Blog Archive

Monday, April 14, 2014

rjs: fracking related news for April 14, 2014

Fracking or injection well induced earthquakes brought national media attention to fracking twice this week; first, when central Oklahoma was hit by a number of quakes last weekend that brought their 30 day total of large-enough-to-feel quakes to 133; it's only April, but Oklahoma has already topped the record they set for most large earthquakes in one state in one year last year, and they have topped California as the most seismically active state in the nation, possibly the most seismically active area in the world...yet amazingly, as one reads the comments, we sense that they're still in denial that oil & gas drilling has something to do with least officials in Ohio had the presence of mind to put two and two together and try to head off any further serious earthquakes as new regulations call for a network of seismic monitors around fracking operations in areas with known my thinking, that should make it more difficult (expensive) for fracking operations to set up in northern Geauga or around the Akron magnetic lineament, which runs from western Ashtabula to Summit county...

A selection of the hundreds of articles that crossed the wires on Ohio's move follows the Oklahoma earthquake related synopses below, in approximate chronological order...included immediately below are a few links that are Ohio specific; then the rest come from my regular aggregator blog...i've noticed that a number of commenters are out with the advice that small quakes prevent large ones in the future, so we should just bring 'em on; that's not true; USGS found that it was a 5.0 injection well quake that caused the 5.7 quake that caused extensive damage in Oklahoma a few years back...on one occasion this week, while commenting on the obvious relationship between shale ops and the quakes in Oklahoma, someone called me a "hair-on-fire opponent who's sure to dismiss the scientists as bought out by the oil and gas industry", and "like anti-vaxxers, 911 Truthers, and anti-GMO activists," we're simply the "climate denialists of the Left. Impervious to evidence" ...i responded and continued the exchange and found it odd that the individual switched sides and pretended to be a fracking opponent himself, and advised me that i was using the wrong tactics; if you're interested, you can catch that online exchange in the comment section here:

Youngstown News, Youngstown fracking ban on ballot for 3rd time: A citizen-initiative charter amendment to ban fracking in Youngstown is back on the ballot for the third time in a year. City voters rejected the proposal in May and November 2013. It lost by 13.7 percentage points the first time and by 9.7 percentage points in November. After each defeat, members of the Youngstown Community Bill of Rights Committee, which collected signatures on petitions to get the charter amendment on the ballot, vowed to return time and time again. Mike Chadsey, spokesman for the Ohio Oil and Gas Association, said of those backing the initiative: “These are good people with bad information. You put it on the ballot once and you look like concerned citizens. A second time and you look like activists. A third time and you look out of touch.”

Couple’s suit against state’s fracking lease gets OK to proceed | The Columbus Dispatch: A Franklin County judge has ruled that a Guernsey County couple can move forward with a lawsuit that seeks to stop fracking beneath and around Seneca Lake. The couple filed the suit in October, eight months after the Muskingum Watershed Conservancy District approved a $40.3 million lease with a Colorado-based drilling company for underground mineral rights to 6,400 acres, including the lake. Common Pleas Judge Tim Horton ruled on Monday that the couple, Leatra Harper and Steven Janstro, have established that they “have suffered or are threatened with direct and concrete injury” to their health, to the environment where their property lies and to the property’s value. The decision gives them what is known as legal standing to pursue the lawsuit against the district, the Ohio Department of Natural Resources and the drilling company, Antero Resources. The couple ultimately wants the court to find that the watershed district and the state acted improperly in approving the project.

Ohio cracks down on methane pollution from fracking -  - Drillers in the heavily fracked Buckeye State will now have to do more to find and fix leaks in their systems, part of the latest initiative to crack down on climate-changing methane pollution. The Akron Beacon Journal reportsOhio on Friday tightened its rules on air emissions from natural gas-oil drilling at horizontal wells. …Drilling companies now are required to perform regular inspections to pinpoint any equipment leaks and seal them quickly.Such leaks can contribute to air pollution with unhealthy ozone, add to global warming and represent lost or wasted energy. Fugitive emissions can account for 1 to 8 percent of methane from an individual well, according to some studies. …The revised rules — in development for more than a year — were released by the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency and go into effect immediately, officials said. Environmentalists cheered the new rules, which closely followed a crackdown on fugitive methane emissions in Colorado, and a similar proposal from the Obama administration. And Wyoming recently introduced methane pollution rules for new or expanded fracking and other natural gas-related operations.

Fracking involves more than drilling and disposal - Three experts in the fields of drilling, health and environment are coming to Greenville from Michigan and New York and one of Ohio’s gas producing counties to tell local residents how the oil and gas industry is polluting wells, groundwater, farmland and putting our children, water, air, health and livelihoods at risk. The Western Ohio Fracking Awareness Coalition (WOFAC) is providing the opportunity for the public to not only hear these experts but to meet and talk with them on April 15, from 7 to 9 p.m. at Memorial Hall in Greenville. This program, titled the “Toxic Truth,” is about the consequences of the fracking and fossil fuel industry waste. This topic impacts all Ohioans, as injection wells, pipelines, fracking pads, and transportation of toxic chemicals are increasing in Ohio at alarming rates. According to articles found on the ANR and Texas Eastern (oil and gas associated) websites, as well as a recent public notices, Darke County will soon be receiving gas from the shale gas area of Ohio and beyond. Everyone is encouraged to attend and ask questions. When leaders from WOFAC recently travelled to Harrison and Carroll counties in Eastern Ohio next to the Pennsylvania border, they confirmed that fracking involves far more than drilling and waste disposal wells. It also involves towering rigs on acres of stone, gravel and concrete which are placed in close proximity to each other and sometimes very close to neighboring homes and schools. Beautiful expanses of rolling hills filled with lush forests, sparkling ponds and plentiful wildlife are fast becoming littered with towering metal rigs that have changed the shape and the scope of the landscape and the environment forever.

