"Fracking triggered a 4.4-magnitude earthquake in northeastern B.C. last year, CBC News has learned, making it one of world's largest earthquakes ever triggered by the controversial process.
B.C.'s Oil and Gas Commission confirmed the cause of the earthquake in an email statement to CBC this week, saying it was "triggered by fluid injection during hydraulic fracturing."
The 4.4-magnitude quake was felt in Fort St. John and Fort Nelson in August 2014. It was preceded by a 3.8-magnitude earthquake in late July, also caused by fracking.
B.C.'s Oil and Gas Commission told CBC that several companies were doing hydraulic fracturing in the area at the time, and several more were disposing of fracking waste.
But the commission says it was Progress Energy's operations that were "associated with triggering this event."
Hydraulic fracturing, often called fracking, is the process of injecting water, sand and chemicals at high pressure deep underground to break rock and free gas.
Since the 2014 earthquake, Progress Energy has been ordered to reduce the volume of fracking fluid being used, and the company has complied, according to the commission.
As well, new seismic equipment has been set up in the area. No new earthquakes have been detected in the immediate area."
"Evidence continues to mount that the natural gas supply chain carries an enormous amount of environmental baggage as well as community welfare issues.
This week was a particularly bad one for the natural gas industry, with the release of two government reports in the U.S. and one in the U.K."
"Between 1973 and 2008, the average number of earthquakes of magnitude 3 or more in the central and eastern U.S. was 21. Between 2009 and 2013, that number was 99. And last year alone, there were 659."
"Drawing a direct comparison with fracking technology chief scientist Mark Walport’s annual report said: “History presents plenty of examples of innovation trajectories that later proved to be problematic — for instance involving asbestos, benzene, thalidomide, dioxins, lead in petrol, tobacco, many pesticides, mercury, chlorine and endocrine-disrupting compounds, as well as CFCs, high-sulphur fuels and fossil fuels in general."
"The development of hydraulic fracturing technologies over the past 30 years or so has made extraction of shale gas economically feasible and attractive prices have allowed the industry to expand rapidly. An abundance of gas in the marketplace pushed down prices in 2011-2012 and the expansion of the industry has slowed somewhat. Information in the peer-reviewed scientific literature with respect to adverse environmental and health impacts from shale gas extraction is now beginning to appear. A number of these articles are available for free download and I would encourage people to read them, rather than accept the interpretations that appear in various media (or my interpretations, for that matter). It is fine to have opinions, but much better to have opinions based in verifiable data. Then we can have a rational discussion."
"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 wastewater 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."
Last month, the towns of Dryden and Middlefield, New York, represented by Earthjustice, triumphed over the fracking industry after the state’s highest court ruled that the towns can use local zoning laws to ban heavy industry within their borders. The ruling gives legal backing to the more than 170 New York municipalities that have passed measures to protect residents from the impacts of the controversial oil and gas development technique. It also gives a green light to the dozens of other towns in New York and elsewhere who have been waiting for today’s decision to pass their own local bans.
"“The fracking fire appears to have left a miles-long trail of death and destruction in its wake with thousands of dead fish and wildlife floating belly up in this once pristine stream,” Nathan Johnson, staff attorney for the Ohio Environmental Council. “This may be unprecedented, perhaps the biggest Ohio fish kill in memory related to the oil and gas industry.”
The fire occurred on the Eisenbarth well pad, near the West Virginia border, after fracking fluid tubes malfunctioned. The fire spread from the tubes to about 20 trucks that were lined on the pad. It could have killed the crayfish, minnows and smallmouth bass that died as far as 5 miles away from the site."
"Between 1978 and 2008, Oklahoma had just two earthquakes with a magnitude over 3.0. In 2014, thus far, there have been around 200 such earthquakes there, more even than the highly unstable state of California. (They've had 140.) Experts believe the unusual increase in earthquakes is linked to the number of wastewater wells connected to oil and gas drilling."
"In 2011, at least half the wastewater stored in Ohio came from out of state, according to the Environment Ohio Research & Policy Center. Many Ohio environmentalists object to taking other states’ waste − partly because the fracking boom has resulted in some shady practices.
“Dumping seems to be a really ongoing problem,” explains Julie Weatherington-Rice, senior scientist at Bennett & Williams Environmental Consultants in Ohio. “We’re seeing dumping down old mineshafts and dumping on roads where the spigot at the end of the tank is [allowed] to dribble all the way to the [disposal] well.”
In March, a Youngstown company admitted it had dumped thousands of gallons of waste into a stormwater sewer feeding into a river system. Testing revealed that the waste contained benzene, which is a known carcinogen, and toluene, a nervous system toxicant.
If concrete wellbores or seals at the wellhead are misaligned or corroded, methane and chemicals can migrate into potable water aquifers − something that the small town of Dimock, Pennsylvania, learned the hard way in 2009.
Most Dimock residents have individual water wells. Shortly after Cabot Oil and Gas began fracking in the area, a resident’s backyard water well exploded. After it was determined that Cabot’s operations were the source of the methane contamination, a consent agreement with the state required Cabot to supply Dimock’s drinking water.
