No Fracking Way

Fracking Induced Seismic Events: Ohio Frackquakes

by Chip Northrup on March 12, 2014

Shown below are excerpts from a letter about the recent seismic events in Ohio from Dr. Ray Beiersdorfer, a geology professor at Youngstown State University, published online in its entirety here: Fracking Induced Seismic Events

Induced Seismic Events Related to Hydraulic Fracturing of Shale

There have been five shallow earthquakes in close proximity to a shale gas fracking site in northeast Ohio very close to the Pennsylvania border (http://tinyurl.com/5th-earthquake).  The first was a M 3 earthquake on Monday March 10th at 2:26 am. It was located east of Poland, OH between Hwy 224 and the Carbon-Limestone Landfill (owned by Republic Services.)  The initial quake was followed by three aftershocks of M 2.4, 2.2 and 2.6 during the next ten hours. The most recent one M 2.1 occurred the following day at 3:01 a.m. The five epicenters are probably closer together than initially reported and the real depth is most likely somewhere between the 2.5 km attributed to the first quake and the 5.0 km depths reported for the three aftershocks. According to the permit for one of the wells at the site the horizontal leg is at a depth 8,100 feet (2.5 km). The pre-Cambrian basement is about 9600 feet below the surface in this location – approximately 1,500 feet below the horizontal shale gas wells.

Simply put, the longitude, latitude and depth of the shale well laterals are within a few thousand feet from the epicenters of the earthquakes. Here is a copy of the well completion report.

frackquakes  

Magnitude 3.0 earthquake as recorded at the Youngstown State University seismometer (http://earthquake.usgs.gov/monitoring/netquakes/station/YSLD_LD_01/)

five ohio frackquakes_epicenters

Proximity of the five reported epicenters to the Carbon Limestone landfill ((http://tinyurl.com/5th-earthquake)

The ODNR well-locator shows that there are numerous horizontal shale-gas fracking wells near the epicenters.  The map depicts 12 horizontal wells stemming from two drill pads, many of the wells are drilled beneath the landfill. The ODNR has ordered the operator of the wells Houston, Texas based Hilcorp to halt all operations at the site. According to the New York Times the company was in the process of fracking one of the wells when the seismicity started. The closeness of the earthquakes to the landfill brings up major concerns regarding  potential damage to the integrity of the landfill liner as well as  the landfill’s methane and leachate recovery systems. As reported in the New York Times

Ohio Frackquakes

Reported epicenter of the first earthquake in relation to the shale-gas fracking at the location based on the ODNR well-locator (http://oilandgas.ohiodnr.gov/well-information/oil-gas-well-locator)

These recent earthquakes are located approximately 13 miles southeast of the epicenters of the 109 earthquakes caused by an injection well in Youngstown in 2011 and 2012. The two faults identified by Dr. Won-Yong Kim of Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory as the two faults that moved as a result of the Youngstown injection well trend ENE-WSW and appear to be unrelated to this activity.  In statements reported by the media both the Ohio Department of Natural Resources ODNR and the Oil and Gas Company Hilcorp pointed out that the earthquakes are not near any active Class II injection well activity.  Reading between the lines both the regulator and company seem to be implying that by, ruling out injection induced seismicity this somehow rules out other forms of human induced seismicity, such as the fracking that was going on at the same time and same location as the earthquakes.

I  find ODNR’s focus on injection-induced seismicity as a bit ironic, since as recently as 2011 these regulator were avidly denying injection-induced seismicity in Youngstown, even after we suffered eight regional-size earthquakes. Research concluded that the earthquakes were induced by frackwaste disposal wells.

(Note: the ODNR is already changing its story, pointing out to the press that there are disposal wells in the area: What they are not saying is that those disposal wells had been closed by the ODNR:  “However, according to ODNR, there are four injection wells drilled in the area around Lowellville. It is unclear whether they are in operation.” According to fractracker.org, the wells are “Non-Receiving” Class II Injection Wells, which had been closed by the ODNR.

