I feel the earth move under my feet

I just saw a couple articles on possible links between shale extraction and (smallish) earthquakes.

This doesn’t sound like nonsense to me, based on the studies mentioned and linked to in the articles. Is it though? And would it only be smallish earthquakes it could cause if it really can cause earthquakes?

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54 replies
  1. 1
    BGinCHI says:

    I’m not sure how to connect this to the GOP presidential field, nor to the Paterno scandal, but I’ve got my best man on it.

  2. 2
    cathyx says:

    Let me guess, the companies deny any relationship to the earthquakes and they have scientists to back that up.

  3. 3
    Dave says:

    I wouldn’t be surprised by this at all. Or that the gas companies knew about it and simply didn’t give a shit.

  4. 4
    fasteddie9318 says:

    Wrong Again DougJ is, no surprise, wrong again. All this breathless reporting about imagined earthquakes ignores the fact that the ground where I am is perfectly still. Why won’t Wrong Again DougJ acknowledge that there are lots of places you can go where there are not currently any earthquakes?

    And that Joe Romm dude should try a little eyeshadow and some freaking hair transplants. He’s not helping his credibility looking like that.

  5. 5
    kindness says:

    It isn’t fracking.

    God just hates Oklahoma. Of course the benevolent FSM does. Who doesn’t?

    @fasteddie9318: trolling or over the top snark. Can’t tell.

  6. 6
    Dream On says:

    Oklahoma? 5.6 earthquakes? It really would be irresponsible not to speculate.

    Fracking has also been linked with a series of earthquakes in Blackpool UK – not earthquake territory by any stretch. It is planned that this technology will be applied in Scotland.

  7. 7
    4tehlulz says:

    Al Gore is shaky.

  8. 8
    Belafon (formerly anonevent) says:

    You know, California has had earthquakes without fracking, so there must not be a connection. See Winter::Global Warming.

  9. 9
    Downpuppy says:

    It’s real, but no big deal. These are things you couldn’t even feel. A 1.8 is 1/10,000 the strength of the east coast earthquake that did no real damage a few months ago.

    This is on the scale of blasting a road cut.

  10. 10
    DougJ says:

    @Dream On:

    It doesn’t seem to be pure speculation.

  11. 11
    fasteddie9318 says:

    @BGinCHI: Maybe the ground is shaking because Herb Cain just tried to stick its hand down his pants.

    Actually you can use the same line for the PSU scandal.

  12. 12
    Martin says:

    Well, ‘earthquake’ is an overly broad term. The Lockerbie crash registered a 1.6. Basically, almost anything can be measured as an earthquake.

    But overall, yeah, there should be some collateral damage from extraction. I know up in the central valley, the land has subsided about 10 feet or so due to oil extraction. Take something out, and the land is going to shift. How big an earthquake probably depends on how broadly you’re extracting (one site vs thousands of sites) and how quickly you’re extracting, and whether some seismic activity was inevitable and this served as a trigger.

  13. 13
    DougJ says:

    @Downpuppy:

    It’s real, but no big deal.

    That’s what it sounded like to me, as well.

  14. 14
    Dream On says:

    @DougJ: Why speculate? There’s a clear link to me. Oklahoma? WTF?

  15. 15
    BGinCHI says:

    @fasteddie9318: I was going to invoke Angry Baby Jesus, but it was too early in the thread.

  16. 16

    Why even bother to look into it if Al Gore is STILL fat. The answer should be obvious.

  17. 17
    PeakVT says:

    And would it only be smallish earthquakes it could cause if it really can cause earthquakes?

    For the most part there are no oil or gas deposits in areas where there is a high amount of accumulated stress, e.g. subduction zones and large slip-strike faults, so we haven’t tested this. I doubt subduction faults could be affected because the point of contact is so deep. But if somebody started pumping fluid into the San Andreas, it could potentially cause a large locked region to finally come loose.

    AFAIK there’s been no fracking in the SoCal fields…. yet.

  18. 18
    MattF says:

    I’d have found it hard to believe, but there’s this from the AP:

    Oklahoma had about 50 earthquakes annually until 2009. Then the number spiked, and 1,047 quakes shook the state last year.

    Added: … and here’s the link:

    http://www.washingtonpost.com/.....story.html

    Just coincidentally in 2009, the fracking operations started. So, it’s not so ridiculous.

