marietta, but that has not stopped the state environmental regulators from digging deeper.

The ODNR soon will monitor the area with four new seismographs — much as it did in Youngstown.
“We don’t believe it’s related to injection wells at this point,” Larry Wickstrom, state geologist, told The Vindicator. “We want to dispel any concern as best we can.”

A local geologist at Marietta College, however, maintains there could be a connection.

“Some of the earthquake events have occurred after an injection of water,” said Wendy Bartlett, instructor of geology at Marietta. “Most geoscientists believe that can happen.”

State Rep. Robert F. Hagan of Youngstown, D-60th, was alarmed when told of the ODNR’s additional monitoring near Newport Township, just east of Marietta.

“This is just blowing my mind now,” he said. “They are lying to us and covering it up without giving us all the information.”

Injection wells have been linked to — but not necessarily proved to have caused — earthquakes in Ashtabula County as well as the states of Arkansas, Oklahoma, West Virginia and Colorado.

There are four active injection wells, owned by two companies, near the township of Newport, just north of the Ohio-West Virginia state line.

More than 1.3 million barrels of brine were injected into those wells during the first nine months of 2011, according to data from the ODNR. That amount is nearly 15 percent of the 8.7 million barrels of injected brine in Ohio during that period.

D&L injected about 352,000 barrels into its Youngstown well during the same period.

One barrel holds 42 gallons.

“Volumes for wells are fairly high for a few of them,” Wickstrom said, adding, “But it’s not that unusual.”

The wells are not as deep as the well in Youngstown. That well, on Ohio Works Drive, is 9,300 feet deep and could inject about 2,000 barrels of brine daily at pressures of up to 2,500 pounds per square inch before it was shut down Dec. 30.

All four Washington County wells pump water into the Clinton or Medina sandstones at depths between 6,900 and 7,300 feet.

Injection pressures reach about 1,900 psi, higher than a majority of pressures allotted at wells statewide.
The Washington County wells, however, inject near something called the Burning Springs Anticline, a well-known geological formation that Bartlett describes as “a fold that resembles an arch.”

Wickstrom said the anticline is a “thin-skinned structure,” different from the solid Precambrian bedrock into which the Youngstown well may have injected.

Ray Beiersdorfer, geology professor at Youngstown State University, said faulting can occur from an anticline and that movement along a fault line needs to occur to trigger an earthquake.

Brine can act as a lubricant along faults and cause geologic shifting.

The ODNR is aware of the anticline.

One Washington County earthquake, on Aug. 31, had an epicenter about 500 feet from one of the injection wells; an aftershock the same day had an epicenter about 20 miles from the same well site.

The earthquake depths, much like the first nine Youngstown quakes, were about 3 miles.

That depth data, Bartlett said, is not precise because it came from only one seismic station, nearly 50 miles away in Athens.

Seismologists, including Michael Hansen of the Ohio Seismic Network, said it requires data from at least three seismic stations to determine precise earthquake depths.

The state plans to send one seismograph to Marietta College to monitor seismic events.

The ODNR this week hopes to implement the use of three portable seismograph stations, courtesy of the U.S. Geological Survey.

At this point, however, the state remains cautious, much as it did after the first handful of Youngstown earthquakes.

The ODNR also has purchased four portable seismographs valued at $10,000 each as part of a new “zero-tolerance policy.” If an injection well or wells are suspected of causing seismic events, the agency immediately will deploy the seismographs.

It maintains that Washington County and Mahoning County have little in common.

The ODNR said the earthquakes were not clustered around a well and the deepest injection formation is nearly a mile above the Precambrian bedrock, where preliminary data pinpointed the quakes.

“The body of evidence is not nearly as large in Marietta,” said E. Mac Swinford, assistant division chief, ODNR Division of Geological Survey.

Hagan says the new information about earthquakes makes him even more skeptical than he was after the Youngstown earthquakes.

“It just goes right to the base of what most of the critics have been saying,” Hagan told The Vindicator.