Frack Trucker Kills Boy on Bike. Same Frackers Video-ed Dumping --That’s right, the same frack truck company – 3 Star Daylighting –  that was caught on a video earlier this week dumping frackwaste on a Fort Worth freeway - ran over a boy last August while driving to a Chesapeake frack site. The frack truck driver said he didn’t know he hit the boy. Right. Boy’s name was Deston Bibbs. Add him to the List of the Harmed.  How much of this fracking nonsense do you want in your town, your state, your country ? 

What Is Liquefied Petroleum Gas And Why Are We Shipping It To China? - China’s top petrochemical refiner, Sinopec Corp, will soon be importing about 34,000 barrels-per-day (bpd) of liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) from the United States. In a major deal with Phillips 66 implicating the growing importance of LPG, starting in 2016 around $850-million-per-day of this compressed mix of propane and butane will make its way across the world to Sinopec, the world’s fifth biggest company by revenue. Refining companies in China are looking to use LPG as a replacement petrochemical feedstock that could be cheaper than the alternatives. Petrochemicals are used in manufacturing everything from plastics to cosmetics to solar panels.   “The U.S. shale boom could lead to a fresh way of developing China’s petrochemical sector,” Mao Jiaxiang, deputy head of Sinopec’s research arm, China Petrochemical Consulting Corp, told Reuters.  LPG is produced during the fossil fuel refining process or extracted from oil or natural gas flows as they emerge from the ground. The shale oil and gas boom in the U.S., brought on by advances in hydraulic fracturing, has led to a surge in LPG production that is bringing down global prices. While U.S. exports of crude oil are restricted and liquefied natural gas shipments are subject to intense debate around energy security issues and economic value, there are no limits on LPG sales.  “Propane produced from gas fractionation is of a higher purity than that produced from refining, and is a better chemical feedstock,” And this is what Sinopec is likely after.”

Shale Gas Boom Leaves Wind Companies Seeking More Subsidy - Wind power in the U.S. is on a respirator. The $14 billion industry, the world’s second-largest buyer of wind turbines, is reeling from a double blow -- cheap natural gas unleashed by the hydraulic fracturing revolution and the death last year of federal subsidies that made wind the most competitive of all renewable energy sources in the U.S. Without restoration of subsidies, worth $23 per megawatt hour to turbine owners, the industry may not recover, and the U.S. may lose ground in its race to reduce dependence on the fossil fuels driving global warming, say wind-power advocates. They place the subsidy argument in the context of fairness, pointing out that wind’s chief fossil-fuel rival, the gas industry, is aided by the ability to form master limited partnerships that allow pipeline operators to avoid paying income tax. This helps drive down the cost of natural gas. “If gas prices weren’t so cheap, then wind might be able to compete on its own,” said South Dakota’s Republican Governor Dennis Daugaard. Consider that gas averaged $8.90 a million British thermal units in 2008 and plunged to $3.73 last year, making the fuel a cheaper source of electricity for utilities. Congress allowed the wind Production Tax Credit to expire last year, and wind farm construction plunged 92 percent.  The shift in fortunes for the two fuels arrives at the moment when wind was beginning to rival gas on price alone, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. That means the industry’s future will be shaped by the debate over what counts as support from the government and when, or if, Congress moves to rethink the credit.

Fonterra 'confident' that fracking waste no threat to product safety: New Zealand-based dairy exporter, Fonterra, is “confident” that oil industry and fracking waste spread beneath land used by grazing milk cows poses no threat to the safety of its milk products. approached Fonterra following calls from the New Zealand Green Party to suspend the taking of milk from land in the Taranaki region of the country, where waste from oil drilling and fracking has been spread and covered. Hydraulic fracturing, which is more commonly known as fracking, is the process of drilling and injecting a combination of water, sand and chemicals into the ground at high pressure to fracture shale rocks to release trapped natural gas. In a statement issued yesterday, Green Party co-leader Dr Russel Norman claimed that consumers will be “concerned to know that milk from cows grazed on land spread with oil industry and fracking waste is in our milk supply.” “Consumers can get dirty milk from any number of countries. Our brand advantage is that our milk is clean and green. We need to take all steps to ensure our milk stays that way,” he said.

‘Almost heaven’ or fracking hell? —John Denver sang about country roads taking him home, but there’s another element on the scene these days that doesn’t fit his description of “almost heaven.” 
Trucks of all shapes and sizes, and by the thousands, rumble over these back roads as they wind up and down mountains and perilously close to stream beds.
 Dump trucks, gas tankers and tractor–trailers have pulverized the pavement, causing potholes that look like craters. They’ve also spilled the occasional load, blocked roads and caused traffic jams. 
In Wetzel County, which is so far west its county seat of New Martinsville sits on the Ohio River, drivers fire up their diesel engines long before sunrise and run them well after dark. The only time trucks are not on the roads—in Wetzel, anyway—is when school buses are. 
To one man, the convoys represent just one impact that drilling for natural gas has had on rural life. “We were invaded by a foreign army, but they weren’t armed,” said Bill Hughes, who has lived in Wetzel County since 1977. “They just had a lot of trucks.” 
Something similar to what is happening in Wetzel County could take place south and east of Fredericksburg if a Texas company gets permission to drill the region for natural gas. Shore Exploration and Production Corp. already has leased more than 84,000 acres in what is known as the Taylorsville basin, and company officials have said they would like to drill by the end of this year or mid-2015. 

What a Ban on Fracking in Denton Could Mean For the Rest of Texas | StateImpact Texas: The  Denton Drilling Awareness Group (DAG) recently got enough signatures on a petition to place an ordinance banning fracking within city limits on local ballots. Though other communities in Texas have passed restrictions on fracking, a moratorium on drilling activity within Denton could spur the rise of similar legislation across the state. If the ban passes it will likely provoke a precedent-setting legal battle that would help clarify the authority of local governments over oil and gas operations in Texas.  The DAG petition against hydraulic fracking, the drilling method of using water, sand and chemical injections to extract oil and gas from shale formations, cites that fracking operations “impact the City’s environment, infrastructure and related public health, welfare and safety matters.” Aside from concerns over groundwater contamination, noise pollution and air quality, drilling disposal wells that store waste from fracking have also been heavily linked with low-magnitude earthquakes. But, according to the group, an all-out ban was a last solution in a long, unsuccessful effort to restrict hydraulic fracking through less extreme means. There are over a dozen wells within city limits, and a previous ordinance failed to prevent drilling activity near neighborhoods and residential areas.