But the state allowed Cabot to stop supplying water in 2011, without testing residents’ well water, according to a report by StateImpact, a project of National Public Radio stations."
"In central Oklahoma, a cluster of four high-volume wastewater injection wells triggered quakes up to 30 miles (about 50 kilometers) away, said lead study author Katie Keranen, a geophysicist at Cornell University in New York. The earthquakes have since spread farther outward, as fluids migrate farther from the massive injection wells, she said.
"These are some of the biggest wells in the state," Keranen said. "The pressure is high enough from the injected fluids to trigger earthquakes.""
""Making fracking safe is simply not possible, not with the current technology, or with the inadequate regulations being proposed," Louis Allstadt, former executive vice president of Mobil Oil, said during a news conference in Albany called by the anti-fracking group Elected Officials to Protect New York."
For the past four years the gas lobby has used the economic crisis in Europe to tell countries like Greece that the way out of debt and desperation is to open their beautiful and fragile seas to drilling. And it has employed similar arguments to rationalise fracking across North America and the United Kingdom.
Now the crisis du jour is conflict in Ukraine, being used as a battering ram to knock down sensible restrictions on natural gas exports and push through a controversial free-trade deal with Europe. It's quite a deal: more corporate free-trade polluting economies and more heat-trapping gases polluting the atmosphere – all as a response to an energy crisis that is largely manufactured.
Against this backdrop it's worth remembering – irony of ironies – that the crisis the natural gas industry has been most adept at exploiting is climate change itself.
Nearly half (47%) of oil and gas wells recently hydraulically fractured in the U.S. are in regions with high or extremely high water stress.
Ceres’ latest research on this topic, Hydraulic Fracturing & Water Stress: Water Demand by the Numbers, provides first-of-its-kind data on the various water sourcing risks facing oil and gas companies in 8 regions of intense shale development in the United States and Canada. It shines a spotlight on the volumes of water used for hydraulic fracturing by specific companies and puts regional industry water use into the context of local water stress, groundwater depletion and drought. It provides investors, lenders, and regulators recommendations for how oil and gas companies and their service providers can minimize their water demands and reduce their impacts on communities and the environment.
In late 2013, official documents obtained under freedom of information showed that Canada's domestic spy agency, the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS), had ramped up its surveillance of activists opposed to the Northern Gateway pipeline project on 'national security' grounds. The CSIS also routinely passed information about such groups to the project's corporate architect, Calgary-based energy company, Enbridge.
Fracking wells generally consume between 2 and 10 million gallons of water in their lifetime. If every potential well in California identified by the U.S. Energy Information Agency were to be fracked, some 5 billion gallons of water would be required, according to Oil Change International.
Polls show Californians oppose expanded fracking in the Golden State and 65 percent of Californians say the state should act immediately to cut greenhouse gas emissions.
The companies that once operated the wells have all but vanished into the prairie, many seeking bankruptcy protection and unable to pay the cost of reclaiming the land they leased. Recent estimates have put the number of abandoned drilling operations in Wyoming at more than 1,200, and state officials said several thousand more might soon be orphaned by their operators.
Published in the journal Endocrinology, the study examined 12 endocrine-disrupting chemicals (both suspected and known) found in fracking fluid--which typically contains over 700 chemicals in total--in a lab. "We found that the majority disrupted estrogen or androgen signaling," says Susan Nagel, the lead author of the study and a researcher in obstetrics, gynecology, and women's health at the University of Missouri.
Next, the researchers took surface and ground water samples from areas near drilling accidents in the fracking-heavy area of Garfield County, Colorado. Compared to water samples in areas with less or no fracking activity, the samples taken from areas near Garfield's drilling sites had moderate to high levels of endocrine-disrupting activity, the study found. Samples from the Colorado River, which acts as a drainage basin for local drilling sites, also had moderate endocrine-disrupting chemical levels.
"We found about twice the amount of endocrine-disrupting activity in samples as we did in control samples," says Nagel. Keep in mind, these findings affect a lot of people--Garfield County has more than 10,000 active natural gas wells. Fracking sites are found in 17 states; since 2005, over 80,000 wells have been drilled or given permits.
Natural gas is mostly methane (CH4), a potent heat-trapping gas. If, as now seems likely, natural gas production systems leak 2.7% (or more), then gas-fired power loses its near-term advantage over coal and becomes more of a gangplank than a bridge. Worse, without a carbon price, some gas displaces renewable energy, further undercutting any benefit it might have had.
Fifteen scientists from some of the leading institutions in the world — including Harvard, NOAA and Lawrence Berkeley National Lab — have published a seminal study, “Anthropogenic emissions of methane in the United States.” Crucially, it is based on “comprehensive atmospheric methane observations, extensive spatial datasets, and a high-resolution atmospheric transport model,” rather than the industry-provided numbers EPA uses.
Environmentalists won’t stop the shale gas craze. Neither will federal regulators. But a lack of water could possibly do so. And that is why drillers are looking for new ways to find water supplies — or fresh water supplies would be jeopardized as a result of fossil fuel development.