The office of Ohio Gov. John Kasich, who agreed with ODNR Director Jim Zehringer’s Dec. 31 decision to ban injection wells within five miles — now within seven miles — of Youngstown’s D&L well until the compilation of complete geologic data, deferred comment to the ODNR.

Hagan, who on multiple occasions has called for a moratorium on natural-gas fracking, oil drilling and injection wells, says he has greater concerns, not specifically about the industry, but about the overall process.

“Then we had the earthquakes and all of a sudden I am becoming a semi expert — baptism by fire,” he said.

“I am concerned about where they are putting these wells. I’m concerned about the earthquakes.

“I’m also concerned about government being honest to people.”

Sunday, January 15, 2012


Behind the Ohio earthquakes: Big money leads to big risks

Published Jan 14, 2012 10:49 AM 
After 11 earthquakes recently rocked northwestern Ohio, seismologists acknowledged there is strong evidence linking the quakes to the disposal of waste water produced in the process of drilling for natural gas, known as hydraulic fracturing. 

On New Year’s Eve, an earthquake registering a magnitude of 4.0 occurred five miles from Youngstown and very close to a 9,000-foot-deep disposal well owned by D&L Energy. The company receives most of its waste water from drilling operations in Pennsylvania’s Marcellus Shale.

Hydraulic fracturing involves pumping millions of gallons of water mixed with sand and toxic chemicals deep into underground shale formations to release natural gas. This brine water contains carcinogenic chemicals and radioactive particles. 

Initially, the water was sent to treatment plants in Pennsylvania and discharged into rivers. This practice was halted in early 2011 after alarming levels of pollutants were found in streams. Now, there is more reliance on the deep-well disposal process. 

Since the earthquakes, Ohio Gov. John Kasich, a drilling booster, has been forced to shut down the Youngstown-area disposal well and four others. Similar unusual seismic activity in Arkansas, Colorado and Oklahoma has also led to temporary bans on the use of some disposal wells. 

It’s a lot like closing the barn door after the horses escape.

As many as 800,000 underground injection wells exist across the U.S. Some 30,000 dispose of waste water from oil and gas operations. 

With the rapid expansion of drilling in neighboring Pennsylvania, Ohio was expected to become the leading importer of fracking waste water. The estimated amount of waste water pumped into Ohio’s disposal wells increased to more than 9 million barrels in 2011. Even with five wells now shut down, 176 others are still operating there.

Natural gas industry representatives continue to deny there is any link between hydraulic fracturing and increased seismic activity, even though earthquakes were previously almost unheard of in these areas. Kasich even told reporters that he didn’t think the energy industry should be blamed for problems arising from the disposal of their byproducts.

The link between increased earthquake activity and injection wells was established more than five decades ago, after scientists connected a Colorado earthquake of magnitude 5.5 to U.S. Army disposal of toxic fluids into a 12,000-foot-deep injection well. Nevertheless, there is still no government regulation of such practices.
An estimated $1 trillion worth of shale gas is trapped underground in Pennsylvania. Geologists predict that around 5 million acres of rural Ohio also sit atop the Marcellus and Utica Shale gas and oil deposits, which contain the energy equivalent of billions of barrels of oil. (The Plain Dealer, Nov. 18) 

In Ohio, energy companies have already distributed $1 billion to landowners to sign lease deals for future wells. Some of these earlier lease agreements paid landowners as little as $25 per acre. Now property owners are being offered signing bonuses of up to $5,100 per acre, even though few shale wells have actually been drilled in the state.

Chesapeake Energy, forced to suspend its Pennsylvania drilling operations after a well blowout in April 2011, applied for 99 shale drilling permits in Ohio with lease rights to more than 1.5 million Ohio acres. Total S.A., a multinational company operating in 130 countries, just bought a 25 percent share of Chesapeake’s Ohio operations for more than $2 billion. ExxonMobil, Chevron and Hess are expected to begin filing for permits in 2012. 

Campaign contributions pay off
In the last three years, campaign contributions from natural gas companies have more than tripled, especially in the wake of the January 2010 Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision giving corporations the same rights as individuals. 

