Protecting UK from Fracking-Induced Earthquakes

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In summary: gas contamination has beenidentified, it is likely the result of human action, rather thannatural phenomena.
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So we have proposed sites in the UK some are close to habitation how can we insure against Fracking
earth quakes?

March 29, 2016
Seismological Society of America
A survey of a major oil and natural gas-producing region in Western Canada suggests a link between hydraulic fracturing or 'fracking' and induced earthquakes in the region.
Physics news on
  • #2
wolram said:
So we have proposed sites in the UK some are close to habitation how can we insure against Fracking
earth quakes?
It seems insurance against Frack induced quakes is a tough policy to get, the variables determining the processes involved are extremely complex. After reading the article you cited, the difference between US and Canadian study results could very likely be the result of Government and industry policy as opposed to Geology and oil industry practices.
One point that would be worth making is quakes are only one problem fracking may cause, groundwater contamination as well as surface venting of methane, see, for example, although there are many cases mentioned in studies.
There is the fact that pro-oil is incredibly well funded as well as enjoying huge support from governments to be considered, the average citizen in the average country has little chance to influence decisions on that level. As example these sites are going to tell you its a great idea,
I guess you get the idea, one can hear whatever they prefer by changing the source of the information. I'll leave my personal opinions out of this and end by wishing the UK the best of luck which ever way the question is decided. :smile:
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With the seismic techniques that are available, fracking ought to be safe. The overwhelming number of problems with fracking are due to failures to do things properly, either at the wells or later, with disposal. Before a horizontal well is even drilled, proximity to existing faults that could rupture need to be considered, along with the existence of fractures in the cap rock and rock units above it. These days that can be determined fairly accurately, if the time and money are spent. Regulation in place are only as good as the adherence to them...(fill in your spin on that). To me, in the end, I'd be too cautious and probably too expensive at today's oil and gas prices, but fracking in and of itself shouldn't be a banned technique.

The Scientific American article linked previously quotes Robert Jackson. He and other went back later and found this:
Noble gases identify the mechanisms of fugitive gas contamination in drinking-water

There are several articles in 2014 and 2015 in dealing with fracking in general and in the Marcellus Shale.
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GSA Critical Issue: Hydraulic Fracturing Table of Contents:
Hydraulic Fracturing Defined
Hydraulic Fracturing’s History and Role in Energy Development
Potential Environmental Issues Associated with Hydraulic Fracturing
Water Quality
Water Use I
nduced Seismicity
Regulation Issues
Staying Informed

There is the science, the technology, then all that other stuff that has little or nothing to do with the first two
  • #5
Howdy Capn', :smile: nice job on the source links, I found a lot of interesting reading, thanks. After going over the info I'm pretty sure I'd rather not have my water well near any oil well development, whether it was fracked or not. Your point about adherence to regulations is "well" made (no pun intended), Having spent more than a few shifts on the floor of drill rigs in the Bakken field, I can personally attest to the fact that regulations can be very flexibly applied depending on the particular company and crew involved, the bottom line is, unless big brother is looking over ones shoulders, the financial bottom line always prevails. I found the studies on Fracking/Groundwater contamination to be particularly interesting as the possibility that the fracking process may have actually been responsible for the casing failure that allowed the contamination to occur. Here are a couple of excerpts I found of interest while reading. Clearly more understanding of the dynamics involved is called for, Also I appreciate that the links you provided were from neutral sites and not pro-oil or anti-oil propaganda. :thumbup:

Hydrocarbon production from unconventional sources is grow-
ing rapidly, accompanied by concerns about drinking-water
contamination and other environmental risks. Using noble gas
and hydrocarbon tracers, we distinguish natural sources of
methane from anthropogenic contamination and evaluate the
mechanisms that cause elevated hydrocarbon concentrations
in drinking water near natural-gas wells. We document fugitive
gases in eight clusters of domestic water wells overlying the
Marcellus and Barnett Shales, including declining water quality
through time over the Barnett. Gas geochemistry data implicate
leaks through annulus cement (four cases), production casings
(three cases), and underground well failure (one case) rather
than gas migration induced by hydraulic fracturing deep un-
derground. Determining the mechanisms of contamination will
improve the safety and economics of shale-gas extraction.

In general, our data suggest that where fugitive gas contami-
nation occurs, well integrity problems are most likely associated
with casing or cementing issues. In contrast, our data do not sug-
gest that horizontal drilling or hydraulic fracturing has provided
a conduit to connect deep Marcellus or Barnett Formations di-
rectly to surface aquifers. Well integrity has been recognized for
decades as an important factor in environmental stewardship for
conventional oil and gas production (34, 35). Future work should
evaluate whether the large volumes of water and high pressures
required for horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing influence
well integrity. In our opinion, optimizing well integrity is a critical,
feasible, and cost-effective way to reduce problems with drinking-
water contamination and to alleviate public concerns accompa-
nying shale-gas extraction.

