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Russia Today reports: "Hydraulic fracturing, or 'fracking,' is the man-made splintering of underground rocks to expedite the exploiting of natural resources. It's become a widespread phenomenon since its introduction in 2004, and though the practice can help increase supplies of oil and gas without reaching out internationally for imports, the result it can have on the geological make-up of the Earth can be ravaging. Now some experts say the rise in fracking could be to blame for yesterday’s quake."

Floor hands connect sections of steel pipe at a natural gas well-site in Texas where hydraulic fracturing is used. (photo: Robert Nickelsberg/Getty Images)
Floor hands connect sections of steel pipe at a natural gas well-site in Texas where hydraulic fracturing is used. (photo: Robert Nickelsberg/Getty Images)



Fracking Could Have Caused East Coast Earthquake

By Russia Today

25 August 11

 

xperts are looking for a reason behind Tuesday afternoon's unlikely 5.8 magnitude earthquake that shook people up and down the East Coast, and some are saying that a recent rise in fracking could be the culprit.

Hydraulic fracturing, or "fracking," is the man-made splintering of underground rocks to expedite the exploiting of natural resources. It's become a widespread phenomenon since its introduction in 2004, and though the practice can help increase supplies of oil and gas without reaching out internationally for imports, the result it can have on the geological make-up of the Earth can be ravaging. Now some experts say the rise in fracking could be to blame for yesterday's quake.

The odds of a quake exceeding a magnitude of 5.5 occurring in central Virginia are so slim that Dominion Power determined only around six quakes of that size would occur in the area over the next 10,000 years. Dominion was looking at building a third nuclear reactor at their power plant in North Anna, VA, where facilities had to be taken offline yesterday as a result of the quake. Despite predicting that the site would be scarcely affected ever by a tremor, the quake's epicenter was only mere miles from the nuclear facility.

Dominion, which confirmed in February that it will be building a third reactor for the plant, was rated by the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission as the seventh most-likely site to receive damage from a quake, taking into consideration the 100-plus plants from coast-to-coast. Even still, the plant had its earthquake-sensing seismographs removed in the 1990s in order to save money.

When sites are subjected to fracking, waste salt water is injected back into the earth once fractures are created; in some cases, as many as 3 million gallons of the waste can be put into the earth in each well. Though earthquakes out east are unlikely, Braxton County West Virginia, only 160 miles from the epicenter of Tuesday's tremor, has seen eight minor movements in 2010 alone. That site has also seen a slew of fracking operations in the several years before it.

Explicitly, the United States Geological Survey has published a finding confirming that processes like fracking can be to blame for "natural" disasters. "Earthquakes induced by human activity have been documented in a few locations in the United States, Japan and Canada," writes the USGS. "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."

Out West, geologists have blamed fracking on earthquakes that unexpectedly shook up the state of Arkansas, which recently saw over 20 small tremors in a single day. Freak earthquakes have also occurred in regions of Texas, New York and Oklahoma that should not be likely sites of epicenters, though those locales have all seen a rise in fracking in recent years.

Multi-stage fracking, which can drill several miles deep in the Earth, has only become prevalent in recent years. Once introduced, however, Arkansas, West Virginia and Texas all saw an unexpected increase in quakes across the region. The correlation has caused concern in other parts of the country, including West Virginia, where residents are asking lawmakers to reconsider the legality of fracking, which can not only cause earthquakes but is overall detrimental to the local ecosystem. One incident in central Virginia occurred in 2008 when fracking caused an explosion of a natural gas pipeline that created a fireball that stretched up to half a mile long and tall and injured five people.

Mineral, VA, the site of Tuesday's quake's epicenter, is only 90 miles from the West Virginia border, where activists are rallying to change the lax state legislation which has caused companies to conduct fracking operations more and more and recent years.

 

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-104 # Robt Eagle 2011-08-25 09:44
Hog wash...the tectonic plates are shiftin all over the earth and we just experienced some. To feel it from Georgia to Maine, it could not have been caused by localized fracking! This is just conspiracy theory run amok.
 