Kasich came to office in 2010 thanks to heavy financial backing from the oil and gas industry. He received $213,519 in campaign contributions from oil and gas interests — the most of any politician in Ohio, according to Common Cause. It found Ohio’s fracking regulations to be among the weakest of any state.

The report tracked $2.8 million in energy industry campaign contributions to Ohio politicians, including House Speaker John Boehner, who raised $186,900 from fracking interests. 

Pennsylvania’s governor, Tom Corbett, beat them both — taking in more than $1.6 million from the energy industry. It has shelled out $747 million in political contributions in the last 10 years, according to Common Cause. 

Aubrey McClendon, Chesapeake’s chief executive officer and one of Corbett’s earliest backers, contributed $450,000 to finance Corbett’s 2004 run for attorney general in Pennsylvania. McClendon has told shareholders that Ohio’s Utica Shale could be worth $15 billion to $20 billion.

Corbett’s first political appointment after taking office in January 2011 was to name energy company executive, C. Alan Walker, to head the Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development, charged with overseeing “job creation” in the state. 

Michael Krancer, Corbett’s appointee to head the state’s Department of Environmental Protection, issued an internal directive in October 2011 telling DEP field agents they could no longer issue a notice of violation related to Marcellus Shale drilling without first getting permission from a DEP deputy director in Harrisburg. Public protest quickly forced Krancer to rescind this memo.

Kasich appears to be reading from the same script. His appointee to head the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, responsible for regulating disposal wells, was David Mustine, a former executive at American Electric Power, who directed an oil and gas services business in Dubai. After less than a year on the job, Mustine left to become general manager of JobsOhio, the newly privatized department of development, where he will focus on developing oil and gas reserves in eastern Ohio.

The gas industry’s political “investment,” which has so far helped to avoid government regulation of fracking, will be even more critical in 2012 when the Environmental Protection Agency will publish new findings about the potential dangers of fracking.

“Players in this industry have pumped cash into Congress in the same way they pump toxic chemicals into underground rock formations to free trapped gas,” said Common Cause president, Bob Edgar. “Thanks to the Supreme Court and its Citizens United decision, the natural gas industry will be free to spend whatever it likes next year to elect a Congress that will do its bidding. The industry’s political investments already have largely freed it from government oversight.” (“Deep Drilling, Deep Pockets in Congress & Ohio,” Nov. 10)

Articles copyright 1995-2012 Workers World. Verbatim copying and distribution of this entire article is permitted in any medium without royalty provided this notice is preserved.

Friday, January 13, 2012


A man who worked at a Marcellus Shale gas well in Bradford County, PA, has been charged with dumping 800 gallons of hazardous materials from the drilling site. State police said 27-year-old Josh Foster of Temple, Ga., admits dumping the chemicals on state game lands in Warren Township. Troopers said Foster worked for a contractor sub-contracting to Talisman Energy at one of its drill sites near the dump location. 
According to police documents, a Talisman superintendent reported someone intentionally dumped what looked like black sludge-like material. An internal investigation by Talisman led them to Foster. He is behind bars in Bradford County on $100,000 bail.  
A pool of viscous black liquid was discovered Thursday on State Game Lands 219 in Warren Township, Bradford County. The substance waa found less than two miles from a Talisman Energy natural gas well pad

....and this is the culprit; Josh Foster, 27, of Temple, Georgia, 

There is definitely some fishy business going on here. The company that is removing waste is being paid to take it away and dispose of it (legally) BUT procedures are not being followed here and the waste ends up being dumped on gamelands 2 miles away, so someone is pocketing the money that should be used to dispose of this waste? Myles Lawrence, a Talisman Energy drilling superintendent, said that the substance, used in the gas drilling industry, is dangerous, according to the complaint, although the DEP is still trying to confirm what the substance is. 

Ordinarily, it is supposed to be treated on-site, including by mixing it with dirt, and then taken to a landfill. The sludge was extracted from the Strope well site, but it was not treated before being dumped. 