For more government ambiguity see,$File/EPA-SAB-16-005+Unsigned.pdf
  • #6
"Let's give the Bakken play to that San Francisco hippie at US Offshore, Alaska and International" With that my group became "USOAI and Unconventional Reserves". This was before horizontal drilling was perfected and I couldn't see any commercial benefit to exploiting the Bakken with vertical fracking, so the leases were sold. When I was with BP Alaska, I started mapping the extent of methane hydrate zones and that continued at Sun Oil. When asked to consider offshore leases over those zones I knew it was time to retire from the oil business. I had gone from magnetic, gravity and heat flow studies to capturing methane in huge tarps with a hose on top (which was one of the earliest methods proposed).

I once believed that environmental incidents in California were true accidents because of adherence to regulations. As it turns out, it's obvious that pretty much all the recent leaks, ruptures and spills were due to non-adherence and the ravages of time exposing short cuts. Sometimes this involves deceit and sometimes because of regulators bowing to Big Business. At any rate, I think the science is good and evolving as is the engineering and technology. The implementation tends to suck.
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  • #7
CapnGranite said:
I think the science is good and evolving as is the engineering and technology. The implementation tends to suck.
Excellent summation, Are you familiar with Leonardo Maugeri's "Age of oil", I would imagine the answer will be yes, If so what's your opinion on his book?
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  • #8
I am familiar with the book. M. King Hubbert was my structural geology prof and I picked up a lot about peak oil in his last year there; however, at that time oil wasn't even remotely interesting to me. However, lately and to today I watch global energy and oil reserves and discoveries at LLNL. I entirely agree with Maugeri's assessments. Hubbert's peak oil was correct in the context of his times. The descent from that peak isn't all that precipitous because we are finding oil fairly regularly using more-or-less conventional technology. I think we are preparing to climb another peak with fracking and other methods of hydrocarbon production. The introduction of other unconventional reserves will make this a broad, level-topped mountain. The third peak will be when the Fischer–Tropsch process and other technologies make methane and other carbon molecules a profitable starting point to ethane and higher hydrocarbons. I suspect that somewhere before that last peak, oil will not be necessary for most areas of society and the economy to function smoothly.
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Thanks for posting a reference to Maugeri's book. It should be read by anybody interested in the subject.
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CapnGranite said:
Thanks for posting a reference to Maugeri's book. It should be read by anybody interested in the subject.
If ones not interested in the subject they will be after reading that book, it was an incredible eye opener for me. Its not often you get such an inside look at the business end of that industry. I recommend it to anyone who asks "why" concerning fuel prices, and energy in general.
(by the way post # 8 makes too much sense, I'll be reading up on the Fischer-Tropsch process, that's new to me.)
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CapnGranite said:
This paper gets into the Fischer-Tropsch process deep in the earth
Thanks :thumbup:
  • #13
An update...

PAWNEE, Okla. (AP) - A 4.5 magnitude earthquake has shaken central Oklahoma.

The earthquake occurred around 11:25 p.m. The U.S. Geological Survey reports the epicenter was near Pawnee, about 70 miles northeast of Oklahoma City.

The USGS originally estimated the magnitude at 4.1. A 3.3 magnitude quake was recorded Saturday near Pawnee.

According to social media reports, the quake Tuesday night could be felt as far away as Kansas City and St. Joseph, Missouri.

An increase in magnitude 3.0 and stronger earthquakes in Oklahoma has been linked to the underground disposal of wastewater from oil and natural gas production. State regulators have ordered some disposal wells to be permanently shut down and others to reduce the amount of wastewater they return underground.
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  • #14

"It's estimated the Wilmington reserves originally contained 3 billion barrels of oil, with around 300,000 million barrels left in the tank today. In 1940, Long Beach began to sink as a result of so much oil being drained from beneath the city. By the early 1950s, this so-called "subsidence" phenomenon was causing the city's elevation to drop by approximately 2 feet per year. The results were destructive: Streets cracked, pipes warped, and buildings became unsafe. The sinking even caused minor geological tremors. In 1953, Long Beach began injecting water into the oil reservoirs, and the subsidence stopped."