Fracking and earthquakes: Scientists link rise in seismic activity in Oklahoma to increased oil and gas exploration -Between 1975 and 2008, Oklahoma recorded an average of no more than six earthquakes per year, yet now it is the second most seismically active of the contiguous United States, beaten only by California. Scientists have linked this surge in seismic activity to a parallel increase in oil and gas exploration, including fracking. In 2009, there were almost 50 quakes in Oklahoma. The following year, that number leapt to more than 1,000. Most were not “felt” earthquakes – those of magnitude 2.5 and above, which can be detected by humans. However, the state’s annual record of 222 felt quakes, set in 2013, has already been broken this year, with 253 so far. Seismologist Austin Holland of the Oklahoma Geological Survey told Reuters: “We have had almost as many magnitude 3 and greater already in 2014 than we did for all of 2013… We have already crushed last year’s record for number of earthquakes.” Earthquakes rarely cause damage unless they are of magnitude 4 or higher. A 4.3-magnitude temblor struck the same area near Oklahoma City on 30 March. In November 2011, the state suffered a 5.6-magnitude quake – the largest ever recorded in Oklahoma – which destroyed 14 homes. Scientists have connected a sharp rise in small earthquakes in several states to the boom in underground oil and gas exploration, notably the controversial practice of hydraulic fracturing, or fracking. Waste water from fracking and oil drilling is pumped back into the earth to be stored in so-called “injection wells”. Several studies have shown that the water, forced deep underground in layers of porous rock, can trigger seismic activity.

Series of small earthquakes rock Oklahoma in record seismic activity - (Reuters) - Earthquakes rattled residents in Oklahoma on Saturday, the latest in a series that have put the state on track for record quake activity this year, which some seismologists say may be tied to oil and gas exploration. One earthquake recorded at 3.8 magnitude by the U.S. Geological Survey rocked houses in several communities around central Oklahoma at 7:42 a.m. local time. Another about two hours earlier in the same part of the state, north of Oklahoma City, was recorded at 2.9 magnitude, USGS said. Those two were preceded by two more, at 2.6 magnitude, and 2.5 magnitude, that also rolled the landscape in central Oklahoma early Saturday morning. A 3.0 magnitude tremor struck late Friday night in that area as well, following a 3.4 magnitude hit Friday afternoon. Austin Holland, a seismologist with the Oklahoma Geological Survey who tracks earthquake activity for the USGS, said the earthquake activity in the state is soaring. "We have had almost as many magnitude 3 and greater already in 2014 than we did for all of 2013," Holland said. Last year's number of "felt" earthquakes - those strong enough to rattle items on a shelf - hit a record 222 in the state. This year, less than four months into the year, the state has recorded 253 such tremors, according to state seismic data. "We have already crushed last year's record for number of earthquakes," Holland said.

Oklahoma Swamped by Surge in Earthquakes Near Fracking - Bloomberg: There have been more earthquakes strong enough to be felt in Oklahoma this year than in all of 2013, overwhelming state officials who are trying to determine if the temblors are linked to oil and natural gas production. The state on April 6 experienced its 109th earthquake of a magnitude 3 or higher, matching the total for all of 2013, according to Austin Holland, a research seismologist with the Oklahoma Geological Survey. More quakes followed, including a magnitude 4 near Langston about 40 miles (64 kilometers) north of Oklahoma City. A surge in U.S. oil and gas production by fracturing, or fracking, in which drillers use a mix of water and chemicals to coax liquids from rock formations, has generated large volumes of wastewater. As fracking expanded to more fields, reports have become more frequent from Texas to Ohio of earthquakes linked to wells that drillers use to pump wastewater underground. “We certainly likely have cases of earthquakes being caused by different oil and gas activity,” Holland said in an interview. “Evaluating those carefully can take significant amounts of time, especially when we’re swamped.” Within the past year, earthquakes thought to be tied to wastewater disposal wells were recorded in Azle, Texas; Jones, Oklahoma; and northeastern Ohio, according to Art McGarr, a geophysicist with the U.S. Geological Survey.  The ability to inject drilling wastewater underground is critical to the state’s oil and gas producers, according to Chad Warmington, president of the Oklahoma Oil and Gas Association, an industry group previously known as the Mid-Continent Oil and Gas Association of Oklahoma.  So far the link between injection wells and earthquakes isn’t conclusive, Warmington said.

Oklahoma Suffering From Huge Increase in Earthquakes Near Drilling:  Oklahoma is dealing with a significant increase in earthquakes near drilling sites, suggesting a link between hydraulic fracturing and seismic activity. Oklahoma has already experienced as many earthquakes this year to date than all of last year combined. There have been 109 earthquakes with a magnitude 3 or higher through April 6, the total number of earthquakes for all of 2013. The incidents pose a conundrum for regulators in a state that has fully embraced oil and gas drilling. “We certainly likely have cases of earthquakes being caused by different oil and gas activity,” Austin Holland, a seismologist with the Oklahoma Geological Survey, said in an interview with Bloomberg. “Evaluating those carefully can take significant amounts of time, especially when we’re swamped.” The state ordered the closure of two injection wells in Love County last year after several earthquakes occurred in the area.  Evidence of a link between earthquakes and fracking have cropped up in other places around the country before. Research on earthquakes in Ohio in particular has indicated a correlation. The research suggests that seismic activity is not necessarily linked to the fracking job, but to the injection wells where producers dispose of wastewater. In fact, research from the U.S. Geological Survey shows that fracking wastewater may have contributed to a six fold increase in earthquakes in the U.S. between 2000 and 2011. The Oklahoma Oil and Gas Association denies the link, and says the jury is still out. “We’re trying to make sure we understand what data the state needs in order to start making some determinations on cause and effect” said Chad Warmington, the trade association’s President. “We don’t want anybody to jump to conclusions.” The group doesn’t want Oklahoma regulators to halt drilling operations.