Then a little over a month later, on January 10th, we have

Police probe hydraulic fracturing fluid spill in Bradford County

Pennsylvania State Police, the state Department of Environmental Protection and Talisman Energy are investigating the Tuesday morning spill of up to 20,000 gallons of wastewater created by the hydraulic fracturing process at a natural gas well pad in Bradford County.

The actual volume of the spill at the well on Ayres Road in Canton Township was unknown Tuesday afternoon because the company had not yet finished measuring it, said Natalie Cox, a spokeswoman for Talisman Energy.

State Police in Towanda are investigating the spill as criminal mischief. Someone intentionally tampered with a tank on the well pad between midnight and 8:30 a.m. Tuesday to cause the spill, according to a police report.
Cox could not confirm the cause of the spill because it is still under investigation.

The spilled liquid is called production brine or "flow back water," Cox said, explaining that it's "the water that comes back after the hydraulic fracturing is complete."

"It flows to the surface after water and hydraulic fracturing fluid are injected into the well", she said.

It seems that this is not uncommon for this poorly-regulated industry in Pennsylvania, where shale drilling has been going on awhile, and where industry standards seem to have anything but Pennsylvanians and their environment's interests at heart.  More later....


As these wells come online, get ready for a dramatic increase in quake activity, as well as increasing air, ground/surface water quality issues; soil pollution and of course, gas well and pipeline explosions

"Chesapeake Exploration LLC, a subsidiary of Oklahoma City-based Chesapeake Energy Corp., was the beneficiary of 111 of the 156 permits." This compares to only THREE permits issued in 2009 and 2010. 

Thu, January 12, 2012
Staff report

The Ohio Department of Natural Resources issued 156 permits in 2011 to drilling companies looking to capitalize on natural gas and oil in the Utica Shale.

The shale underlies portions of Ohio, Pennsylvania, Kentucky, Maryland, New York, Tennessee, West Virginia and Virginia.

ODNR issued 80 of those permits during the last three months of the year, including 32 in November.
Ninety-two permits were horizontal permits.

By drilling horizontally, drilling companies can extract previously untapped sources of natural gas and oil from underground rock formations such as the Utica and Marcellus shales.

There are currently 26 horizontally drilled wells, according to department documents; 16 vertical, or test wells, have been drilled.

Carroll County received the most permits, 43, followed by Jefferson and Columbiana counties, which had 19 and 16, respectively.

ODNR issued at least one permit in 18 counties.

Chesapeake Exploration LLC, a subsidiary of Oklahoma City-based Chesapeake Energy Corp., was the beneficiary of 111 of the 156 permits.

ODNR had issued only three permits during 2009 and 2010, according to department documents.

ODNR has granted a drilling permit in Green Township in Mahoning County to Chesapeake Exploration.
The permit location is on West Middletown Road between Salem-Warren and Youngstown-Salem roads.

ODNR issued a vertical-drilling permit, which means Chesapeake will need to acquire an additional horizontal permit if it wants to extract natural gas and oil from the Utica Shale.

It is the 14th-issued permit for Utica Shale drilling in Mahoning County. ODNR has issued both vertical and horizontal permits at six locations: four in Goshen Township, and one each in Milton and Ellsworth townships.
Only the Milton well has been drilled, officials said.


