Sunday, March 11, 2012

Confusion about fracking

The Arizona Daily Star ran a story the other day headlined "Fracking likely caused Ohio quakes officials say." The problem is that it becomes obvious after reading only a couple of sentences that Ohio officials did not say that.

The headline and the text of the story don't match. According to the article, the earthquakes were triggered by injection of waste water into geologic layers below the natural gas horizon. This is not hydraulic fracturing ("fracking") of the natural gas-bearing shale unit. The production well produces natural gas and water. The water is removed, piped to a waste water injection well and pumped into the ground, typically into deep saline beds. In Ohio, it is the waste water injection, not the fracking, that is linked to the earthquakes. The waste water disposal is completely separate from the fracking of the production well and the earthquakes would have occurred whether or not fracking was involved in the original well completion. [Right, drill rig. Credit, EPA]

This kind of confusion is contributing to the national frenzy over fracking. There is no fracking going on in Arizona yet I hear all kinds of questions or accusations about the damage it is supposedly doing in the state.


  1. Having just watched the movie "Gasland" last night, I understand where the concern is coming from, even if some of it is misguided.

  2. Ron, I have not seen Gasland myself, but a year and a half ago, we hosted a meeting of state oil and gas regulatory officials in Tucson and fracking dominated the conversations. There was a lot of discussion of the movie and concerns voiced about the accuracy of claims made in it.

  3. I know it's tough to clarify things when the media gets involved-- even when they mean well they often misunderstand the details or present them so incoherently, the audience misunderstands. And as much as we try to keep the discussion real in our social media, there are just as many folks out there who have a knee-jerk reaction one way or the other. But I guess all we can do is try.

  4. Anonymous10:36 AM

    The trouble occurs when petroleum recovery is not your primary goal.
    Bush era regs on 'proprietary' chemicals gives rise to the practice of dumping toxic waste at a profit while declaring hydrocarbon recovery.
    Non-disclosure of the fluids being injected is a serious concern.

  5. Anonymous8:44 PM

    I don't want to find out if the movie is correct or not they are destroying the environment. Where are we to get our water from?

  6. Anonymous6:50 PM

    GEE.........i think if the movie GAS LAND was not being truthful, i think those EVIL energy companies can scrape enough money together to hire an attorney and file suit. and hey, in all this time they have been raping the earth in this country, why don't i see lower energy costs.

  7. Anonymous7:58 AM

    Wait a minute. Your explanation describes the entire process of the fracking as removal of natural gas and water and then returning the water to the ground. If the fricking process removes and returns the waste water afterward, then the fricking process caused the earthquakes!

  8. Wastewaster injection is a separate, independent activity from hydraulic fracturing. Such injection has gone on for decades to dispose of produced waters from wells that were never fractured. You seem to be redefining fracking to include other aspects of the natural gas production process.

  9. Anonymous9:09 AM

    CLEAN UP YOUR MESS GOVERNMENT...........I want all my money back for that conservation bullshit in Wyoming MR. CHENEY when I lived there that I donated to conserve wildlife and the environment, OUR GOVERNMENT HAS LOST ITS FUCKING MIND.

  10. Anonymous7:12 PM

    Why are the gas companies having people sign gag orders,