Coitsville: “Northstar Collins,” “Northstar Khalil”
Beaver Twp: “Northstar Lucky”
Springfield Twp: “Mohawk Printup”

http://maps.fractracker.org/latest/?appid=2a68b20a338f464da12d6e8f1cb66c08)

The October 30, 2011 issue of The Youngstown Vindicator  quoted the ODNR spokesperson as saying “ODNR has not seen any evidence that shows a correlation between localized seismic activity and deep injection well disposal.” When I give public presentations on shale gas in Ohio I ask the audience to identify any difference between the regulator and the regulated industry whose spokesperson was quoted as saying “There’s no data linking the well to earthquakes” in the same article.  The president of the injection well company, Ben Lupo, is currently on trial for illegally dumping contaminated waste into a stream after the disposal well was shut down.

fracck regulator_vs_industry

Image used in public presentations where I challenge the audience to tell the difference between the regulator and the regulated industry.

Spokesperson Mark Bruce said the ODNR is using all available resources to determine the exact circumstances surrounding the event and will “take the appropriate actions necessary to protect public health and safety.” According to the company “Hilcorp always strives to be a good neighbor and responsible corporate citizen in the communities we operate in. We welcome the inquiry into exactly what happened in Poland and encourage state inspectors to provide the community with as (sic) information as possible.”  I hope that “all available resources” includes deploying the portable seismometers ODNR acquired after the Youngstown quakes in order to pinpoint the locations and depths of any future earthquakes. I have e-mailed the head of ODNR’s underground injection program asking if and when they will deploy the units. I also hope that the company and ODNR do provide the community with the information (especially the drilling and fracking data at the site) that allows us to make an unbiased assessment regarding any correlations between the fracking and the earthquakes.

I wish I could be more confident than just hoping that ODNR does the right thing, but after this regulatory agency appeared to be providing cover for the company they were supposed to be regulating during the Youngstown earthquakes and the recently exposed ODNR propaganda campaign to convince Ohioans that fracking in the state parks was a good idea, I have lost most of my confidence in the Oil and Gas Division of ODNR.  I do however currently trust the ODNR Division of Geology (disclaimer: the new Ohio State Geologist is a YSU Alumni and a decades-long acquaintance.) I have contacted both the company and ODNR requesting to be included in any official statements but I have not yet received any response.

Note: Ohio regulators have conspired with the gas industry to discredit whistleblowers.

Right now there is a good correlation in both time and space between the fracking and the earthquakes.  If there are more earthquakes after fracking is resumed and the foci of the earthquakes are pinpointed in close proximity to the wells, or fluid migration from the wells can be documented towards deeper earthquakes in the basement rocks, we may have another well-documented case of fracking-induced seismicity. The current working hypothesis that the earthquakes are related to the fracking, if proven correct, this would not be the first documented case of fracking causing earthquakes.

The British Columbia (Canada) Oil and gas Commission documented fracking caused earthquakes in the Horn River Basin (http://tinyurl.com/fracking-earthquakes-BC) .  These earthquakes caused damage to the horizontal legs of existing wells. This brings up a major concern regarding the existing wells at the Ohio site as well as potential damage to the integrity of the landfill liner and the methane and leachate recovery systems. Fracking induced earthquakes have also been documented in Oklahoma (http://tinyurl.com/fracking-earthquakes-OK) and in the United Kingdom (http://tinyurl.com/fracking-earthquakes-UK).

Dr. Ray Beiersdorfer
Professor of Geology
Dept. of Geological & Environmental Sciences
Youngstown State University
Youngstown, Ohio 4455

Links to the earthquakes

M 3.0

http://earthquake.usgs.gov/earthquakes/eventpage/ld60034308#summary

M 2.4

http://earthquake.usgs.gov/earthquakes/eventpage/ld60034403#summary

M2.2

http://earthquake.usgs.gov/earthquakes/eventpage/ld60034408#summary

M2.6

http://earthquake.usgs.gov/earthquakes/eventpage/ld60065316#summary

M 2.1

http://earthquake.usgs.gov/earthquakes/eventpage/ld60034503#summary

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