The story, EPA to natural gas companies: Give details on ‘fracking’ chemicals, from September 9, 2010, bears continued monitoring. The EPA report isn’t due to be published until 2012.
Fracking for natural gas involves pumping a slurry of sand, water, and chemicals deep underground at high pressure – cracking open natural-gas-bearing shale deposits and allowing the gas embedded there to emerge. The process has been hailed as a boon for US energy supplies and has single-handedly boosted US natural-gas reserves in recent years.
But a growing number of residents in Texas, Pennsylvania, Colorado, and other states say the technique has fouled their drinking-water wells and even caused the tap water coming out of their faucets to smell like industrial chemicals.
In March, the EPA announced it would study the “potential adverse impact” that hydraulic fracturing might have on drinking water. The agency is holding public meetings in major oil and gas production regions to get citizen, industry, and expert input. First results of the study are expected in late 2012.
Of course it was too good to be true. The sudden increase in natural gas produced in this country held out the promise of lowering our dependence on foreign oil. We had to realize that this good news couldn’t come without consequence.
To add to the worries enumerated in the above story, I recall the troubles that came to light many years ago in Rocky Mountain Arsenal in Colorado. There was a sudden rise in minor earthquakes that was attributed to the pumping of industrial waste into underground storage. The threat was so serious that such pumping was halted. I’m off to track down the story of the earthquake in Indiana, Indiana earthquake strikes in rare location, to see if it is near any natural gas wells that have been subject to fracking.
The above map on the left is from the WikiPedia article Indiana Gas Boom. The map on the right shows Howard County which contains Greentown, near the epicenter of the quake.
This gas boom started in the late 1800s. The WikiPedia article seems to be written in 2008. Here is an excerpt relating to the current situation.
Smaller pockets of natural gas exist in Indiana at depths that could not be reached in the boom era. The state has a small natural gas producing industry in 2008, but residents and industry consume about twice as much natural gas as the state produces. In 2005 there were 338 active natural gas wells on the Trenton Field. In 2006 Indiana produced more than 290 million cubic feet (82 million cubic meters) of natural gas. This made it the 24th largest producing state, far below the major producers.
It is estimated that only 10% of the oil was drilled from the Trenton Field, and approximately 900 million barrels (140,000,000 m3) may remain. Because of the size of the field, pumping gas back into the well to increase pressure, as is commonly done in smaller fields, is impossible. Because of the depth and limitations of hydraulic pumps, it was never cost effective to use them to extract oil. It was not until the 1990s that efficient methods of artificial lift were discovered. This has allowed some of the oil to extracted, but at far higher costs than when sufficient natural gas is present.
The report Hydraulic Fracturing: Short-Term Key Issues for Industry notes the following:
Several other prominent shale plays include the Barnett Shale in Texas with proven reserves of 2.5 tcf and potentially up to 30 tcf; the Haynesville Shale in Northern Louisiana, Southern Arkansas and Eastern Texas with an estimated 250 tcf of natural gas resources; and the New Albany shale in Illinois and Indiana, with reserves estimated at 160 tcf.
According to the www.energyindustryphotos.com,
Among the major players in the New Albany shale are Atlas Energy, which holds leases of over 284,000 acres. It has announced in a press release that it plans to drill over one hundred wells on leases that it holds in southwestern Indiana by the end of 2009.
The leases that Atlas Energy holds are located in Sullivan, Knox, Greene, Owen, Clay and Lawrence counties of southwestern Indiana.
I notice a reference to this post from another blog. I return the favor of this blog post being referred to in the article Indiana struck by earthquake in Trenton gas field vicinity on TheDailyBite‘s Blog.
The other blog post refers to another possibility for the cause of the Indiana earth Quakes. The blog writer is concerned about
this structure described below becoming ‘unhinged.’
Evidence of Unconformity at the Top of the Trenton Limestone in Indiana and Adjacent States in BULLETIN OF THE AMERICAN ASSOCIATION OF PETROLEUM GEOLOGISTS, VOL. 50, NO. 3 (MARCH. 1966). PP. 533-545
August 30, 2011
I finally found the reference to the Rocky Mountain Arsenal history that ties it to earthquake activity. Colorado Earthquake History on the USGS site says the following:
In 1961, a 12,000-foot well was drilled at the Rocky Mountain Arsenal, northeast of Denver, for disposing of waste fluids from Arsenal operations. Injection was commenced March 1962, and an unusual series of earthquakes erupted in the area shortly after.
During 1968, ten slight shocks were felt in Colorado. Only one, on July 15, caused minor damage at Commerce City. In September of that year, the Army began removing fluid from the Arsenal well at a very slow rate, in hope that earthquake activity would lessen. The program consisted of four tests between September 3 and October 26. Many slight shocks occurred near the well during this period.
The lead that let me track down the above info came from the article 5 things the media isn’t telling you about human activity and earthquakes.