Thursday, January 12, 2012


Why are we fracking for natural gas - which is mainly methane - when we could be setting up biogas plants right alongside our sewage treatment facilities to produce the same thing and solve an enormous waste management problem, at the same time? 
Who needs nuclear fuel rods to heat up water and spin turbines - and the specter of more Fukushimas - when we ALL create this cheap, abundant and sustainable source of energy. To not make use of this vast resource is - utterly wasteful! Seriously, this Seattle, Washington operation is very impressive.
The technology was put into use in the UK back in 2006. Ludlow, my home town, operates the country's first biodigester that produces both electricity and a high quality soil enricher as a byproduct of food waste. the plant is helping to keep 5,000 tonnes of food waste out of landfill every year. It also uses the methane gas created to generate over 1.5 million kWh of 'green' electricity. The site, run by Greenfinch Biogen is entirely self sufficient in power and even exports some of the electricity to the national grid.
In some parts of the UK anaerobic digesters are already being used to generate electricity from human refuse, but this summer British Gas in a partnership with Thames Water and Scotia Gas Networks will start piping biomethane from the sewage system - which is derived from fecal matter - right back into the homes of 130 customers in Didcot in Oxfordshire. The new gas will take 23 days to complete its waste treatment cycle and when it enters homes will smell just like natural gas. 
I personally believe that power needs to be generated and used locally wherever possible. How about an anaerobic digester at every chicken and pig production plant, as well at every sewer plant in the US for starters?  These could supply ALL of the heat and power needed by that plant with plenty of excess going back into the grid. Yes, I know that "BIG COAL" and "BIG GAS" hate the idea, but with 7 Billion people on the planet, we have to realise that fossil fuels are a finite resource.. but we will never stop pooping!


Chart showing the huge rise in earthquake activity in Arkansas over the last 100 years

On 5 November an earthquake measuring 5.6 rattled Oklahoma and was felt as far away as Illinois.   

Until two years ago Oklahoma typically had about 50 earthquakes a year, but in 2010, 1,047 quakes shook the state.


In Lincoln County, where most of this past weekend's seismic incidents were centered, there are 181 injection wells, according to Matt Skinner, an official from the Oklahoma Corporation Commission, the agency which oversees oil and gas production in the state.

Cause and effect?

The practice of injecting water into deep rock formations causes earthquakes, both the U.S. Army and the U.S. Geological Survey have concluded.

The U.S. natural gas industry pumps a mixture of water and assorted chemicals deep underground to shatter sediment layers containing natural gas, a process called hydraulic fracturing, known more informally as “fracking.” While environmental groups have primarily focused on fracking’s capacity to pollute underground water, a more ominous byproduct emerges from U.S. government studies – that forcing fluids under high pressure deep underground produces increased regional seismic activity.

As the U.S. natural gas industry mounts an unprecedented and expensive advertising campaign to convince the public that such practices are environmentally benign, U.S. government agencies have determined otherwise.

According to the U.S. Army’s Rocky Mountain Arsenal website, the RMA drilled a deep well for disposing of the site’s liquid waste after the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency “concluded that this procedure is effective and protective of the environment.”  According to the RMA, “The Rocky Mountain Arsenal deep injection well was constructed in 1961, and was drilled to a depth of 12,045 feet” and 165 million gallons of Basin F liquid waste, consisting of “very salty water that includes some metals, chlorides, wastewater and toxic organics” was injected into the well during 1962-1966.

Why was the process halted? “The Army discontinued use of the well in February 1966 because of the possibility that the fluid injection was “triggering earthquakes in the area,” according to the RMA. In 1990, the “Earthquake Hazard Associated with Deep Well Injection--A Report to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency” study of RMA events by Craig Nicholson, and R.I. Wesson stated simply, “Injection had been discontinued at the site in the previous year once the link between the fluid injection and the earlier series of earthquakes was established.”

Twenty-five years later, “possibility” and ‘established” changed in the Environmental Protection Agency’s July 2001 87 page study, “Technical Program Overview: Underground Injection Control Regulations EPA 816-r-02-025,” which reported, “In 1967, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) determined that a deep, hazardous waste disposal well at the Rocky Mountain Arsenal was causing significant seismic events in the vicinity of Denver, Colorado.”

There is a significant divergence between “possibility,” “established” and “was causing,” and the most recent report was a decade ago. Much hydraulic fracturing to liberate shale oil gas in the Marcellus shale has occurred since.

According to the USGS website, under the undated heading, “Can we cause earthquakes? Is there any way to prevent earthquakes?” the agency notes, “Earthquakes induced by human activity have been documented in a few locations in the United States, Japan, and Canada.