 
+79 # Wisconsin Science 2011-08-25 11:03
Instead of calling the theory "hogwash" why not have an open mind and let science discover if there is any validity?
 
 
+49 # Glen 2011-08-25 11:17
Were it only tremblors to concern us, that might be acceptable, except for structural damage, such as basement and pipe damage, and other cracks and weakening. As much a concern is the carcinogens being injected into water tables and the release of methane when the earth splits underground.

Certainly tectonics play a part in various events, but lets be realistic about where some of these earthquakes are occurring and along sometimes mysterious "faults", often unknown prior to fracking.
 
 
+48 # Ken Hall 2011-08-25 11:23
Please cite for us your degree geology and the studies you have conducted that prove fracking could not have played a part in the tremors.
 
 
+12 # Amen 2011-08-27 08:43
Gut feelings have no place in science. Evidence, evidence.
 
 
+19 # phrixus 2011-08-25 11:44
And what evidence do you have to support your statement? Any empirical data whatsoever?
 
 
+26 # impeachemall 2011-08-25 13:41
Quoting Robt Eagle:
Hog wash...the tectonic plates are shiftin all over the earth and we just experienced some. To feel it from Georgia to Maine, it could not have been caused by localized fracking! This is just conspiracy theory run amok.


Uh, clearly, as scientist have stated, the quake in Mineral VA may have been caused by fracking in that region.

And, clearly, you don't understand that an earthquake in one region causes tremors along that fault line and others in all directions.

Do yourself a favor. Take a look at an online map of the fault lines all over the US. Then, take a look at one that superimposes existing nuclear power plants over the fault line map. 'Tis a sobering exercise.
 
 
+28 # Dorothy Buchholz 2011-08-26 09:32
What planet are you living on anyway? I remember when dropping cluster bombs in Afghanistan appeared to cause earthquakes. Drilling and then fracturing causes no end of trouble. Oil and gas are not worth it.
 
 
+35 # Glen 2011-08-25 10:14
There ya go. NOW this earthquake may deserve the excessive amount of coverage since the event. If concrete evidence is presented, then let's go after them.

The fracking in Arkansas took place, depending on any given event, between 150 to 200 miles from the New Madrid fault, which is a formidable fault line, having three disastrous earthquakes in 1812 and smaller ones since. These fault lines are not to be messed with unless a fool company is hoping to create these disasters.
 
 
+25 # Katherine Forrest 2011-08-25 12:36
It seems to me that the mechanism for fracking-relate d quakes might be similar to that for geothermal-ener gy-related quakes (http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=geothermal-drilling-earthquakes). Part of the process for getting more geothermal energy is to pump water under high pressure into the rocks. Multiple small quakes can result. A similar thing has been found for injection wells (http://earthquake.usgs.gov/learn/faq/?categoryID=1&faqID=1), which can trigger earthquakes.
 
 
-29 # Creek Sailer 2011-08-25 11:40
No quotes from or references to any source, and the author is "Russia Today." Why should I take this seriously?
 
 
+19 # LeeBlack 2011-08-25 13:54
It's always good to question resources. I suggest you look at http://www.opednews.com/articles/Did-Fracking-Cause-the-Vir-by-Dr-Stuart-Jeanne-B-110823-993.html

for a another linkage of earthquakes and 'fracking'
 
 
-13 # eeviljim 2011-08-26 14:12
Not sure Dr. B is a very good source for expertise on Fracking, tectonics, hydrology or any of those. She could probably help you if your two year old is still wearing diapers! According to her profile she is a "63 year old American child and adolescent psychiatrist and political refugee in New Zealand".
 
 
-3 # Lee Mac 2011-08-27 20:56
yes, let's go back to the author "Russia Today"... what's that?
 
 
+30 # Isar 2011-08-25 12:43
Fracking can cause shifts in the ocean floor, resulting in tsunami wave thrusts, and yes, possibly even in Hurrican activity. We cannot crack the surface of the earth at such depths without altering the balance of water and rock that make up the earth's crust. And yet....we continue to risk this planet's very existence because we must drive cars and ride on air planes. Perhaps, as my grandmother used to say, we should all "just stay home!"
 