  19. 19
    Villago Delenda Est says:

    Let’s just say that it’s a tad too early to draw any conclusions. It’s not like you’ve got 30 years worth of numbers to draw on in the case of climate change.

    You can rest assured, however, that the frackers and their allies amongst the wingtards will state, for the record and with metaphysical certitude that there is no connection, no way, no how.

  20. 20
    Petorado says:

    The connection between drilling, fracking, and earthquakes has already been demonstrated in Arkansas.

    Oklahoma has 195 drilling rigs actively operating right now, that compares to about 118 for Saudi Arabia. Most of the Oklahoma wells are horizontal/ fracked.

    What do expect when you are drilling hundreds of wells in a confined area and injecting millions of gallons of water and tons of sand below the surface at very high pressures with the intent of breaking apart underground rock formations — that you won’t alter anything else in the process? Hubris, man, hubris.

  21. 21
    Raven (formerly stuckinred) says:

    @BGinCHI:
    “a tumblin down
    a tumblin down. . .”

  22. 22

    Fracking could logically cause the ground to subside.

    The numbers in Oklahoma, though, are very interesting. What about other states?

  23. 23
    cathyx says:

    Now all we need to do is add the Tar Sands Pipeline through here and we can have a huge environmental catastrophe.

  24. 24

    @Petorado:

    Okay. We seem to have similar results from Arkansas. Hmmm.

  25. 25
    jwb says:

    The paper today carried a nice article, almost certainly paid for by the fracking industry, that admitted that fracking can cause small earthquakes (the article reassured us that these earthquakes were the equivalent of dropping a milk jug on the floor). Although pooh-poohing those who worried that fracking might pose the risk of triggering a significant earthquake, the article couldn’t help but mention that the oil and gas fracking releases tends to follow fault lines and that pumping that water into the area both provides additional lubricant along the fault as well as pressure to produce additional space between the rocks, both of which would make a small earthquake more likely. The article then confidently stated that the limits of a manmade earthquake were surely in the 5s, while admitting that no one really knows, and so concluded that it would be best to just shut up now so that no one gets too concerned. I found the article amusing, in a read the news like we’re reading Pravda in the old Soviet Union kind of way.

  26. 26
    Someguy says:

    I think it’s more likely that Gaia is really fucking pissed at us for sticking pipes in her, Penn State style, and the Earthquakes are her feebly swatting at us with tiny T-Rex arms.

    But seriously, this is a pretty good argument that could be used to stop all fracking until further study could be completed showing that it’s not the case.

  27. 27
    The prophet Nostradumbass says:

    This isn’t specifically about “fracking”, but it absolutely is known that water injection can cause earthquakes.

  28. 28
    Kola Noscopy says:

    Is it though? And would it only be smallish earthquakes it could cause if it really can cause earthquakes?

    Golly gee whiz by golly whillikers, DougJ, I just don’t know!

    But there is this thing called google, and another thing called the Internet. Maybe you could do some research and get an answer, ya think?

  29. 29
    SectarianSofa says:

    @Linda Featheringill:

    I know there have been some reports in Ft. Worth, Texas. The first search I found gave me :

    Smaller freak earthquakes have occurred in Texas, western New York, Oklahoma and Blackpool, England, all in the vicinity of waste fluid reinjection wells. A joint study by Southern Methodist University and the University of Texas-Austin found that earthquakes started occurring in the Dallas/Fort Worth region after a fracking disposal well began operating there in 2008, but stopped when it was closed in 2009. (Watershed Sentinel, March/April)

    from http://www.iacenter.org/enviro.....kes090511/

  30. 30
    trollhattan says:

    I could imagine scemarios where fracking might “trigger” quakes in fault areas by accelerating the slippage already occurring, but not causing quakes in non-seismic areas. And the possibility of unleasing a big quake on a major fault simply isn’t viable.

    In any case, it’s a distraction from the real issue: contamination of groundwater and surface water. The manner in which these operations are being conducted assures in situ cleanup will be impossible, and the asshats doing the extraction will be long gone and won’t be held accountable. “So long, suckers!”

    That’s reason enough to stop, yesterday. Burden of proof, drillers, burden of proof.

  31. 31
  32. 32
    Punchy says:

    “Fracking” sounds like copulation with a white person.

    BTW, Sully is now blaming earthquakes for impregnating Sarah Palin and her irregular child.

  33. 33
    Kola Noscopy says:

    Pedo.

    Psycho.

  34. 34
    Yutsano says:

    @Kola Noscopy: Shut it pedo.