The cause was injection of fluids into deep wells for waste disposal and secondary recovery of oil, and the use of reservoirs for water supplies. Most of these earthquakes were minor. The largest and most widely known resulted from fluid injection at the Rocky Mountain Arsenal near Denver, Colorado. In 1967, an earthquake of magnitude 5.5 followed a series of smaller earthquakes. Injection had been discontinued at the site in the previous year once the link between the fluid injection and the earlier series of earthquakes was established.”
Note the phrase, “Once the link between the fluid injection and the earlier series of earthquakes was established.”

So both the U.S Army and the U.S. Geological Survey over fifty years of research confirm on a federal level that that “fluid injection” introduces subterranean instability and is a contributory factor in inducing increased seismic activity.” How about “causing significant seismic events?”

Fast forward to the present.

Overseas, last month Britain’s Cuadrilla Resources announced that it has discovered huge underground deposits of natural gas in Lancashire, up to 200 trillion cubic feet of gas in all.

On 2 November a report commissioned by Cuadrilla Resources acknowledged that hydraulic fracturing was responsible for two tremors which hit Lancashire and possibly as many as fifty separate earth tremors overall. The British Geological Survey also linked smaller quakes in the Blackpool area to fracking. BGS Dr. Brian Baptie said, “It seems quite likely that they are related,” noting, “We had a couple of instruments close to the site and they show that both events occurred near the site and at a shallow depth.”

But, back to Oklahoma. Austin Holland’s August 2011 report, “Examination of Possibly Induced Seismicity from Hydraulic Fracturing in the Eola Field, Garvin County, Oklahoma” Oklahoma Geological Survey OF1-2011, studied 43 earthquakes that occurred on 18 January, ranging in intensity from 1.0 to 2.8 Md (milliDarcies.) While the report’s conclusions are understandably cautious, it does state, “Our analysis showed that shortly after hydraulic fracturing began small earthquakes started occurring, and more than 50 were identified, of which 43 were large enough to be located.”

Sensitized to the issue, the oil and natural gas industry has been quick to dismiss the charges and deluge the public with a plethora of televisions advertisements about how natural gas from shale deposits is not only America’s future, but provides jobs and energy companies are responsible custodians of the environment.

It seems likely that Washington will eventually be forced to address the issue, as the U.S. Army and the USGS have noted a causal link between the forced injection of liquids underground and increased seismic activity. While the Oklahoma quake caused a deal of property damage, had lives been lost, the policy would most certainly have come under increased scrutiny from the legal community.

While polluting a local community’s water supply is a local tragedy barely heard inside the Beltway, an earthquake ranging from Oklahoma to Illinois, Kansas, Arkansas, Tennessee and Texas is an issue that might yet shake voters out of their torpor.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012


But West Virginia doesn't have earthquakes! Well, except for those linked to the injection wells in Frametown of course! 


August 25, 2010 · It was early in April when a 3.4 magnitude earthquake rattled the ground in southern Braxton County. Since then, about a half dozen earthquakes have hit the area this year.
It's a pattern that's caught the attention of state geologist and West Virginia Geological and Economic Survey Director, Michael Hohn.

"The main area where earthquake risk is a little bit above the rest of the state is more in the southeastern part, which made us notice when earthquakes started occurring in Braxton County; that's generally a quiet area as far as seismic activity," said Hohn.

Hohn says most of the earthquakes have had around a 2.7 magnitude, which he says is not enough to cause damage but enough for people to feel them.

"One was described to me as feeling like a car had hit their house," Hohn explained. "They're disconcerting to experience."

The earthquakes at first puzzled local residents, including Ed Given.

Given was born and raised in Braxton County and now publishes the Braxton Citizens' News.  He'd never heard of earthquakes in his home county, so he started wonder what was going on.

"The only thing I could think of that had really made any change was the operation that was going on at Frametown, which at the time I didn't know anything about, other than it was there. You could see the holding tanks from the road and that's all you could see," Given said.

After some research, Given learned that the tanks hold water used in natural gas drilling. The Department of Environmental Protection has permitted Chesapeake Energy to use a nearby well to dispose of the drilling fluid. DEP spokeswoman Kathy Cosco says the agency is now in discussion with Chesapeake Energy to try to determine whether the injection well is causing the earthquakes.

