Fracking: Ohio Establishes Tough Regulations After Disposal Wells Cause 12 Earthquakes

Fri, 2012-03-09 14:44Nathanael Baker
Nathanael Baker's picture

Fracking: Ohio Establishes Tough Regulations After Disposal Wells Cause 12 Earthquakes

State officials have determined that at least 12 earthquakes that occurred in Ohio last December were caused by the injection of brine into hydraulic fracturing disposal wells.  As a result of its findings [pdf], the state has established the nation's “toughest regulations” for the fracking disposal wells.

Brine is a toxic by-product of the fracking process.  According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the safest way to dispose of it is to store it in underground wells.  However, as residents of Youngstown, Ohio discovered, this technique can cause seismic shifts – the largest of the 12 earthquakes registered 4.0 on the Richter scale.

Originally, geologists were skeptical the earthquakes were caused by the drilling of disposal wells and the subsequent injection of brine; but, after conducting in-depth research, they concluded this process did indeed facilitate the quakes: 

“After investigating all available geological formation and well activity data, ODNR [Ohio Department of Natural Resources] regulators and geologists found a number of co-occurring circumstances strongly indicating the Youngstown area earthquakes were induced. Specifically, evidence gathered by state officials suggests fluid from the Northstar 1 disposal well intersected an unmapped fault in a near-failure state of stress causing movement along that fault.”

So, the state has decided to adopt strict regulations in regards to brine disposal wells. Today, the Ohio Department of Natural Resources announced a set of regulations which it believes will eliminate any future occurrence of fracking induced earthquakes. 

The most notable of these are: the requirement of gas companies to submit extensive geological data to the ODNR before drilling; mandated implementation of state-of-the-art pressure monitoring systems at well sites; and prohibition of any new wells from being drilled in the Precambrian basement rock formation.

The new regulations are particularly important for Ohioians, as the state sits on a sizable chunk of the Marcellus Shale – the world's largest known deposit of shale gas.

As ODNR Director James Zehringer said in a statement, “Ohioans demand smart environmental safeguards that protect our environment and promote public health. These new standards accomplish this goal.”

The EPA states there are 144,000 Class II disposal wells across the country; gas companies are injecting 2 billion gallons of brine into these wells daily.  To date, six of these wells have been linked to earthquakes.

Image credit: Caitlin Childs via Creative Commons

Comments

Better would be to ban fracking.

“State officials have determined that at least 12 earthquakes that occurred in Ohio last December were caused by the injection of brine into hydraulic fracturing disposal wells.”

Read the report.  It doesn’t say anything like that.

The earthquakes occurred over a one year period.  (But then maybe Nathanael read more than the executive summary like you and I did.)

The reason for the ban was that the earthquakes clearly have an epicenter directly under the disposal site.  You can read that in the executive summary.

Or are you going to call Ohio Seismologists communist left wing nuts who are pushing some secret agenda?

Please be so kind as to point out where in that report it was determined that injection had *caused* any earthquake – as this article’s author claims it has?

If you can’t even comprehend the quote provided from the ODNR press release,

“Geologists believe induced seismic activity is extremely rare, but it can occur with the confluence of a series of specific circumstances. After investigating all available geological formation and well activity data, ODNR regulators and geologists found a number of co-occurring circumstances strongly indicating the Youngstown area earthquakes were induced. Specifically, evidence gathered by state officials suggests fluid from the Northstar 1 disposal well intersected an unmapped fault in a near-failure state of stress causing movement along that fault.”

Ohio’s New Rules for Brine Disposal Among Nation’s Toughest

http://www.ohiodnr.com/home_page/NewsReleases/tabid/18276/EntryId/2711/Ohios-New-Rules-for-Brine-Disposal-Among-Nations-Toughest.aspx

How can we expect you to comprehend the ODNR report itself?

“Geologists believe induced seismic activity is extremely rare, but it can occur with the confluence of a series of specific circumstances. After investigating all available geological formation and well activity data, ODNR regulators and geologists found a number of co-occurring circumstances strongly indicating the Youngstown area earthquakes were induced. Specifically, evidence gathered by state officials suggests fluid from the Northstar 1 disposal well intersected an unmapped fault in a near-failure state of stress causing movement along that fault.”