  35. 35
    gbear says:

    @Petorado:

    What do expect when you are drilling hundreds of wells in a confined area and injecting millions of gallons of water and tons of sand below the surface at very high pressures with the intent of breaking apart underground rock formations—that you won’t alter anything else in the process?

    I expect the ground to eventually turn into a giant bowl of rice pudding.

  36. 36
    ThatLeftTurnInABQ says:

    @BGinCHI:

    I was going to invoke Angry Baby Jesus, but it was too early in the thread.

    Those so-called earthquakes are really signs of intelligent shaking. They mean that God is angry with us for leaving all of that oil down there in the ground when it was meant to be up here running through the gas tanks of exurban SUVs and ride-on lawnmowers.

  37. 37
    dmbeaster says:

    No, fracking is not going to cause a significant earthquake, nor can it be implicated in the recent OK quakes. I am sure it induces small quakes in the area of drilling (as pointed out above, all sorts of surface activity can induce very small earth tremors), but the forces involved wont ramp up to a larger scale.

    Most earthquakes occur far deeper than any drilling. The OK quake was shallow at three miles deep. The pressures and forces involved at that depth far exceed anything caused by fracking, and you are not influencing anything at that depth with fracking.

    Maybe fracking right on an active fault line could provide the additional 1% needed to trigger built up strain, but that is doubtful. Earthquakes result from truly massive amounts of force stored up in rocks under great strain – fracking is ant-like in proportion to those elephantine forces.

  38. 38

    DougJ:

    Did you see THIS about last week’s oil industry conference?

    CNBC has obtained audiotapes of the event, on which one presenter can be heard recommending that his colleagues download a copy of the Army and Marine Corps counterinsurgency manual. That’s because, he said, the opposition facing the industry is an “insurgency.”

    Another told attendees that his company has several former military psychological operations, or “psy ops” specialists on staff, applying their skills in Pennsylvania.

    The comments were recorded by an environmental activist, who passed along audio files to CNBC. The activist, Sharon Wilson, is the director of the Oil & Gas Accountability Project for the nonprofit environmental group Earthworks. She said she paid full price to attend the two day event, and wore a nametag identifying her organization as she recorded the conference.

    Jesus this is a fucking war. GET OFF THE OIL TIT people! HIt ’em where it hurts, their wallets.

    Assholes.

  39. 39

    DougJ:

    Did you see THIS about last week’s oil industry confab?

    CNBC has obtained audiotapes of the event, on which one presenter can be heard recommending that his colleagues download a copy of the Army and Marine Corps counterinsurgency manual. That’s because, he said, the opposition facing the industry is an “insurgency.”
    __
    Another told attendees that his company has several former military psychological operations, or “psy ops” spec1al1sts on staff, applying their skills in Pennsylvania.
    __
    The comments were recorded by an environmental activist, who passed along audio files to CNBC. The activist, Sharon Wilson, is the director of the Oil & Gas Accountability Project for the nonprofit environmental group Earthworks. She said she paid full price to attend the two day event, and wore a nametag identifying her organization as she recorded the conference.

    Jesus this is a fucking war. GET OFF THE OIL TIT people! HIt ’em where it hurts, their wallets.

    Assholes.

  40. 40
    Kola Noscopy says:

    @Yutsano:

    Shut it pedo.

    Cram it psycho.

  41. 41
    Wag says:

    I have a nifty little weather app on my iPhone (eWeather HD) that includes a program that allows you to see where earthquakes have occured in the preceding 24 hours, including the strength and depth. There was a 3.6 magnitude earthquake at 12:05 MST in OK at a depth of 3 miles. Yesterday there were 4 quakes in the same region, including a 4.7 magnitude. It is really striking to look at how closely clustered these

    Check out this map of the past week’s quakes, then zoom in on OK.

  42. 42
    cleek says:

    @Punchy:

    “Fracking” sounds like copulation with a white person.

    in the BSG universe, “frak” (also “frack”) is a synonym for “fuck”.

  43. 43
    celticdragonchick says:

    Cool program called reactiva that allows you to vary fluid pressure, confining pressure and prevailing force directions with respect to a pre-exsisting fault line that may or may not slip again according to your parameters. I got to use it in structural geology a couple of yearas ago.

    Yes, pumping a bunch of fluid down a deep hole can reactivate fault lines.

    http://www.geociencias.unam.mx.....SA2000.pdf

  44. 44
    Chris T. says:

    @jwb: Just remember: v Pravde net izvestiy, v Izvestiyakh net pravdy!