"We don't have any conclusive evidence to connect the two as of this point," Cosco said. "The only thing we have to go on is there have been incidents similar to this in other states related to underground injection wells, one in Texas and one in Arkansas."

Cosco says the company is still using the well to dispose of water from Marcellus gas drilling.

She also says local wells have not been tested to see if the earthquakes have caused the disposal well to crack or leak fluid. 

Ed Given says the company has already injected about ten million gallons of drilling fluid into the well since spring of 2009.

"They can put as much water in the ground in Frametown, West Virginia as it will hold, as long as the static pressure at the well head does not exceed 2100 pounds; that could be astronomical. Both of the geologists I have talked with at length say Frametown is vulnerable because that site sits directly on top of a fault," Given said.

Geologist Michael Hohn says, although it's unusual, normally static faults and fractures deep below the earth's surface can move when liquid is injected underground.

"It's more than just lubricating the fault face, but it has a similar effect of essentially making it possible for the earthquake to take place, for the fault to move slightly," said Hohn.

Given says if this is what's happening in Braxton County, then other areas should take notice. As our nation's huge energy appetite continues and natural gas helps to feed it, much more drilling in the Marcellus shale formation is expected.

"Tapping that Marcellus shale for that benefit for our society is a great thing, but when you start putting millions of gallons of water under pressure in the ground, I don't think you have to be a geologist to think something's going to happen," Given said.

Given says Chesapeake is taking him on a tour of its Frametown well site this week.

The company did not respond immediately to our questions for this story.


EXPOSURE to gas drilling operations is strongly linked to serious health problems in humans, pets, livestock and other animals, a new US study has found.

Australian environmentalists say the study shows the need for caution in opening the country up to coal seam gas (CSG) extraction.

University of Massachusetts researchers interviewed 24 US farmers affected by shale gas drilling and found the practice was "strongly implicated" in serious health problems in humans and animals.

In one case, 17 cows died in one hour from respiratory failure after shale gas fracking fluids were accidentally released into an adjacent paddock.

Fracking refers to the controversial method of injecting chemicals, water and sand at high pressures to crack rock and release gas.

On another farm, 70 of 140 cattle exposed to wastewater from fracking died, as did a number of cats and dogs from a neighbourhood where wastewater was spread on roads as a method of disposal.

The study also cites a case in which a child was hospitalised with arsenic poisoning soon after drilling and fracking began near their home.

Occupants of another home near gas wells suffered headaches, nosebleeds and rashes, and their hearing and sense of smell was affected.

The study's authors recommend more research into the effects of shale gas extraction in the US, or a total ban on the practice.

NSW Greens MP Jeremy Buckingham says the study shows the need for caution in the expansion of CSG mining in the state.

"Many of the methods, chemicals and techniques used in US conventional and unconventional gas extraction are the same as those used in Australia with coal seam gas," he said in a statement.

The National Toxics Network called on Australia's state governments to conduct a full assessment of the impacts of CSG on animals living close to gas wells.

"We know so little about the long term impacts on the health of wildlife and farm animals of this industry," the network's senior adviser Mariann Lloyd-Smith said in a statement.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012


Can you believe that some Americans think this pipeline is needed to connect us to a "new" source of oil? 

The United States has been a destination for Canadian oil for decades for decades, and is already the US's number one source of imported oil—this likely won't change with Keystone.

OK, I know this is not a Fracking issue, but regarding safety and envronmental considerations, the acquisition of export markets and the consequential hoicking of prices for the domestic consumer, there ARE comparisons to be made with fracked natural gas. In my conversations with people over here, it seems that most Americans are either confused and/or don't know much about the proposed Keystone XL pipeline, so here goes with some pertinent information:

The Keystone XL pipeline is a 2,000 mile pipeline that would transport crude oil derived from Canadian tar sands from Alberta to Texas.

