Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Earthquakes Induced by Fluid Injection, FAQ

Last August I wrote about the earthquake in Virginia and wondered if it had anything to do with crustal rebound or aquifer drawdown. That led me to learn about fracturing and deep well liquid injection related to the oil and gas industry. I'm still kind of weirded out by the idea that one commercial enterprise is allowed to do something in one spot that can affect entire regions. What's the point of having a government again?

The USGS just put a new Frequently Asked Question page on their website compiling all the fluid injection answers in one place. That will be handy for bloggers next time there's a weird earthquake. The answer to this question interested me particularly. They've had evidence since 1966 that that injecting wastewater into a deep well can cause an earthquake. My whole life they've known about this. They have evidence of all kinds of nasty things that can happen from drilling for oil and gas, like contaminating aquifers. But nobody thought maybe they should stop poking giant holes in the earth like some kind of voodoo doll?

The whole concept gives me a strange uneasy feeling. What are they doing about it?
USGS supports both internal and external (university-based) research on the causes of induced earthquakes. This research has a focus on injection-induced earthquakes, both from wastewater disposal and from enhanced geothermal technologies. USGS and its university partners have also deployed seismometers at sites of known or possible injection-induced earthquakes in Arkansas, southern Colorado, Oklahoma and Ohio. The USGS is also providing advice to the Environmental Protection Agency about how to assess the earthquake hazard associated with wastewater injection activities at Class II disposal wells.
That's it? They're assessing the hazard? Did it occur to anybody to just make them stop doing things that have vast unpleasant side effects? If the US had said, "Hold it right there!" in 1966 and invested in alternative energy research instead of letting the oil lobby run everything, imagine where we'd be now. They didn't even say "Figure out some other way to process the contaminated water." It was surface water right? Shoving it down into the crust of the earth kind of takes it out of the water cycle, no? Is that really a good idea? I mean, I am not delusional enough to think quantities like that are significant compared to the ocean, but it's just a nasty trend. I don't think it's ok for corporations to transfer geological resources like that. It seems wrong. We want this, we don't want that. Let's put this fossil fuel into the climate and take that water out. Who the hell do they think they are?!

I know some people get really worked up when a Democratic campaign manager in Arkansas comes home with his children to find his cat on the porch with his head bashed in and "LIBERAL" written in his fur with a marker. That's just one family and one cat. (And he wasn't even that liberal. They were just about the head to church.) With this injection business we're talking about something that could affect more than one STATE. It seems like more people would be mad at the oil companies about it. Even though I don't understand it I can recognize that the bulk of people only care about furry warm blooded things, and others not even those (the cat basher, for example). Apparently seeing the big picture and having an emotional connection to things like rocks and water makes me a genuine mutant. A worried mutant.

1 comment:

  1. Famous last words:

    "What can possibly go wrong?"

    "Hey, if we start an earthquake, we'll just stop drilling for a little while. Big deal!"

    I'm going to find a copy of the film, "The Day The Earth Caught Fire" and watch it a few times. http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0054790/