  45. 45
    Moonbatting Average says:

    @dmbeaster: I’m inclined to agree. Gas companies use the microseismicity from fracking operations to “see” how the fractures propagate. It’s not a big secret that those small (2.0-3.0 mag)seismic events happen. A 5.6 magnitude quake is 1000 times stronger than a 2.6 (magnitudes are log scale), so it’s not realistic that fracking caused the tremor directly, though as others have noted, it’s possible (though I’d argue not all that probable) that injection could activate an existing fault under strain.

    Sometimes quakes just happen in odd places (see: Washington, D.C.). There are real issues about fracking, mostly having to do with bad well completions contaminating groundwater, and dealing with the disposal of the flowback water (I think in AR and the UK, the seismicity was caused by injection disposal rather than fracking its self). Those are serious issues that regulators should be encouraged by us to act on. The seismicity from fracking is probably not that big of a deal.

  46. 46
  47. 47
    Mouse Tolliver says:

    @Downpuppy:

    It’s real, but no big deal. These are things you couldn’t even feel. A 1.8 is 1/10,000 the strength of the east coast earthquake that did no real damage a few months ago.

    “No real damage” my ass! Here’s video of the “no real damage” from the east coast earthquake. It shows a car that was flattened by a collapsed brick wall. If anyone had been in the car at the time, they would’ve been killed.

  48. 48
    Liberty60 says:

    @dmbeaster:
    My thoughts as well; From the little I know of earthquakes, they result from the movement of tecttonic plates many miles underground, far below anything we have drilled, and from forces that are continental in scale.

    However- not all earth movements are earthquakes. Drilling and pumping have often triggered landslides, subsidence, sinkholes, and the like. It isn’t unreasonable to suspect that extensive drilling and messing about with groundwater could trigger small localized earth movement.

    But contra the Wurlitzer, I will wait for actual scientists to weigh in.

  49. 49
    Moonbatting Average says:

    @celticdragonchick: Cool paper. There is a mountain of geological literature dealing with the interactions between fluid pressure and fault slip. Most of my reading has dealt with whether elevated fluid pressure could allow slip on normal-fault planes that aren’t Andersonian “ideal”.

    It sure seems to me like if fracking were causing significant quakes, the gas fields in the Rockies and the Basin & Range would be where it would be more likely to happen (e.g. the Hilliard, Mancos, or Lewis), given the much more active, and recent, tectonic history.

  50. 50
    celticdragonchick says:

    @Moonbatting Average:
    \

    I believe there was some incidence of fault reactivation in Colorado at an Army depot where liquid waste was being flushed into a deep core well back in the 60’s.

  51. 51
    ZaftigAmazon says:

    Ditto CelticDragonChick.

    When I was in Junior High (mid- to late- ’60s, about 60 miles north of Denver, Colorado), we started having small earthquakes. At the time the Army was disposing of hazardous materials,at the Rocky Mountain Arsenal, by pumping them deep underground. This went on for several years. It did come to the attention of local authorities. When the Army stopped this deep-site waste disposal, the tremblors subsided.

  52. 52
    Bill says:

    @Moonbatting Average:

    RE: the quake in DC, weren’t they fracking north of there in Pennsylvania?

  53. 53
    dmbeaster says:

    @Moonbatting Average: Thanks for posting that article that speculated about the likely cause of the OK quake. I was assuming that would be the cause based on what is know about the king of this type of fault activity in that part of the MidWest – the New Madrid fault. However, it is impossible to know much about these types of buried faults that show no surface rupture, nor any other kind of surface feature that enables a more educated guess about underlying structure. The inference based on a 300 million year old event is itself speculative, but is the best theory at the moment.

  54. 54
    evinfuilt says:

    I know I’m a day late, and no one will read this. The important lesson learned from the Colorado “experiements” was that smaller fault lines can be lubed. We also know that those smaller quakes may loosen a major fault line, which would trigger a much larger quake.

    Think back to Mt Helens, when it finally blew, the trigger wasn’t the build up of pressure underneath, it was a small quake that caused a land slide, which meant the mtn could no longer hold back the pressure. Smaller events can easily add up to something much larger, much more dangerous.

    This is why in California they’re afraid to lube any of the fault lines, it may relieve pressure, but at the same time it may also trigger a much larger quake taking advantage of that small shift.

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