The midwestern United States has long used Canadian oil (also referred to as Canadian Sour, which describes its quality, as sour crude is more difficult to refine and not as desirable as the light sweet crude oil that virtually any refinery can process). Refineries in the Midwest are nearly all capable of processing this oil—which takes special equipment to refine. Since not all refineries can process this oil, the price for it is comparably lower than higher quality crudes. The fact that Canadian oil can't leave Canada or the United States also keeps the price lower. By keeping Canadian oil off world markets, demand for it stays lower, which keeps the price for it lower. By connecting Canadian oil to the Gulf, there is the distinct and likely possibility that Canada will begin exporting this type of crude oil, which would open the possibility for international buyers, thus increasing demand for Canadian Sour, and causing the price to rise. This is exactly why Canada is pushing so hard for this pipeline--the more potential buyers, the more demand, the higher it can be sold for. This is bad for American and Canadian motorists.

The pipeline will raise gas and diesel prices in the Midwest, where they are already among the highest in the country. It is estimated that the added cost of the pipeline would be roughly equal to 15 cents per gallon, driving up the cost of living for families at a time when we can least afford it. 

Keystone XL will increase the price of in the Midwest by almost $2 to $4 billion annually, and it will escalate for several years. It will do this by diverting major volumes of tar sands oil now supplying the Midwest refineries, so it can be sold at higher prices to the Gulf Coast and export markets. As a result, consumers in the Midwest could be paying 10 to 20 cents more per gallon for gasoline and diesel fuel, adding up to $5 billion to the annual U.S. fuel bill.

The total drain on America’s economy and pocket books could total as much as $3.9 billion annually in 2013, according to what TransCanada told Canada’s National Energy Board. 
Any jobs created will be offset by the higher price of gas and the layoffs that result from the higher cost of doing business. Further, they will be temporary and may not go to local residents, or even Americans.  

Sure, Keystone will add construction jobs—temporary construction jobs. This is a huge area of misinformation. 20,000 jobs? 10,000 jobs? With November elections on the way, every politician wants to show how many jobs he or she has helped add, and what easier way to do it by inflating potential jobs added and advertising it? Recently, Cornell University completed an independent assessment which stated the project may produce between 2,500-4,650 jobs and could even COST the country jobs in the years ahead!  TransCanada admits permanent jobs would only number in the hundreds.  

Even the State Department, which broadly backs the pipeline, thinks 5,000-6,000 direct jobs, few of them permanent, is a reasonable number. Of course, even 5,000 temporary jobs would be welcome if they were good jobs that add value to the economy. They would do so only if producers, refiners, and pipeline operators bore all the internal and external costs associated with producing, transporting, and using the bitumen. At present, we cannot be sure that would be the case, since neither Canada nor the United States has a regime in place to charge environmental damage back to the parties that cause it. In the absence of a comprehensive energy policy (preferably on both sides of the border), there is no guarantee that KXL pipeline jobs are of the value-adding variety.

On the flip side, the pipeline would be permanent, and the rise in price for this oil that we already consume would rise for decades to come. How are higher oil prices going to help the economy? They won't.

TransCanada will generate billions of dollars in profits at the expense of American consumers, and that money will go back to Canada, deepening the U.S. deficit. The pipeline will facilitate Canadian crude oil exports to CHINA, not the United States. The market for Canadian crude oil in the Gulf is small. Americans wouldn’t benefit from the crude oil piped in through the Keystone XL. 

Want to know why diesel prices are hovering at or over $4 per gallon? Look no further—high exports of diesel/distillate are keeping supply tight. What's to stop that situation from happening with Canadian oil? Nothing. Who will it hurt most if Keystone XL is built and Canada uses it to export oil out of North America? Americans and Canadians. Exactly why Keystone XL may not be a good idea—unless there are restrictions on exporting the oil out of North America, but something that will probably never happen.

Quote "If the Keystone XL pipeline really offers big benefits, it should be able to win approval on its own merits. The reason the Senate is trying to sneak the project through as a rider on unrelated legislation is that its benefits are largely illusory"