 
+5 # P. Peacock 2011-08-25 13:32
Can someone please define what waste salt water is? As it is referred to in this article as waste what other components are in the mix?
 
 
+54 # Geotrecker 2011-08-25 13:45
I am a geologist. This is not deep science. Any college student who has taken structural geology knows the effects of any lubrication of a fault by water. It induces slippage if there is any pressure. And as we all know, the tectonic plates provide that pressure. The dry faults of the East Coast are quite stable, unless water is injected into them. It is kind of a, "DUH!".
 
 
+4 # Linda Gustafson 2011-08-27 18:12
The geology in Arkansas is NOT analogous to what you have between WV fracking and Mineral. We're talking about the roots of a mountain belt caused by an ancient continental collision. My off-the-cuff impression is, there is so much deformation/met amorphism in the Appalachians, it would be tough to envision an easy "connection" over that 160 miles...compare d to Arkansas, which, although it may not be a perfect "layer cake" of strata...it sure ain't no sheared/smeared /twisted/folded /contorted/re-h eated hash that is the roots of a mountain chain formed by the collision of two continents. There have been EQs of similar magnitude in this area - 1800's maybe, but they have occurred. Charleston SC has had a doozy or two, back in the 1800's - way before fracking. So - though rare, it DOES HAPPEN. I'm NO FAN OF FRACKING...anyt hing which seems to cause tap-water to be ignitable is not getting my vote! However - to link the Mineral EQ to the WV fracking - well, this geologist would like to see more data.
 
 
+1 # Cynthia 2011-08-28 23:07
Very good points, Linda.
 
 
+26 # LeeBlack 2011-08-25 13:49
I'm reminded of the slogan, "Don't fool with mother nature." It seems like common sense to think that injecting this amount of 'waste' would upset what has been stable for millions of years. As Glen says the chemical poisons are also a major concern. The water and poisons aren't going to be 'sealed' thousands of feet underground, eventually they will be absorbed in upper layers. There's also the concern of using so much water, a critical resource.
 
 
+19 # jwb110 2011-08-25 16:16
These earthquakes were not tectonic earthquakes. They occurred in the upper crusts of the continent not at plated edges. The truth is they happened and are happening in ways and places where earthquakes don't usually happen.
 
 
+1 # Linda Gustafson 2011-08-27 18:26
EQ's happen MOSTLY at margins...which of course the plate tectonics theory handily explains. HOW-EVER - it does not account for all EQ activity. This is NOT a slam-dunk connection between WV fracking and Mineral's EQ. We do NOT have it all figured out! (Which is a great reason to "make haste slowly" re: the practice of hydro-fracturin g...how many times have we blithely screwed ourselves up environmentally , because we just didn't KNOW any better at the time?) I'm seeing a geologic map of the HASH which is the Appalachians and thinking - don't see a straight-line connection over those 160 miles. EQ's happen, and they can happen anywhere, whether we can explain them or not. Not dismissing the question, but - it's no slam-dunk, either. To draw an analogy between this situation and the Arkansas situation is not EVEN apples to oranges, geologically speaking.
 
 
-6 # jtom 2011-08-25 20:46
Many oil wells produce oil,Gas, and saly water. The salt water is waste as they have nothing to do with it, so it is put back down in wells that are not producing, much of the time.
This may not be what they are talking about but I think it is with my limited knowledge.
 
 
+3 # Linda Gustafson 2011-08-27 18:32
Here's the difference - they are altering the formation by fracking in a way that merely pumping oil out of a formation didn't. They are increasing the porosity by fracturing the rock - and I can see how if you inject fluids into hydro-fractured rock, this could increase the ability of those rocks to slip-slide, especially if pressure is applied to them. Oil drilling injected fluids which were denser into the formation which forced the less-dense hydrocarbons out, in some cases...but if they altered porosity, it would be to decrease it by removing oil and not replacing it to fill the pore spaces, so compaction could occur. (That happens in water-bearing formations all the time - the aquifer compacts and its water-bearing abilities are forever decreased)
 
 
-1 # jtom 2011-08-25 20:51
They don't want to introduce serface water into the wells as it may have bactieria or germs that they don't to put into new places, such as deep into
the earth where they have never been before.
 