Oklahoma Has Already Had More Magnitude 3 Earthquakes This Year Than All Of Last Year - Oklahoma has had more magnitude 3 or higher earthquakes so far this year than in all of 2013, a statistic that’s led some to fear that the uptick in quakes is related to fracking in the state. In 2013, according to Bloomberg News, Oklahoma experienced 109 earthquakes of magnitude 3 or higher. That number was reached again just a little over three months into 2014. The state experienced its 109th magnitude 3 earthquake of 2014 on April 6, followed by a magnitude 4 earthquake on April 7. In the last 30 days alone, Oklahoma has had 133 earthquakes of magnitude 2.5 or higher — the base level at which seismologists say earthquakes can be felt — and the April 7 quake was the fifth of that magnitude felt by the state since March 30. Before 2009, Oklahoma experienced few 3.0 or higher earthquakes — no more than three a year from 1991 to 2008. But in 2009, the amount of fracking wastewater injected deep into the ground has risen, and so has the number of earthquakes in the state. Since 2009, earthquake activity in Oklahoma has consistently been about 40 times higherthan the average of the previous 30 years.  Some of these earthquakes — particularly the series that hit near Langston, Oklahoma — are occurring close to injection wells, so state officials are working to determine whether the injection of wastewater played a role in causing these earthquakes.

Fracking Fingered: 100 Earthquakes In Oklahoma The jury is still out on this one, but when Oklahoma gets more than 100 earthquakes in less than three months, attention naturally turns to fracking, the natural gas and oil drilling method that involves pumping a vast amounts of chemical brine underground, with the resulting wastewater often disposed by injecting that underground, too. It all makes for a messy, water-intensive operation, but a Bush/Cheney-era exemption from the Clean Water Act has enabled the fracking industry to largely evade the grasp of federal regulators. That leaves states like Oklahoma struggling to deploy scant oversight resources in the middle of a drilling boom. According to a report yesterday in Bloomberg, as the first week of April came to a close the state experienced had already experienced 109 earthquakes at or above magnitude 3.0, with more to follow. That’s more 3.0-and-greater earthquakes than in all of last year, overwhelming the capacity of the Oklahoma Geological Survey to investigate the causes. Bloomberg cites OGS seismologist Austin Holland: We certainly likely have cases of earthquakes being caused by different oil and gas activity. Evaluating those carefully can take significant amounts of time, especially when we’re swamped

Frackquakes Make Oklahoma Earthquake Champ - Oklahoma, which had previously been seismically inert for the last million years or so, now outranks California as the state with the most earthquakes(Reuters) – Earthquakes rattled residents in Oklahoma on Saturday, the latest in a series that have put the state on track for record quake activity this year, which some seismologists say may be tied to oil and gas exploration. One earthquake recorded at 3.8 magnitude by the U.S. Geological Survey rocked houses in several communities around central Oklahoma at 7:42 a.m. local time. Another about two hours earlier in the same part of the state, north of Oklahoma City, was recorded at 2.9 magnitude, USGS said. Frackquake Anyone ? Those two were preceded by two more, at 2.6 magnitude, and 2.5 magnitude, that also rolled the landscape in central Oklahoma early Saturday morning. A 3.0 magnitude tremor struck late Friday night in that area as well, following a 3.4 magnitude hit Friday afternoon. Austin Holland, a seismologist with the Oklahoma Geological Survey who tracks earthquake activity for the USGS, said the earthquake activity in the state is soaring. “We have had almost as many magnitude 3 and greater already in 2014 than we did for all of 2013,” Holland said. Last year’s number of “felt” earthquakes – those strong enough to rattle items on a shelf – hit a record 222 in the state. This year, less than four months into the year, the state has recorded 253 such tremors, according to state seismic data.

Oklahoma Frackquake Capital of the World ! --In this map of earthquakes recorded by the US Geological Survey in the past thirty days (each quake is marked by a dot on the map), Oklahoma is a clear hot spot. (USGS) A dramatic uptick in earthquakes has been shaking central Oklahoma this year, continuing a recent trend of unusually high earthquake activity in the state and leading scientists to speculate about a possible link to oil and gas production there.The US Geological Survey found that from 1975 to 2008, central Oklahoma experienced one to three 3.0-magnitude earthquakes a year, compared with an average of forty per year from 2009 to 2013. And it looks like that number is going to get bigger. It’s only February, and the state has already logged more than twenty-five quakes of 3.0-magnitude or larger this year, and more than 150 total quakes in the past week alone. This startling graphic, from The Rachel Maddow Show Tuesday, shows a massive spike of 2.5-magnitude or larger earthquakes, starting last year (the yellow portion of the last bar represents earthquakes that took place between Maddow’s shows on Monday and Tuesday) ; An earlier version of this post stated that there have already been more than 150 earthquakes in Oklahoma this year. In fact, there have been more than 500 earthquakes in Oklahoma this year and 150 last week.

Seismic tests go lacking in fracking: The Ohio Department of Natural Resources is studying seismic data from wells near last month’s Poland Township earthquakes, but no such review occurred prior to drilling. That’s because the agency responsible for regulating the state’s oil and gas industry does not require oil and gas companies to obtain or to submit seismic reflection data when applying for a permit to drill fracking wells. Fracking extracts natural gas from shale under pressure. “An application to drill a horizontal well does not contain seismic requirements,” said ODNR spokesman Mark Bruce. “ODNR has and continues to work with partners to gather as much seismic information about the state as we can, and that general knowledge is used by our permitting staff when reviewing applications.” But according to the state’s top geologist, seismic data is not necessarily easy to come by. “Seismic reflection data are limited because the information is expensive to obtain,” Tom Serenko, chief of ODNR’s geological survey division, told The Vindicator last month in an email. “Many geophysical companies hold this as proprietary and sell it to oil companies who look for oil and gas.” “There is no public seismic reflection information available for Mahoning County,” he wrote.

