Hydraulic fracturing, also known as hydrofracturing or fracking, is another method used by the oil and gas industry to release hydrocarbons from deep below the earth’s surface. To fracture rock formations, companies must drill a vertical shaft into the earth, often penetrating some two or three kilometres.
A horizontal well bore is drilled in an area believed to contain trapped natural gas or oil. Under high pressure, a cocktail of chemicals, water, and sand are pumped into the well. This pressure creates fissures/cracks/fractures in the shale formation, from which oil and gas can escape.
Despite the dangers and inefficiency of this process, fracking continues. It wreaks havoc on the environment and has also been linked to earthquakes.
In fact, up here in Canada, earthquakes are being induced by oil and gas hydraulic fracking operations, and despite the fact that a strong correlation between hydraulic fracturing earthquakes has been documented for a few years, it’s still a big problem that these powerful, unethical corporations are able to do what they want, regardless of what the majority of people clearly desire, and that’s no fracking.
Up until now, a detailed mechanism of how this process occurs has not been clearly understood or identified, but a new study from the University of Calgary study, titled “Fault Activation by Hydraulic Fracturing in Western Canada“ has successfully imaged some of the pre-existing fault architecture near hydraulic fracturing operations and discovered that fracking can trigger quakes through two processes.
According to David Eaton, professor of geophysics and co-author of the study:
“This study has provided extraordinary new details about processes of fault activation by pore pressure increase of stress changes. We can now begin to address important questions – the ‘how’ and ‘why’ of seismicity induced by hydraulic fracturing – that previously were not discernible.”
For the study, the researchers analyzed seismic data from winter 2015 until the present day. After a magnitude 4 quake in the Fox Creek, Alberta area, they they compiled data from several different seismograph stations and monitors they installed in the area. They also used a database of hydraulic fracturing data from each well in the area.
In doing so, and after creating a database of 905 events, they were able to correlate seismic events to specific operations at individual wells.
What’s also encouraging about this study is the fact that Repsol Oil & Gas Canada Inc. and Canadian Discovery Ltd. provided data for the study.
University-industry partnerships are great, and if there is no scientific fraud going on, it can be a great source of information to gain access to data and understand everything.
Two Distinct Process Revealed
As the press release from University of Calgary points out:
“Their image of seismic activity reveals a pre-existing but previously undetected fault system running parallel to two horizontally drilled wells. In one strand of the fault, hydraulic fracturing in both wells triggered small earthquakes by imposing mechanical stresses on the rock formations beneath the hydrocarbons-bearing zone – causing the fault to slip.”
The movement on the fault stopped when hydraulic fracturing operations ceased! That’s pretty huge, and the researchers eventually discovered that persistent fracking activity is associated with the infiltration of fracturing fluids into one strand of the fault.
A Little More on Fracking
According to New Scientist in their article “Fracking operations triggered 100 quakes in a year:”
“The new geophysical research, by Won-Young Kim at Columbia University in Palisades, New York, is the latest to suggest that the main risk of earthquakes associated with fracking relates to the way the water used in the operations is disposed of afterwards. In Ohio, the wastewater was injected into a deep well. This raised the pressure of water within the rock and triggered 109 small quakes between January 2011 and February 2012. The largest, on 31 December 2011, had a magnitude of 3.9.”
The U.S. Geological Survey recently released findings that directly connected fracking to the dramatic increase of earthquakes in the United States over the past few years. According to the study, between 1973 and 2008 there was an average of 21 earthquakes of a magnitude 3 or larger on the Richter scale in the Central and Eastern United States. This increased to 99 M3+ earthquakes per year between 2009 and 2013, and this number is still rising. (source)
A recent study by a Cornell University-led research team, published in the National Academy of Sciences, also underscored the risks of these operations. The report, which examined 41,000 conventional and unconventional oil and gas wells in Pennsylvania, revealed that many of the oil and gas wells tapping the Marcellus Shale region of Pennsylvania are leaking methane gas, either into the air or into underground sources of drinking water. (source)