Reuters, National Post
Wednesday, January 4, 2012
With mounting evidence linking hundreds of small earthquakes from Oklahoma to Ohio to the energy industry’s growing use of fracking technology, scientists say there is one way to minimize risks of even minor temblors. Only, it costs about million a pop.
A thorough seismic survey to assess tracts of rock below where oil and gas drilling fluid is disposed of could help detect quake prone areas.
But that would be far more costly than the traditional method of drilling a bore hole, which takes a limited sample of a rock formation but gives no hint of faults lines or plates.
The more expensive method will be a hard sell as long as irrefutable proof of the link between fracking and earthquakes remains elusive.
“If we knew what was in the earth we could perfectly mitigate the risk of earthquakes,” said Austin Holland, seismologist at the Oklahoma Geological Survey. “That is something that we don’t have enough science to establish yet.”
A 4.0 New Year’s Eve quake in Ohio prompted officials to shut down five wells used to dispose of fluid used in the hydraulic fracturing process. That comes less than a year after Arkansas declared a moratorium due to a surge in earthquakes as companies developed the Fayetteville Shale reserve.
Experts say the quakes do not necessarily appear to be caused during the process of fracking, a controversial extraction technique that involves injecting chemical-laced water and sand into shale rock to release oil and gas.
Instead, it’s the need to dispose of millions of gallons of contaminated fluid extracted from each drilling site, either to be recycled or trucked to a separate location to be pumped deep underground.
The pressure caused by water pushed far below the surface for a long period has been linked to an increase in seismic activity, as water enters fissures and lubricates fault lines which can cause earthquakes in places otherwise free of them.
“It basically greases the wheels of the earthquake process that is there naturally and causes the earthquakes to occur at lower stress levels than they might normally have needed to occur,” said Larry Brown who chairs the Department of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York.
Precautions can be taken to mitigate risks of earthquakes near disposal wells, such as lowering injection pressure and avoiding areas with a history of seismic activity, though none of these guarantee total safety.
On paper, the link between fracking and quakes is compelling. As the oil and gas industry embarked on a massive expansion of hydraulic fracturing across Arkansas, Pennsylvania and elsewhere, the number of earthquakes in areas where wastewater was injected back underground surged tenfold.
Data from Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, which had seismographs set up in Youngstown on Saturday, concluded that the earthquake occurred at the same depth as the well, about 2 miles below the surface.
“There is a relationship between when they started to inject into the well and the earthquakes started near the bottom of the well so it is unlikely to be coincidental,” said John Armbruster at Lamont-Doherty.
But some researchers say the link has not been proven.
In Oklahoma, which saw a tenfold increase in earthquakes since 2009 to over 1,000, officials at the Oklahoma Geological Survey (OKGS) say more proof of a link to fracking is needed.
“The strong correlation in time and space as well as a reasonable fit to a physical model suggest that there is a possibility these earthquakes were induced by hydraulic fracturing,” according to a OKGS report released in August. “However, the uncertainties in the data make it impossible to say with a high degree of certainty.”
- Ohio Mayor buys earthquake insurance for fracking; Seeks moratorium (junkscience.com)
- Does fracking cause earthquakes?: Expert in Ohio says, yes. (onthewilderside.com)
- How fracking caused an Ohio earthquake (csmonitor.com)
- Fracking Byproducts May Be Linked To Ohio Quakes (npr.org)
Reuters Jan 4, 2012 – 3:43 PM ET
KHARTOUM — The United Nations has received alarming reports of malnutrition in two Sudanese border states where the army is fighting insurgents, a senior UN official said on Wednesday.
The violence has already forced about 417,000 people to flee their homes, more than 80,000 of them to South Sudan, the United Nations estimates. Locals have faced air raids and sporadic ground fighting, according to rights groups and refugees.
“I received alarming reports with respect to malnutrition and the food situation, particular in areas that are controlled by SPLM-North,” Valerie Amos, UN Under-Secretary General for Humanitarian Affairs, told reporters in Khartoum.
She urged Sudan to lift a ban on international UN staff traveling to both border states.
Since the outbreak of fighting UN agencies and aid groups have only been able to keep small teams of local staff on the ground and the government has stopped any aid workers visiting areas where there has been fighting.
“We need to ensure that the UN capacity, which is there to support government efforts, is made up of a mix of UN staff, national and international, to make sure we have the right skill set of support,” Amos said after talks with Sudanese officials.
Social and Welfare Minister Amira Fadhil told journalists the ban was there to protect foreign workers and would stay in place.
“We fear for the security of foreigners. That’s why we think the presence of a Sudanese organization makes sense. But we want to grant access as soon as possible,” she added.
South Sudan declared independence in July, under the terms of a 2005 peace deal that ended decades of civil war with the Khartoum government.
Both Blue Nile and South Kordofan contain groups who sided with the south in the civil war and say they continue to face persecution inside Sudan.
SPLM-N is one of a groups of rebel movements in underdeveloped border areas who say they are fighting to overthrow Sudan’s President Omar Hassan al-Bashir and end what they see as the dominance of the Khartoum political elite.
Sudan and South Sudan, who still have to resolve a range of issues including the sharing of oil revenues, regularly trade accusations of supporting insurgencies on each other’s territory.
Their armed forces clashed at Jau in a region claimed by both sides last month in a rare direct confrontation.
- The issues: Sudan and South Sudan (guardian.co.uk)
- Report: Fighters attack South Sudan town despite presence of U.N. peacekeepers (cnn.com)
- UNDP reportedly denied access to Sudanese town (devex.com)
“@OmarMash: At least 70 people been killed in #Iraq in sectarian violence, this vicious cycle of Sunni-Shia brutality must end before it’s too late.”
- You: Iraq suicide attack kills 30 (guardian.co.uk)
With General Aziz and his corrupt regime running the country into the ground, is anyone surprised that a pan-Arab gang of spies and terrorists made their home in Mauritania?
By JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
Authorities in the northwestern African country of Mauritania have allegedly busted an Israeli spy network linked to the 2010 assassination of Hamas operative Mahmoud al-Mabhouh in Dubai. One of Mauridania’s leading daily newspapers, Al-Huriyeh, says that the spy ring, which allegedly consisted “businessmen and activists [from] several Arab nationalities”, was uncovered following the arrest of one of its members, identified as Fares al-Banna. A Jordanian citizen of Palestinian extraction, al-Banna was arrested for larceny, which eventually lead to a warrant issued for searching his premises. Upon searching his house, authorities reportedly found a handwritten letter, addressed to the Ambassador of the United Arab Emirates in Mauritanian capital Nouakchott, in which al-Banna claimed had been recruited by Israeli intelligence agency Mossad. In the letter, al-Banna also claimed that he had participated in the January 2010 assassination of Hamas weapons procurer Mahmoud al-Mabhouh in Dubai…
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