 
+26 # Byronator 2011-08-25 21:09
And now fracking is going to be introduced into northern California, I recently read. How felony stupid IS our species with the stupidest being the arrogant and greedy corporate interests who are driving all life on this planet to premature extinction?
 
 
-3 # Interested Observer 2011-08-27 06:03
Premature? If you have access to the schedule for the existence of life on earth, please share. Consider humanity in the same way as we regard supervolcanoes and asteroids, just another large catastrophe that can cause an extinction event for which the exact time of impact is unknown.
 
 
+7 # Aaron Tovish 2011-08-26 01:03
I have a Masters Degree in Earth and Planetary Sciences from UCLA, but I am not a practicing geologist.
Earthquakes (Q) between plates a common; those occurring within a plate are rare. Several mechanisms can be attributed to the presence of the stress that is released by the Q. It can be residual stress left over from when there was a plate boundary. When the N. American plate collided with the African plate hundreds of millions of years ago, the Appalachians were created. Some stress from that event could still be locked in the old plate boundary. Later the African plate pulled away creating the N. Atlantic, but it left behind the US E.Coast. This set up conditions for a new source of stress. As sediments eroding from the then much higher Appalachians was deposited off the new continental shelf, their weight pulled down of the E. Coast inducing stress.
So within plates all over the world, these and other mechanisms have created stresses. The question is what RELEASES the stress in the form of a Q? (to be continued)
 
 
+8 # Aaron Tovish 2011-08-26 01:03
(continued from previous comment)
Old fault lines are the most likely place for stress to be released since the rock has already been weakened there. Pressure which, unlike stress, is omni-dimensiona l actually PREVENTS stress from being released. Injection of fluids, be it for gas or geothermal only very insignificantly increases the pressure (which in itself would be positive), what it does however is LUBRICATE the fault zone, thereby DECREASING it ability to resist the pre-existing stress. It some case this leads to large Qs. It is possible that this is the case in Virginia.
Obviously, the release of stress can only occur where the stress already exists, i.e. locally. Although 'locally' can sometimes be a very large area, as in the recent Japanese monster Q, over 1000 times move powerful than Virginia's. Since the stress release is sudden, the rock movement generates earth 'shock-waves' that propagate far beyond the epicenter. Such propagation is particular efficient in continental crust, thus a relatively minor Q was felt quite far away. The powerful 1812 New Madrid Q was felt throughout N. America.
 
 
+4 # Linda Gustafson 2011-08-27 18:37
K but Aaron - do you agree that to apply the analogy ppl are making between the Arkansas fracking/mini-E Q swarms and this situation is tenuous? The terrain between the WV fracking and Mineral is WAY more twisted, broken, sheared and - well - discontinous than what you see over in Arkansas. And - great point - the Appalachians are an ancient plate boundary - and there ARE faults throughout, ancient though they may be. Every once in a while - something shifts. It certainly IS possible that fracking in WV adds to the stress - but quantifying that is going to be a huge endeavor.
 
 
+12 # Luc 2011-08-26 05:40
The Netherlands, rarely touched by earthquakes and then mainly in the North of the country where gas fields running empty cause the problem, recently an earthquake was registered in the South, where fracking test sites are currently being opened. Purely coincidental? Maybe not, so there is something to say for this theory.
 
 
+21 # foxtrottango 2011-08-26 07:34
Perhaps Mother Nature is telling us it's time for human depopulation. There is too much greed, violence, mayhem, killings on the planet today.

Global Warming is just the tip of the iceberg, to say the least.

Japan has already poisoned itself. Who's next?

But the biggest threat is the Republican Party which says it will help only if the rich stays rich and poor gets poorer.

America, are you listening?
 