Ohio geologists link seismic activity to hydraulic fracturing, issue new permit conditions: State geologists in Ohio believe they have for the first time linked earthquake activity in the Utica shale to hydraulic fracturing, and the state says it is issuing new permit conditions in seismic-sensitive areas. State Oil & Gas Chief Rick Simmers told The Associated Press on Friday that a state investigation of five small tremors in the Youngstown area last month has found a probable link. He said Ohio is setting new permitting conditions in earthquake-sensitive areas and has halted drilling indefinitely at the site of the March quakes. A seismologist with the U.S. Department of Interior says it's the first time a link has been drawn between seismic activity and fracking taking place in the Marcellus-Utica shale across the northeastern United States.

Ohio finds ‘probable connection’ between earthquakes in Mahoning County and hydraulic fracturing - The Ohio Department of Natural Resources on Friday announced that recent earthquakes in Mahoning County were likely caused by hydraulic fracturing or fracking. The state ordered an indefinite moratorium on fracking natural gas wells within three miles of the epicenter of earthquakes on March 10 and 11 in Poland Township southeast of Youngstown. There were five quakes of 2.0 or greater. The report marks the first probable connection between earthquakes and hydraulic fracturing or fracking in Ohio.  It also creates a new problem for drillers and the drilling industry. The order halts fracking of wells on two pads by Texas-based Hilcorp Energy Co. that was fracturing the wells on the Carbon Limestone Landfill on the Ohio-Pennsylvania border. Hilcorp said it is reviewing the ODNR action.  In a related move, Ohio said it is changing its permit conditions for drilling in Ohio near faults or earthquake sites. New permits for drilling within three miles of a known underground geologic fault or area of seismic activity greater than 2.0 magnitude will require companies to install seismic monitors. The order would affect any quakes since 1999 that were recorded at magnitude 2.0 or greater. If those monitors detect a quake of 1.0 magnitude or greater, drilling activities would be halted while the cause is investigated. If that investigation reveals a probable connection to hydraulic fracturing, all well completion operations will be suspended. That requirement went into effect on Friday.

Authorities in Ohio first in the world to link earthquake to fracking - State regulators have for the first time have linked earthquake activity in eastern Ohio to hydraulic fracturing, confirming the suspicions of activists pushing unsuccessfully for a drilling ban. State Oil & Gas chief Rick Simmers said the state has halted drilling indefinitely at the site near Youngstown where five minor tremors occurred in March following investigative findings of a probable link to fracking. A deep-injection well for fracking wastewater was tied to earthquakes in the region in 2012. Mr Simmers says Ohio will require sensitive seismic monitoring as a condition of all new drilling permits within three miles of a known fault or existing seismic activity of 2.0 or greater. Drilling will pause for evaluation with any tremor of 1.0 magnitude and will be halted if a link is found. A seismologist with the US Department of Interior said it is the first time seismic activity has been linked to Marcellus shale exploration which has swept the north-eastern United States over the past few years.

Youngstown News, ODNR links fracking to Poland earthquakes: For the first time, a team of state regulators and geologists on Friday identified hydraulic fracturing as a “probable” trigger for earthquakes, confirming suspicions that a series of tremors in Poland Township were the result of fracking operations. “ODNR geologists believe the sand and water injected into the well during the hydraulic fracturing process may have increased pressure on an unknown microfault in the area,” the agency responsible for regulating the state’s oil and gas industry said in a statement. On March 23, The Vindicator reported that geologists outside of an Ohio Department of Natural Resources investigation were considering the theory that fluid from a fracking well at the Carbon Limestone Landfill could have seeped into an unknown fault extending upward from the Precambrian basement, causing the ground to shake March 10. ODNR’s investigation turned up no link to the Precambrian formation, but it did indicate that fracking aggravated a small, previously undetected fault in the overlying Paleozoic rock. Rick Simmers, chief of ODNR’s oil and gas division, said it wasn’t clear whether the fluid leaked into the fault or whether it created pressure that caused the fault to move.

Fracking Linked to Earthquakes in Ohio - from NRDC: The Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) announcedtoday that recent earthquakes in northeastern Ohio were likely caused by hydraulic fracturing. A series of earthquakes up to magnitude 3.0 struck on March 10th and 11th in Mahoning County near the Ohio-Pennsylvania border. A nearby Utica oil well was being hydraulically fractured at the time of the quakes, leading ODNR shut down the operation until a possible link could be investigated further.This is now the fourth documented case of induced seismicity linked to hydraulic fracturing, and the latest in a series of earthquakes in Ohio caused by oil and gas production activities. The earlier quakes resulted from disposal of waste water into underground injection wells. Scientists have long known that injecting fluids underground can cause earthquakes. Despite this fact, neither state nor federal regulations require operators of hydraulically fractured wells or disposal wells to evaluate the risk of induced earthquakes when deciding where to site wells or how to operate them. Ohio will now be the first state to require companies to monitor for seismic activity during hydraulic fracturing and shut down operations if earthquakes occur.

State creates tougher fracking rules to reduce risk of earthquakes -  State regulators have announced new rules for fracking near known faults and areas of past seismic activity in wake of a series of earthquakes in Mahoning County about a month ago. Drilling within 3 miles of “a known fault or area of seismic activity greater than a 2.0 magnitude” will have to be monitored with “sensitive seismic monitors” by companies, according to Ohio Department of Natural Resources. The agency said in a release that the new policy is in response to recent earthquakes in Poland Township “that show a probable connection to hydraulic-fracturing near a previously unknown micro-fault.” “While we can never be 100 percent sure that drilling activities are connected to a seismic event, caution dictates that we take these new steps to protect human health, safety and the environment,” ODNR Director James Zehringer said in the release. At least 12 earthquakes occurred in early March near an active fracking operation, prompting Natural Resources to shut down the process. Initially, the state said there was no evidence linking fracking and the temblors. The largest registered at magnitude-3.0. “ODNR geologists believe the sand and water injected into the well during the hydraulic fracturing process may have increased pressure on an unknown micro-fault in the area,” according to the release. The link is one of the first in the U.S. between fracking and earthquakes; injection wells have been linked to quakes for some time.