I was only involved in oil exploration, but it struck me that when the fields go on stream, we ought to inject water at the same rate we extract the oil, to preserve the structural integrity of the geologic formation. This is hardly economical, except in terms of potential lawsuits later. We also saw that we could boost flow rates by giving the oil a boost with water at a higher pressure. This is where things fall apart. Water injection at pressures greater than the equilibrium state can cause fracturing and mini quakes. Waste water disposal is also controlled by economics--pump it in as quickly as possible. It seems an acceptable thing to inject water below the oil zone or into fully exploited oil zones to hydrostatic equilibrium. That would diminish subsidence and not overpressure the zone to create fracturing and potential mini quakes.
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  • #15
This was in the news today actually, three anti-fracking protesters were jailed this year and have now been freed after an appeal ruled their sentences were too harsh (obviously), unfortunately the fracking in their area is still going ahead, there's a news piece covering it here:

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The Judge was ' questionable ' in the original case as he had -according to media reports- some kind of either direct
or indirect interests with promoters of "fracking" . This was on the main news channel(s) last night . The nearby town (when
I lived there) of Preston ,Lancashire - now the City of Preston having been granted a Royal Warrant - is quite large .
Preston New Road is practically the edge of the City.
  • #17
We're getting into legal/subjective posts.
This won't work well in the Science forums, so let's move it General Discussion.
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  • #18
I believe the UK is still importing oil to burn to produce electricity. In which case much of the gas produced by fracking would go to reducing our use of imported oil. Obviously we should be reducing our consumption of both but I think burning gas is better than burning oil.
  • #19
Janosh89 said:
The Judge was ' questionable ' in the original case as he had -according to media reports- some kind of either direct or indirect interests with promoters of "fracking"

His family has a business that primarily sells to the oil and gas industry as well as Centrica; a company that has invested a lot of money in UK fracking. His sister is the managing director and added her name to an open letter supporting fracking.

The judicial code of conduct states that impartiality is threatened and can be challenged if a judge has family members that have political/financial interests in the case. This is a clear violation of those conducts and it's a great thing the appeal was successful.
  • #20
Nothing can be compensatory to incarceration in UK Prisons (HM Prison) - I can only hope (but not expect) that the greater part of their sentence(s) was in an Open Prison. What happened to D. Cameron and his husky sled ( was it an attempted emulation of H. Simpson ??) ?
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  • #21
Janosh89 said:
The Judge was ' questionable ' in the original case as he had -according to media reports- some kind of either direct
or indirect interests with promoters of "fracking" . This was on the main news channel(s) last night . The nearby town (when
I lived there) of Preston ,Lancashire - now the City of Preston having been granted a Royal Warrant - is quite large .
Preston New Road is practically the edge of the City.

What, you mean this guy? Look at his smug face. Talk about a conflict of interests.

Related to Protecting UK from Fracking-Induced Earthquakes

1. What is fracking and how does it induce earthquakes?

Fracking, or hydraulic fracturing, is a process used to extract natural gas or oil from shale rock formations deep underground. It involves injecting a mixture of water, sand, and chemicals at high pressure into the rock to create fissures, allowing the gas or oil to flow out. This process can induce earthquakes by increasing the fluid pressure and changing the stress conditions in the rock, causing it to slip and release seismic energy.

2. How likely is it that fracking will cause earthquakes in the UK?

The likelihood of fracking-induced earthquakes in the UK is relatively low, but not impossible. The UK has experienced a few cases of seismic activity related to fracking, with the largest being a magnitude 2.9 earthquake in Lancashire in 2019. However, the UK has strict regulations and monitoring systems in place to minimize the risk of earthquakes from fracking activities.

3. What measures are in place to protect the UK from fracking-induced earthquakes?

The UK has a regulatory framework that requires companies to conduct seismic monitoring before, during, and after fracking operations. If any seismic activity is detected above a certain threshold, operations must be halted and further investigations must be conducted. Additionally, companies must adhere to strict guidelines on the volume and pressure of fluids used in fracking to minimize the risk of earthquakes.

4. Can fracking-induced earthquakes be predicted and prevented?

The short answer is no. While seismic monitoring can detect earthquakes, it cannot predict when or where they will occur. As for prevention, the risk of earthquakes from fracking can be minimized through proper regulations and monitoring, but it cannot be completely eliminated.

5. Are there any long-term effects of fracking-induced earthquakes on the UK?

The long-term effects of fracking-induced earthquakes on the UK are not yet fully understood. However, research suggests that these earthquakes are typically small and do not cause significant damage. However, there is a possibility that repeated small earthquakes could trigger larger ones in the future. This is why strict regulations and monitoring are crucial to ensure the safety of communities near fracking sites.

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