Fracking is a misunderstood industry. Not because it is technically challenging as far as an educational standpoint. But because the methodology and tools used were kept mostly secret or denied altogether.
Thanks to a series of Canadian FIOA's we get to see the dark dirty side of fracking. IOW the entire procedure. This paper lists a litany of environmental nightmares being foisted on the communities fracking is occurring in. From spraying toxic waste on the ground to causing the methane levels in drinking water to skyrocket to the point that faucets can be lit aflame.
In Quebec, as of January 2012, more than 50% of 31 new shale wells inspected (10 had been frac'd), are leaking natural gas; the regulator ordered the leaks repaired, the companies tried but failed.47 Isotopic analysis by Dr. Muehlenbachs of water samples sent to him by Talisman indicated that groundwater in Quebec was already contaminated,48 “from a geological point of view, the shale was sealed 300 million years ago, he says. “And then man intervened.”49 Talisman later reported in the media that the gas contaminated water was rainwater.50 Dr. Muehlenbachs updated a presentation he gave in Washington with this new information.
In February 2012, an agricultural expert asking for health information about ingesting methane, sent Ernst a photo of white groundwater - possibly caused by a high concentration of methane - at a cattle producer's operation near shale wells in Quebec. It was suggested that the methane was naturally occurring.
In 2009, Canada's National Energy Board reported on the shales in Quebec:
Biogenic gas can be found in the Utica in shallow areas, while thermogenic methane can be found in medium-deep and structured shales.... The reservoir has an advantage over others in that it is folded and faulted, which increases the potential for the presence of natural fractures.... Only a handful of wells have been drilled in the Utica, most of them vertical.
A Quebec Ministry of the Environment 2012 inspection report obtained seven months later by the local group “Ensemble pour l'avenir durable du Grand Gaspé” via Freedom of Information admits that natural gas is leaking to surface near the Haldimand 1 Pétrolia oil well drilled in Gaspé. Leaks were detected 43m and 500m from the oil well, and in the field near two government research monitoring water wells. (Similarly, in New York State, documents obtained via Freedom of Information show that State inspectors found a new unfrac'd vertical shale gas well leaking in the Town of Owego and did not advise the public.54)
The use of fossil fuels has reached it's end. We can and should end the use of toxins that are then expelled into our ecosystem. Fracking is but a recent incantation of ecologically dismissive attitudes in the search for profits. Turning a blind eye will do little to protect our collective futures.
Depletion of water sourcesGround contamination
Large volumes of water are required for fracking operations. Fresh water is taken from local surface or subsurface
water bodies. In some areas, this may conflict directly with irrigation, drinking water, or aquatic ecosystem needs. Because water can be contaminated when it has been used for fracking, it cannot be returned to these water bodies without extensive treatment. Permanent loss of water from these fresh water sources can potentially have an adverse impact on water quality and availability, and aquatic species and habitat.
Spills and leaks of fracking chemicals and fluids
Fluids, potentially hazardous chemicals and proppant used in the fracking process are stored on the surface in tanks or pits. If not stored properly, they can leak or spill. Fluids can be stored at a centralized facility near multiple wellpads
and then be transported to the well location by trucks or by pipeline. This transit period is another opportunity for leaks and spills. Fracking fluid can also spill during the fracking process. Leaks on the surface from tanks, valves, pipes, etc. as a result of mechanical failure or operator error at any point during these processes have the potential to contaminate groundwater and surface water.
Mismanagement of fracking waste
After fracking, some of the fracking fluid, often referred to as flowback, returns up the wellbore to the surface. In addition, naturally-occurring fluid is brought to the surface along with the produced oil or gas (referred to as “produced water.”) This waste, consisting of both flowback and produced water, can be toxic, and the oil and gas industry generates hundreds of billions of gallons of it each year.4 In addition to the chemicals that were initially injected, flowback and produced water may also contain hydrocarbons, heavy metals, salts,5 and naturally occurring radioactive material (NORM). The wastewater is sometimes stored in surface pits. If the pits are inadequately regulated6 or constructed, they run the risk of leaking or overflowing and can pollute groundwater and surface water.7 The waste may also be disposed of on the surface, reused
in another well, re-injected underground, or transported to
a treatment facility. Each of these activities carries its own inherent risks, including spills, leaks, earthquakes (in the case of underground injection) and threats to groundwater and surface water.
The first kind of wastewater isSeismic irregularities
drilling brine. It is called brine because it is very salty. It
contains the cuttings from drilling through the earth down to the
Marcellus shale and then horizontally or sideways throught the shale.
These cuttings contain mineral salts plus arsenic, mercury,
thallium, chromium, other heavy metals and NORMs
(naturally occurring radioactive materials) – whatever toxins are
in the layers that are drilled though. In the past, the drilling brine, with the cuttings have been put in pits, and after the solids are settled, the liquid has been sprayed on the land. If too
concentrated it kills vegetation, so even if sprayed thinly enough
not to be deadly, it cannot be helping the land. The pits with
remaining solids and plastic liner, if used, are buried on site (see
A recent study (abstract here) published in the journal Geology is getting a lot of attention for conclusions it draws about whether oil and natural gas drilling is causing earthquakes. In particular, the study examines the biggest quake in the history of Oklahoma, a 5.7 shaker that hit the tiny town of Prague on Nov. 6, 2011. Ripples from the earthquake were felt across 17 states.Pipe breaks (I'm aware this is not fracking but pipe breaks are pipe breaks)
According to the study’s authors, the culprit isn’t the actual drilling itself but the injection of wastewater back into the ground afterward. Even though wastewater had been injected into old wells around Prague since the early 1990s, the authors argue that as crevices previously containing oil filled with water, from 2001 to 2006, the amount of pressure needed to keep pushing water underground rose tenfold, or 1,000 percent. The resulting pressure change triggered a “jump” in a nearby fault line known as the Wilzetta fault, and then—boom, earthquake. The well the study examined was not drilled using the controversial hydraulic fracturing techniques, commonly known as fracking.
A review of the study by Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory quotes one of the study’s authors, geologist Heather Savage of Columbia, saying, “When you overpressure the fault, you reduce the stress that’s pinning the fault into place and that’s when earthquakes happen.”
Reuters reports that the 20-inch pipeline ruptured on Friday, spilling an unknown amount of oil into the area of Mayflower, Ark. The latest update from ExxonMobil posted on Sunday reports cleanup efforts remain underway, with approximately 12,000 barrels of oil and water already cleared from the area.At what point do we stop this dangerous practice?
I am in California today for NN13 we took the bus today to get to downtown from the hotel we stayed at last night. The riders along the route we were on were all from lower class backgrounds by their dress and demeanor. This is opposite of the situation in Oregon where the general population uses transit as a matter of course.
Not everyone needs a car. With our urban concentration of populations we need to be doing more to increase the availability of public transit in every neighborhood.