Does Fracking Cause Earthquakes?


Sixty Minutes sent a reporter to Oklahoma to find out if the significant upswing of earthquakes being experienced there is the result of fracking. He interviewed a number of home owners and a visiting geologist, and they convinced him that, yes, fracking is the cause.

Steven Hayward of “Powerlineblog.com” located a video from Stanford University’s Department of Earth Science that says their study finds that fracking is not the cause.

Before you view the 4 minute video, it probably will be helpful to have a little background on “produced water” which is central to the topic.

When wells are drilled they often encounter water which comes up with the oil or natural gas. This water is usually salty and/or has other contaminates so it can not be used for agriculture. This water is typically reinjected into the well for disposal. But sometimes the quantity is too great and other means of disposal must be found. Underground disposal in sites drilled deeply into the Earth is often used for this purpose. Produced water has long disposed of in this manner.

Other details about produced water will be provided after you see the video. Please note the speaker is very clear that the fracking is not the problem.

More background:

John Veil at the Ground Water Protection Council—Underground Injection Control Conference in February 2015 presented “New Information On Produced Water Volumes and Management Practices”.

There are nearly 1 million oil and gas wells in the US that generate large volumes of Produced Water.

He reported the estimated volume of produce water in 2007 21 billion bbl for the year.

Ninety-eight percent goes into injection wells.

His summary for the period from 2007 to 2012

US oil production increased by 29%.

US gas production increased by 22%

US produced water decreased by 2.4%

Viel notes:

Here is my hypothesis

  • Conventional production generates a small initial volume of water that gradually increases over time. The total lifetime water production from each well can be high
  • Unconventional production from shales and coal seams generates a large amount of produced water initially but the volume drops off, leading to a low lifetime water production from each well
  • Between 2007 and 2012, many new unconventional wells were placed into service and many old conventional wells (with high water cuts) were taken out of service
  • The new wells generated more hydrocarbon for each unit of water than the older wells they replaced.

So the conventional wells with hig levels of produced water were replace by fracked wells that generate less produced water per unit of production.

So, yes oil production, if ceased,  would probably make a big reduction in Oklahoma eartthquates. But fracking per se has not caused the problem. The  energy that is being released little by little will probably benefit someone  in the future.  I suspect if I lived there it would not be a big selling point. But of course,  oil and gas production are  the  big selling points to the people in the “oil patch.”

cbdakota

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