 
+1 # wisc 2011-08-26 10:22
Foxtrottango,
I agree to some degree, there do seem to be more greedy self interested money grabbing republicans driving things like this. But quite honestly the super conservatives are just as bad as the super liberals: too polarizing. True bipatrisanship is the onnly hope for common sense and good balanced judgement to enter into the decisions that need to be made.
 
 
+12 # wisc 2011-08-26 08:05
Fracking stupid if this kind of evidence exists and it is allowed to continue. But of course, oil companies have powerful lobbies and without 'absolute proof' they will likely say they have a right to compete globally for oil. It will take an earthquake leveling the homes and special interest businesses of some of those in congress and the senate for them to feel the pain and do something about it.
 
 
+4 # Jane 2011-08-26 08:44
Par 7 begins:

"Out West, geologists have blamed fracking ON earthquakes..." [I have added upper to highlight my concern]
Russia Today, Did you mean "FOR" instead of "ON"? Either way, please explain. Thanks. Jane
 
 
+13 # susienoodle 2011-08-26 19:42
pls check out the documentary that was on HBO earlier this year, called Gasland by Josh Fox. It showed how fracking contaminated the water supply and folks could light a match to their faucets when they turned on them on. Contaminating the water supply is reason enough not to allow it, let alone the possibility it causes earthquakes. And naturally, under Cheney, there was no regulation of this practice. The damage inflicted by the rethugs never ends.
 
 
+3 # Critical Thinker 2011-08-26 21:09
The epicenter location is not near any plate boundary. The reason for shaking over a great distance was due to the cold and rigid nature of the earth's crust in eastern North America, whether or not hydraulic fracturing might have caused the quake. Obviously Mr. Eagle is not a geologist, or at least he does not understand the transmission of seismic energy through the crust, vs. the cause of an earthquake.
 
 
+9 # noitall 2011-08-27 18:24
Fracking is bad. Need proof? And what would that be? loss of fresh water aquafers? land slides, sink holes? Is it worth it to risk all that so some A hole can make a profit? With this price on energy would it be worse to not have it? I think not. Without this energy, someone will come up with a healthy solution. As long as this path is taken, there is less pressure for better long-term solutions. Fracking is not a solution, it is a compounding of the problem.
 
 
-6 # ReasonVoiceOf 2011-08-28 09:46
Being a Geophysical Engineer (and scientist), I am not going to rule-out a possible linkage. This only because it has not been scientifically proven or disproven via empirical and controlled experiment. Developing a controlled experiment for such a test would seem highly problematic given the scale (I.e., earth's crust) and little issue of geologic time scale. How can we say that such a quake is "rare" when only measured for a few hundred years at best in mankind's observations of such geologic phenomena? Not knowing the depth of the actual epicenter, my gut on the matter is
that fracking was not involved- the activity would be far too shallow and insignificant in scope at the scale we are talking. Could fracking be bad for the environment? Sure, like every human activity if not well managed. What about focusing on groundwater contamination from ALL gas stations? Far more pervasive. The EPA says statistically that 1 of 3 underground tanks leak. Well, each gas station has at least 3 tanks - do the math. There are trade-offs if we
want to progress. As long as such activities are managed responsibility and reasonably, my opinion is that we should move forward.
 
 
+4 # Glen 2011-08-29 13:11
You lost me with the word "progress", Reason. Much of what human activities have created is not progress; it is regression and destruction.

Certainly, you have brought up what many of us have witnessed, such as underground tanks in gas stations. That is why gas stations were required to pull them out (again) to be placed above ground. The leakage was evident in my area, into a local river. Certainly there are other other sources of pollution.

The fracking argument begs observation as much as scientific method. As I stated in a post initially in this thread, there is much pollution that actually has been documented as arising from fracking methods. What is injected in the process is deadly, and what is released can also, as documented, actually be ignited in tap water.

As far as the practice causing large or minor earthquakes, you might want to take the time to research local observation and effects of fracking. Long time residents where fracking is taking place are more than capable, without hysteria, of relating recent events as opposed to the past of non-events relative to earth movement.

According to a truck driver I recently talked with, and who hauls fracking material, fracking is taking place in MANY places. Consider the consequences of numerous, explosive events.
 

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