“A number of coincidental circumstances appear to make a compelling argument for the recent Youngstown-area seismic events to have been induced:

• The Northstar 1 well began injection operations in December 2010. Roughly three months later, the first seismic events were noted and were fairly close to the well;

• Subsequent seismic events were clustered around the vicinity of the wellbore;

• Evidence of permeability zones within the Precambrian basement rock is interpreted in some of the geophysical logs obtained from within the Northstar 1 well; and (Logs A, B, C, D)

• Once sufficient monitoring equipment was in place, the focal depths of events were found to be about 4,000 ft (1,220 m) laterally and 2,500 ft (760 m) vertically from the wellbore terminus.”

PRELIMINARY REPORT ON THE NORTHSTAR 1 CLASS II INJECTION WELL AND THE SEISMIC EVENTS IN THE YOUNGSTOWN, OHIO, AREA

http://ohiodnr.com/downloads/northstar/UICReport.pdf 

Environmentally safe? This should really be revisted by the EPA, ASAP.

“According to the U.S. EPA, more than 144,000 Class II disposal wells inject more than two billion gallons of brine every day in the United States. The U.S. EPA considers the deep injection of brine using Class II disposal wells as the preferred and environmentally safe method for disposal of oilfield fluid wastes. Prior to Class II disposal wells in Ohio, brine was stored in surface pits with harmful environmental results.”

ODNR Releases Preliminary Report on Youngstown Area Seismic Activity

http://www.ohiodnr.com/home_page/NewsReleases/tabid/18276/EntryId/2711/Ohios-New-Rules-for-Brine-Disposal-Among-Nations-Toughest.aspx

Maybe you missed the fact that none of that actually *proves* anything. 

I call your attention to the words and phrases like, “suggests”, “coincidental circumstances”, “compelling argument”.

None of that amounts to conclusive proof.  Coincidence does not imply causation.

You can infer whatever you like from that, and I suspect you will continue to do so.

that you will continue to deny the science, no different than an anti-evolution creationist.

Again, the report most certainly doesn’t claim to have any conclusive proof that injection caused any earthquake.  I asked you to show where it does, and you failed to do that.

You should learn to distinguish between what is actually written, and what you imagine is there.

I’m not “denying” any science at all, since in fact there isn’t any here.  The word “science” doesn’t mean what you think it means.

Seeing as you’ve already predictably resorted to insults and ad hominem attacks, I’ll just leave you to it.

Just like the rest of your anti-science comments here, you again fail to acknowledge what the ODNR has determined from their expert investigation to date.

You should learn to distinguish between what is written in a report rather than what you imagine, esp. since you probably haven’t read it at all.  But since your purpose here is to spread disinformation & denial & we very much doubt you will change your ways, we’ll just have to give you another well-deserved -1.

btw, say hello to chas for us over at WUWT, will ya?

We know we generate earthquakes when we pump huge amounts of water underground.  Its called fracking.

In this case, they pumped huge amounts of water underground, we got an earthquake.  Epicenter… directly under the pumping station.


If you reach any further to back your claims, you will fall over.

At this point the onus to prove innocence is on the oil company.

The earthquake epicenter is directly beneath the well.

Once upon a time, America was heavily invested in coal, until we learned that coal is the dirtiest of carbon fuels, never mind mountain top removal & tar sands.

So America moved its capital & machinery into oil, both domestic & foreign, until we learned that both oil & its byproducts are also a major carbon contributor to global warming, never mind peak oil & foreign wars.

America also tried its hand at nuclear power, until we learned of unsustainable cost overruns, never mind where to store the really hot stuff & that big accidents really do happen.

So America shifted more of its resources to nat gas which burns a bit cleaner, until we learned that with fracking, nat gas potentially releases as much if not more GHGs as oil & gasoline, never mind the earthquakes.

So now America wisely invests in renewable, sustainable energy technologies for a clean energy economy, never mind the free wind & eternal sun.

[x]

Today, legislative and lobbyist members of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) voted on model legislation promoting both exports of gas obtained via hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”) and vehicles powered by compressed natural gas (CNG)

Dubbed a “...

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