Fracking Linked To Earthquakes In Ohio, New Permit Conditions Issued - - State geologists in Ohio have for the first time linked earthquakes in a geologic formation deep under the Appalachians to gas drilling, leading the state to issue new permit conditions in certain areas that are among the nation's strictest. A state investigation of five small tremors in the Youngstown area, in the Appalachian foothills, last month has found the high-pressure injection of sand and water that accompanies hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, in the Utica Shale may have increased pressure on a small, unknown fault, said State Oil & Gas Chief Rick Simmers. He called the link "probable." While earlier studies had linked earthquakes in the same region to deep-injection wells used for disposal of fracking wastewater, this marks the first time tremors have been tied directly to fracking, Simmers said. Five seismic events in March were all part of what was considered a single event and couldn't be easily felt by people.The state's new permit conditions are perhaps the most cautious yet put in place in the nation, he said. Glenda Besana-Ostman, a seismologist with the U.S. Department of the Interior's Bureau of Reclamation, confirmed the finding is the first in the region to suggest a connection between the quakes and the actual extraction of oil and gas, as opposed to wastewater disposal. A deep-injection well in the same region of Ohio was found to be the likely cause of a series of quakes in the same region of Ohio in 2012.

Ohio acknowledges connection between hydraulic fracturing and Youngstown quakes, will require seismic testing near known fault lines -- State regulators are about to put the brakes on hydraulic fracturing by requiring seismic monitoring of wells being drilled near known fault lines. The Ohio Department of Natural Resources on Friday said that it will require companies seeking horizontal well drilling permits within 3 miles of known fault lines or where quakes have already been recorded will first have install a network of seismic monitors. If the monitors detect a "seismic event" larger than a magnitude of 1.0, the fracturing would have to pause. State seismologists would then try to pinpoint exactly where the quake had occurred, and at what depth. If they determine what the ODNR is calling a "probable connection" to the fracturing, the state will not allow the well to be completed. "The seismic testing will be done in real-time," said Mark Bruce, ODNR spokesman. "If we see anything above 1, the (policy) will require them to stop. "We can then look at the data. If the seismic monitors show that it is down at the bedrock (below the fracturing), then it has nothing to do with the well and they can continue." But if the disturbance is originating closer to the level of the well bore, operations will be suspended, he said.

Ohio links fracking with earthquakes, announces tougher rules: (Reuters) - Ohio regulators announced new rules for oil and gas drilling on Friday after evidence emerged linking the hydraulic fracturing extraction method, known as fracking, to recent earthquakes. In the strongest wording yet from the state, the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) said that injecting sand, water and chemicals deep underground to help release oil and gas could be inducing tremors. Last month, drilling was suspended at the site of two earthquakes in Poland Township in the northeast of the state, 70 miles southeast of Cleveland, the first of which was magnitude 3.0, enough to be felt for miles around. "Regarding the seismic events in Poland Township, ODNR geologists believe the sand and water injected into the well during the hydraulic fracturing process may have increased pressure on an unknown microfault in the area," the deparment said in a statement. The rules announced Friday require companies to install seismic monitors if fracking occurs within three miles of a known fault or an area which has recently experienced quakes, the ODNR said. Friday's statement could have wide implications not just for a state where a drilling boom is underway, but in other regions where concerns have emerged about the impact of fracking on fault lines.

In Unprecedented Move, Ohio Sets Permit Conditions for Fracking Near Faults | 2014-04-11 | Natural Gas Intelligence -- The Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) on Friday took an unprecedented step to establish what is believed to be the country's first set of permitting conditions for hydraulic fracturing (fracking) in horizontal wells near fault lines or areas of previous seismic activity. The move comes after a month of investigation into what caused a 3.0-magnitude earthquake on March 10 near a well-pad operated by Hilcorp Energy Co. in Mahoning County's Poland Township, about eight miles southeast of Youngstown (see Shale Daily, March 11). In a press release announcing the new regulations, ODNR said its geologists believe that sand and water injected into one of the six wells on the pad during stimulation operations in the days leading up to the earthquake (see Shale Daily, March 12) increased pressure on an unknown micro-fault in the area, triggering the seismic activity. ODNR shut down operations at that well pad the day of the earthquake and allowed natural gas to continue flowing at a nearby producing well. Another 10 earthquakes, smaller than the first, were recorded in the area by the U.S. Geological Survey and researchers at Columbia University in the following days (see Shale Daily, March 19). Despite a number of private studies (see Shale DailyApril 11, 2013Jan. 18, 2013June 18, 2012Oct. 11, 2011), ODNR's announcement marks one of the first times that a state agency has gone beyond suggestions and provided an explanation about the link between stimulation operations and fracking. As other states, such as Oklahoma and Kansas (see Shale DailyMarch 20April 8), mull similar regulations for exploration and production companies and injection well operators, ODNR's move is also one of the first significant steps in establishing conditions aimed at limiting the possibility of seismic events related to unconventional oil and gas development.

Can Fracking Solve the Nuclear Waste Problem?  -- U.S. scientists are proposing that the source of one controversial energy program could provide a solution to the problems of another. Nuclear waste—that embarrassing by-product of two generations of uranium-fueled power stations—could be stored indefinitely in the shale rock that right now provides a highly contentious source of natural gas for utility companies.  An estimated 77,000 tons of spent nuclear fuel is stored in temporary, above-ground facilities. For decades, governments, anti-nuclear campaigners and nuclear generating companies have all agreed that such a solution is unsafe in the long-term, and unsatisfactory even in the short term. Nuclear fuel remains hazardous for tens of thousands of years. Everyone would like to see it safely tucked out of harm’s way. But for decades, there has been disagreement and uncertainty about what might constitute long-term safety. But Chris Neuzil of the U.S. Geological Survey told the American Chemical Society annual meeting in Dallas, TX, that the unique properties of the sedimentary rock and clay-rich strata that make up the shale beds could be ideal. France, Switzerland and Belgium already planned to use shale repositories as a long-term home. For decades, U.S. authorities planned to bury American waste under Yucca Mountain in Nevada, but abandoned the scheme in 2009.

