Earthquakes find their way to Ohio, as a 4.0 magnitude quake shakes things up in Northeastern Ohio. And while Ohio DNR definitely won’t blame fracking for the earthquakes, they’re certainly not taking chances, shuttering 4 other wells around the epicenter out near Youngstown, along I-80. Comparatively to the Oklahoma series of quakes, it’s no big news, but it’s now a growing set of coincidences that just can’t be ignored anymore.
As experts do say, fracking doesn’t cause these quakes. Scientists are pretty sure that the 5.0 magnitude quakes are not man-made, but they’re also far from just accidental and unrelated to digging holes into the ground, sucking out shale, and then replacing it with mud and water.
In fact, fracking also doesn’t represent a serious stability concern in general. But it does have uncertainty when we discover (as we did in Oklahoma), that there was a fault line in the area where both fracking and these “uncommon” earthquakes were forming.
Unless you’re a 2012′er, of course, the combination of man-made meddling and large rocky gaps in the Earth’s crust is definitely no bueno. It’s interesting to hear people fall over themselves as well, trying to avoid saying out loud, that making holes in or near fault lines can contribute to earthquakes, something I’ve already been aware of since Christopher Walken and A View To A Kill.
A geologist will tell you that there’s really no comparison between a fracking earthquake and a real wicked earthquake. There’s just too much energy in the equation. But that doesn’t mean the injection well was innocent, and unrelated to the event. In fact, just watching a great sales video for the CobraMax DM is enough education to remind you how fracking can exploit existing natural fractures in the earth (you know, the kinds that naturally cause earthquakes!)
So while everyone’s poking sticks into the ground all-confused-like, let’s also wonder what will happen the day we accidentally frack our way into a real fault line, because we are that addicted to energy. And then, let’s consider consequences if buildings are subjected to stresses and ground acceleration not expected in building code. To say the least, it’s in our best interest to know if earthquakes can occur close to tall buildings that aren’t rated for earthquakes in general, right?
Our problem is that there are so many things going on underground, it’s hard to determine what causes what. But some examples are pretty blatant, and should provide more evidence that all that we do on the surface isn’t just coincidence. For example, in Indonesia, there is the Sidoarjo mud flow, which has been erupting since a gas kick on a natural gas well created this spectacle of energy addiction. We’re just as culpable for energy demand, especially with the new demand for electric vehicles (electricity doesn’t just come from the plug), and the existing demand required by a growing economy (if we are so lucky).
So there’s the rub. And even a good skeptic should know what the difference is between a real concern and an imagined one. But even the skeptic realizes that in ideal conditions, something can go horribly wrong. And people and their government must make a risk assessment. We should be able to have all the information at hand before a vote or authorization for deeper drilling, but even the scientists are befuddled. And that’s the recipe for disaster down the line.
But yet here we are. Ohio DNR can say there’s no relation, though they just closed the surrounding wells, and interestingly, claim that backplugging a well is a solution. In fact, after watching the awesome effectiveness of the CobraMax DM video above, do you really think they can just fill in everything they just dug out? Or that we’re so technically capable of knowing what we just had done was safe, even as earthquakes continue to plague sites that are specifically the same spots as fracked wells? It’s harder to deny this, because unlike global warming, earthquakes are awful obvious.
And it’s likely the Ohio wells aren’t being dug out by the impressive and ingenious tools we see advertised. Maybe it’s a cruder version, or worse, a less accurate device. In that case, how can we be so sure all the stuff we’re doing down there is fixed? The Gulf Oil Spill was basically a pocket of gas that escaped back up the pipe until it ignited on the rig. That kick was, in essence, a fracture left unnoticed. I still don’t think we could’ve prevented or predicted the size and strength of kick of the Macondo well, but at the same time, I hold no quarter for BP and anyone else both in private and public position who lied about the amount of oil spewing every day.
Same goes for anyone who wants to quiet the real concern about wells and their convenient earthquake reminders.
This is something Michigan DNR will have to face soon, as the Collingwood-Utica play begins to gather interest from energy investors. The forefront of new energy is fast-approaching, and we ourselves are starting up our own series of injection wells. Gas plays are starting to generate enough economic interest to find investment, and the money is definitely in these deep well systems. Michigan DEQ suggests a spacing of wells (due to the possibility of chemical pollution of the local aquifers), and seems to be more cautious than other states, noting that most of our fracking processes are shallow, and of low volume currently. But future wells will push the envelope, and require deeper wells and permits to allow the same processes that may have helped push Nature along.
It worries me that while the quakes are high-profile, the demand for science to answer the questions isn’t on the map. We have realtime examples of what happens when fractured earth is disturbed in the Gulf, and in Indonesian mud volcanoes. We now see that there is far more causality than coincidence when multiple earthquakes just happen to be in the exact same areas as fracked/injection wells.
But let’s also admit our addiction. If we weren’t so starved for drilling, we wouldn’t have BP. If we weren’t so starved for energy in general, we wouldn’t be digging the ground out from under our own feet. Don’t let him drink your milkshake. Mako out.