In Canada, unlike the American Midwest, Earthquakes are Induced Directly by Fracking, rather than by Wastewater Reinjection

by Emil Morhardt

The seismicity induced by oil and gas operations in Oklahoma generally appears to be caused by reinjection of wastewater coming out with oil and gas rather than the increase hydraulic pressure from fracking directly. Not so in western Canada where much less wastewater is produced and injected, but there is nevertheless considerable induced seismicity tightly clustered in space and time near hydraulic fracking sites, according to Xuewei Bao and David W. Eaton (2016) writing in Science.

The figure from the paper (above) shows locations of seismicity in northwestern Alberta, anda from 1985-2016. The locations of the largest earthquakes are shown by date. Continue reading

Louisiana Oil and Gas Association

by Nelson Cole

An article written by the Louisiana Oil and Gas Association (LOGA) clearly explains the process of horizontal fracking in sedimentary shale rock located over 10,000 feet below the Earth’s surface. The article addresses all concerns that local land owners and communities could have. This article should be referred to those who have concerns regarding horizontal fracturing. I found the information to be very helpful when providing it to my own family. My father’s family owns close to 250 acres of land in Desoto Parish, Louisiana and with my grandfather recently passing my father and family join many other landowners and residents in having concerns of being exploited by major gas companies who are rapidly increasing production in the northwest region of Louisiana. Continue reading

Hydraulic Fracking in Abita Springs, Louisiana

by Nelson Cole

Near Abita Springs, Louisiana; Helis Oil and Gas Company has been granted permission to use hydraulic fracturing to reach gas 13,000 feet underground (Louisiana Advocate). Local residents hoped to cancel the wetlands permit that was issued to Helis Oil in January 2015, requesting instead that they search for alternative destinations. After a year of delay on January 12th federal Judge Carl Barbier rejected the community’s efforts on a basis of what he felt to be a “lack of merit.” According to Barbier, the plaintiff (community residents) failed to suggest alternative drilling sites. Also, Helis provided “clear evidence that there were no other locations in the state that did not involve wetlands” (Louisiana Record). Thus because all other drilling sites are in wetlands the judge evidently felt this one should be permitted to be as well. Continue reading

Risks that Hydraulic Fracturing Poses to Water Sources

by Alex Frumkin

There has been a rapid increase in shale gas development in the united States due to the increase in use of hydraulic fracturing to access these shale beds. The rise of hydraulic fracturing has lead to intense public debates about the potential environmental and human health effects from hydraulic fracturing. Vengosh at el. (2014) identifies four potential areas of risks for water resources from hydraulic fracturing: contamination of shallow aquifers due to stray gas contamination, contamination of surface water and shallow groundwater from spills, leaks, and/or the disposal of inadequately treated shale gas wastewater, accumulation of toxic and radioactive elements in soil near disposal or spill sides, and the over extraction of water resources that could induce water shortages. To be able to fully understand the water contamination risks associated with hydraulic fracturing there needs to be an in depth investigation of the hydrology, hydrogeology, water chemistry, and isotopic tracers for identifying what the cause of the water contamination is. Continue reading

Distance: a Critical Aspect for Impact of Hydraulic Fracturing

by Alex Frumkin

Hydraulic fracturing is the process used to access than one-half o the U.S.’ natural gas supply and is rapidly changing the energy supplies in the United States. The popularity of unconventional drilling is increasing over the past decade, and scientists are continuing to analyze the environmental impacts of hydraulic fracturing. While public concerns are encouraging scientists to continue to evaluate the possible adverse effects related to hydraulic fracturing, Ming et al. (2014) focus on understanding the current research of these environmental impacts within a spatial content. The authors set out to better understand what the environmental impacts related to how close an area or home is to an active fracking well. They find that there are five key areas that are more likely to be impacted due to proximity to a gas well. These five areas are that the closer drinking and groundwater are to a fracking site the more likely the water is to be contaminated, that residents living nearest to fracking wells will experience higher human health risks, high density gas emissions are detected, small earthquakes are more frequent and common near a fracking well, and that there are changes to the landscape characteristics. These assessments are imperative for better understanding the impacts of hydraulic fracturing on both the environment and on human’s health. Continue reading

Is there a relationship between proximity to natural gas wells and health?

by Alex Frumkin

There has been little research about the public health impacts of living near unconventional natural gas extraction activities. Rabinowitz et al. a (2015) aimed to assess a possible relationship by generating a health symptom survey of 492 people in households with ground-fed wells in an area of active natural gas drilling. The survey looked at the household’s proximity to gas wells and then the prevalence and frequency of reported dermal, respiratory, gastrointestinal, cardiovascular, and neurological symptoms. The study found that individuals who lived within 1 km of a gas well were twice as likely to experience upper respiratory systems than individuals in households more than 1 km away. No relationship found between well proximity and any of the other possible health conditions that this survey covered. Continue reading

Just Released! “Energy, Biology, Climate Change”

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Our newest book just Released! “Energy, Biology, Climate Change” and available at Amazon.com for $19.95.

The focus of this book is the interactions between energy, ecology, and climate change, as well as a few of the responses of humanity to these interactions. It is not a textbook, but a series of chapters discussing subtopics in which the authors were interested and wished to write about. The basic material is cutting-edge science; technical journal articles published within the last year, selected for their relevance and interest. Each author selected eight or so technical papers representing his or her view of the most interesting current research in the field, and wrote summaries of them in a journalistic style that is free of scientific jargon and understandable by lay readers. This is the sort of science writing that you might encounter in the New York Times, but concentrated in a way intended to give as broad an overview of the chapter topics as possible. None of this research will appear in textbooks for a few years, so there are not many ways that readers without access to a university library can get access to this information.

This book is intended be browsed—choose a chapter topic you like and read the individual sections in any order; each is intended to be largely stand-alone. Reading all of them will give you considerable insight into what climate scientists concerned with energy, ecology, and human effects are up to, and the challenges they face in understanding one of the most disruptive—if not very rapid—event in human history; anthropogenic climate change. The Table of Contents follows: Continue reading

c Perceptions of Hydraulic Fracturing

by Alex Frumkin

Hydraulic fracturing is considered controversial for many reasons, including the possible negative environmental impacts, the possible economic benefits of development, and reduction of reliance on foreign oil. Previous national opinion polls have indicated that a sizable minority of the population lack familiarity with this largely unregulated field. Boudet et al. (2014) studied different socio-demographic indicators will predict support of or opposition to hydraulic fracturing. Continue reading

Methane Contamination of Drinking Water Accompanying Gas-Well Drilling and Hydraulic Fracturing

By Alex Frumkin

Directional drilling and hydraulic-fracturing technologies are dramatically increasing natural-gas extraction across the United States. Hydraulic fracturing remains largely unregulated at the Federal level regardless of the growing concerns about contamination of drinking water. However, the potential contamination risks in shallow drinking-water systems are still not fully understood, and a topic of study for many scientists. There are four main reasons why scientists and public health officials are concerned about methane contamination in the ground water: that the chemicals use in fracturing fluid can leak into the ground water, that the water can become explosive if methane levels are high enough, that the methane could be released into the environment, and that the untested and unregulated shallow ground water in rural areas near drilling sites could be ingested during household or agricultural use. Scientists have continued to study whether water wells are being contaminated in any of these ways by hydraulic fracturing and drilling. Continue reading

How Well Does CO2 Adsorb onto Shale?

by Emil Morhardt

If one of the big advantages of using supercritical CO2 rather than water for fracturing shale is that it effectively disposes of the CO2 by absorption onto the shale (Middleton et al. 2013—see Jan 13 post), some experimental evidence would be useful. This is provided by Lafortune et al. (2014) who obtained a sample of shale from a Mesozoic marine basin in France, dried and crushed it, put it on an ultrasensitive balance, and flooded it with CO2 at various pressures and temperatures. The highest pressure was 9 MPa (90 bar, or 90 times atmospheric sea level pressure) and the highest temperature 328 K (131ºF), just at the combination of temperature and pressure at which CO2 becomes supercritical (see figure). This is only about a tenth of the pressure sometimes achieved in actual hydraulic fracking, and probably a somewhat lower temperature than normally used, but might be all that is necessary when using supercritical CO2. The higher the temperature the less CO2 adsorbed onto the shale so that the observation by Middleton et al. that temperatures of supercritical CO2 drop suddenly at the shale when the pressure is released augur well for increasing CO2 adsorption. There was a nearly linear increase in the amount of CO2 adsorption onto the shale with pressure, with no sign of leveling off at the pressures these experimenters used, so that too suggests an effective means of both sequestering CO2 and releasing methane, although the adsorption was not as high as it would have been on coal, someplace else it might be profitably sequestered. Continue reading