Under Revised Quake Estimates, Dozens of Nuclear Reactors Face Costly Safety Analyses - Owners of at least two dozen nuclear reactors across the United States, including the operator of Indian Point 2, in Buchanan, N.Y., have told the Nuclear Regulatory Commission that they cannot show that their reactors would withstand the most severe earthquake that revised estimates say they might face, according to industry experts.  As a result, the reactors’ owners will be required to undertake extensive analyses of their structures and components. Those are generally sturdier than assumed in licensing documents, but owners of some plants may be forced to make physical changes, and are likely to spend about $5 million each just for the analysis.  Richard S. Drake, a structural engineer with Entergy, which owns Indian Point 2 and 3, north of New York City, said the plants had far thicker concrete and steel than the minimum required. Thus, he said, they could probably withstand far bigger challenges than their licenses specified.  But on the basis of engineering analyses already in hand, Mr. Drake said, “I just can’t say, ‘It looks good from here.’ We’ll have to crunch the numbers.” The Nuclear Regulatory Commission is presuming, for the time being at least, that plants built to the old standard do not present any immediate risk. But critics say that contradicts one of the recommendations made by a task force of commission senior staff members after the earthquake and tsunami in Japan three years ago, which caused three reactors to melt down at Fukushima Daiichi. 

Oil Consultant Turned Whistleblower Exposes Fracking Crimes in Alberta -- This You Tube is a compilation of segments from a 90 minute talk. Jessica Ernst worked for more than three decades as an environmental biologist doing research and independent consulting for the Alberta, Canada, petroleum industry. One of her main clients was the EnCana Company, which began large-scale fracking in the region of her home community of Rosebud, Alberta, in the early years of the 21st century.  In 2007, Jessica Ernst the scientist became Jessica Ernst the whistleblower. Bringing forward evidence that her own water well and those of her neighbors had been severely contaminated, Ernst sued the EnCanada Corporation. She also sued the forerunner of the Alberta Energy Regulator as well as the Alberta government itself.  Ernst is especially intent on getting some accountability from the Alberta Energy Regulator (AER), which is 100 percent industry-funded. She accuses the AER of violating her freedom of association under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Ernst made this allegation based on a directive issued by the oil and gas regulator, Jim Reid. Rather than doing a credible investigation of Ernst's complaints, Reid ordered his staff to cease all communications with Ernst in 2005.

Chevron blocked access to DEP after fatal well fire in southwest Pa. | StateImpact Pennsylvania - When a Chevron natural gas well exploded in Greene County, killing a worker, the company blocked personnel with the state Department of Environmental Protection from accessing the site for nearly two days. The DEP acquiesced, despite its regulatory authority. Now, that issue is one of nine violations the DEP outlined in a letter to Chevron last month. The fire started early on Feb. 11 and continued to burn for five days. When a DEP emergency crew first arrived on the scene in Dunkard Township, Chevron told them to stay away from the site and not to drive their vehicle on the access road. The crew was also blocked from parking an emergency vehicle at a nearby command center.  “They were not allowing anybody close to that well pad and I think that our feeling though was, as a regulatory agency, we want to be there, we want to see it, we want to know what Chevron is saying,” DEP spokesman John Poister said.  Drilling companies are always required to grant access to DEP officials, regardless of the circumstances, according to their state-issued permits.  When asked why the agency did not enforce its right to access the site, Poister told StateImpact Pennsylvania the agency did “strongly” express its concerns to Chevron and that the relationship between the company and the DEP improved over time.

No Eminent Domain For Gas Gathering System - A fracker tried to pretend that their gas gathering system was a “utility” and get the power of eminent domain to condemn right of way. Silly fracker. Court Blocks Use of Eminent Domain on Pipeline York County landowners affected by the same proposed Marcellus Shale pipeline that would run through Clay and West Cocalico townships in Lancaster County have won a court battle blocking Sunoco Logistics from condemning their land. In a March 25 ruling in York County Common Pleas Court, Judge Stephen Linebaugh reaffirmed his previous ruling that Sunoco was a pipeline carrier, and not a public utility, and therefore had no eminent domain powers.  Officials for Williams Partners, which wants to build a 35-mile Marcellus Shale natural gas line the length of Lancaster County, north to south, said Wednesday that the court case has no bearing on their project. “It is not an apples to apples comparison. This decision does not apply…,” said Chris Stockton, spokesman for Tulsa-based Williams.  Stockton said Williams is under the jurisdiction of the Natural Gas Act, not the Interstate Commerce Act like Sunoco, and would need to get its power of eminent domain if the project is approved by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.

Arms of a Behemoth: Interesting Video on LNG Distribution -  Here is an interesting video on liquid Natural Gas distribution that came my way courtesy of New Zealand reader Hugh Pavletich.

ANR Pipeline: Introducing TransCanada’s Keystone XL for Fracking --When most environmentalists and folks who follow pipeline markets think of TransCanada, they think of the proposed northern half of its KeystoneXL tar sands pipeline. Flying beneath the public radar, though, is another TransCanada-proposed pipeline with a similar function as Keystone XL. But rather than for carrying tar sands bitumen to the Gulf Coast, this pipeline would bring to market shale gas obtained via hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”). Meet TransCanada's ANR Pipeline System. Although not actually a new pipeline system, TransCanada wants ANR retooled to serve domestic and export markets for gas fracked from theMarcellus Shale basin and the Utica Shale basin via its Southeast Main Line.  “The [current Southeast Main Line] moves gas from south Louisiana (including offshore) to Michigan where it has a strong market presence,” explains a March 27 article appearing in industry publication RBN Energy.  Because of the immense amount of shale gas being produced in the Marcellus and Utica, TransCanada seeks a flow reversal in the Southeast Main Line of itsANR Pipeline System.  TransCanada has already drawn significant interest from customers in the open seasons and negotiations held to date, so much so it expects to begin the flow reversal in 2015.

Industry Pays Pipeline Safety Regulators --  To not regulate. Almost 100% of national pipeline regulations are paid for by the pipeline industry –  who get what they paid for. Jeffrey Wiese, the nation’s top oil and gas pipeline safety official, recently strode to a dais beneath crystal chandeliers at a New Orleans hotel to let his audience in on an open secret: the regulatory process he oversees is “kind of dying.” Wiese told several hundred oil and gas pipeline compliance officers that his agency, the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Administration [2] (PHMSA), has “very few tools to work with” in enforcing safety rules even after Congress in 2011 allowed it to impose higher fines on companies that cause major accidents. “Do I think I can hurt a major international corporation with a $2 million civil penalty? No,” he said. Because generating a new pipeline rule can take as long as three years, Wiese said PHMSA is creating a YouTube channel to persuade the industry to voluntarily improve its safety operations. “We’ll be trying to socialize these concepts long before we get to regulations.” Wiese’s pessimism about the viability of the pipeline regulatory system is at odds with the Obama administration’s insistence [3] that the nation’s pipeline infrastructure is safe and its regulatory regime robust. In a speech last year [4], President Obama ordered regulatory agencies like PHMSA to help expedite the building of new pipelines “in a way that protects the health and safety of the American people.”

Company That Spilled 20,000 Barrels Of Oil Into A Michigan River Is Reopening Its Pipeline -- An oil pipeline that spilled over 20,000 barrels into a Michigan river has been rebuilt and will re-open for business on May 1, InsideClimate News reports. The pipeline, owned by Enbridge Inc., goes from Griffith to Ortonville in Michigan, cutting across over 100 wetlands, streams and rivers in its 235-mile path. It will be able to carry up to 500,000 barrels of crude oil a day, including the heavy crude from Canada’s oil sands. Another 50-mile segment is scheduled to be opened in early fall. The pipeline is a $1.3 billion replacement for a 46-year-old pipe that followed the same path. In 2010, a rupture in that original pipe dumped over 834,000 gallons (or more than 20,000 barrels) of heavy Canadian crude into Michigan’s Kalamazoo River. The spill spread through 40 miles of the river, and leached into the surrounding wetlands. At $800 million, it was the costliest on-shore spill in United States history at the time. The Department of Transportation wound up imposing a record-setting $3.7 million civil penalty on Enbridge for the Kalamazoo spill, and the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) faulted the company for “pervasive organizational failures” and a “complete breakdown of safety.” The NTSB said the company noticed cracks in the pipe due to corrosion and fatigue as early as 2010, but failed to report them — and it faulted the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA), the agency charged with overseeing the safety and integrity of the nation’s pipelines, for “weak federal regulations.”

NC commission appeals ruling giving it authority to halt coal ash pollution -  The state’s Environmental Management Commission on Monday appealed a judge’s ruling that gave it the authority to force Duke Energy to immediately stop pollution at its coal ash ponds.It was an unexpected move by the state — and an unusual one — and put the commission on the same side of the ruling as Duke Energy, which last week also appealed the judge’s decision. The March 6 ruling by Wake Superior Court Judge Paul Ridgeway reversed a state Environmental Management Commission decision that was reached in December.The state EMC for several years has interpreted a groundwater pollution rule to mean that it didn’t have to require a polluter to immediately stop the source of pollution, which gave regulators more options to work toward a cleanup. Environmental groups sued to force the commission to return to the way it had imposed the rule before that, but the commission decided it had interpreted the rule correctly.Environmentalists then sued to appeal the EMC ruling. Ridgeway agreed with them, and said the state had the authority to require an immediate halt to pollution. The EMC adopts and oversees rules for the state Department of Environment and Natural Resources, and is represented by the attorney general’s office.

200,000 Pounds Of Oiled Sand Found Along Texas Coastline After Spill - The March 22 collision between a ship and a barge carrying up to 4,000 barrels of “sticky, gooey, thick, tarry” bunker fuel oil in Galveston Bay, Texas, has resulted in more than 200,000 pounds of oiled sand and debris accumulating along some 22 miles of shoreline on the Texas coast.  The spill, which shut down the busy Houston Ship Channel for three days, has had wide-ranging economic and ecological impacts. Areas surrounding the spill are environmentally sensitive and provide crucial stopover points for a number of migrating bird species. These include whooping cranes, one of North America’s rarest birds, which winter on the nearby Matagorda Island. Parts of the island have been contaminated by oil from the spill. Fewer than half of the whooping cranes have started this year’s migration north, and officials are taking extra precaution not to disturb them during cleanup efforts.  As of Thursday, the Coast Guard had recovered 329 oiled birds from Galveston Bay to North Padre Island, most of them dead. According to the Texas Tribune, birds affected by the spill include ducks, herrings, herons, brown and white pelicans, sanderlings, loons, willets, black-bellied plover and the piping plover.

 China Takes On Big Risks in Its Push for Shale Gas - — Residents of this isolated mountain valley of terraced cornfields were just going to sleep last April when they were jolted by an enormous roar, followed by a tower of flames. A shock wave rolled across the valley, rattling windows in farmhouses and village shops, and a mysterious, pungent gas swiftly pervaded homes.“It was so scary — everyone who had a car fled the village and the rest of us without cars just stayed and waited to die.” All too quickly, residents realized the source of the midnight fireball: a shale gas drilling rig in their tiny rural hamlet.This verdant valley represents the latest frontier in the worldwide hunt for shale gas retrievable by the technology of hydraulic fracturing, or fracking. It is a drilling boom that has upended the energy industry and spurred billions of dollars of investment.Like the United States and Europe, China wants to wean itself from its dependence on energy imports — and in Jiaoshizhen, the Chinese energy giant Sinopec says it has made the country’s first commercially viable shale gas discovery.  The energy industry around the world has faced criticism about the economic viability of vast shale projects and the environmental impact of the fracking process. But interviews with residents of six hamlets here where drilling is being done, as well as with executives and experts in Beijing, the United States and Europe, suggest that China’s search poses even greater challenges. In China, companies must drill two to three times as deep as in the United States, making the process significantly more expensive, noisier and potentially more dangerous. Chinese energy giants also operate in strict secrecy; they rarely engage with local communities, and accidents claim a high death toll.

No comments: