Fracking Didn’t Cause Oklahoma Earthquake

Fracking Didn’t Cause Oklahoma Earthquake

Daniel John Sobieski

5 September, 2016

The earth moved for environmental extremists Saturday when a 5.6 magnitude earthquake struck Oklahoma. As soon as the first aftershock, the greenies were in full voice blaming fracking, the technology that has fueled America’s oil and natural gas boom.

Oklahoma state regulators ordered 37 disposal wells used by frackers shut down and Green Party presidential candidate Dr. Jill Stein tweeted:

Fracking causes polluted drinking water + earthquakes. The #GreenNewDeal comes with none of these side effects, Oklahoma. #BanFracking

Hydraulic fracturing, the technical term, does not cause earthquakes nor has there ever been evidence that it contaminates drinking water. Fracking has been used in oil and gas production in Oklahoma since 1949 and now, more than six decades later, the chicken littles of the left are claiming it now causes major destructive earthquakes? As Investor’s Business Daily editorialized:

So desperate have the greenies become to stop the oil and natural gas boom produced by the use of fracking that they resorted to claims that fracking can cause earthquakes. A recent report by the National Research Council dispelled that notion. U.S. Geological Survey seismologist William Ellsworth says he agrees with the research council that “hydraulic fracturing does not seem to pose much risk for earthquake activity.”

The mixture used to fracture shale is in fact a benign blend of 90% water, 9.5% sand and 0.5% chemicals such as the sodium chloride of table salt and the citric acid of the orange juice you had for breakfast. Shale formations in which fracking is employed are thousands of feet deep. Drinking-water aquifers are generally only a hundred feet deep. There’s a lot of solid rock between them….

“This 60-year-old technique has been responsible for 7 billion barrels of oil and 600 trillion cubic feet of natural gas,” according to James Inhofe, R-Okla., ranking member of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, and in whose state fracking was first commercially applied in 1949. “In hydraulic fracturing’s 60-year-history,” he says, “there has not been a single documented case of contamination.”

Fracking involves the injection under pressure of the aforementioned mixture of common elements, mainly water itself, to shatter the porous shale rock and releasing trapped oil and natural gas which is then extracted to the surface. Disposal wells do sometimes disturb the earth, but does not cause major destructive earthquakes, according to a study by the National Research Council, part of the National Academies of Science:

Does hydraulic fracturing — the process of forcing water, sand and a few chemicals down the bore hole and into shale formations — cause earthquakes? The National Research Council (NRC), part of the National Academies of Science, says the answer to that would be “no, fracking does not cause earthquakes.” That’s according to a new study just released by the NRC titled “Induced Seismicity Potential in Energy Technologies”….

The study found that out of a sample size of 35,000 oil and gas wells that have been horizontally fracked, earthquakes have been detected — get ready — in one instance. One. Which is statistically dead zero.

But what about those earthquakes in Ohio? And the ones down in Arkansas? That was from fracking, right? No, it wasn’t. It was from injecting wastewater from Marcellus drilling deep underground into what are called injection wells — a method of disposing leftover fracking water. There are over 30,000 active injection wells in the United States. When an injection well is located near or over top of a fault and fluid is forced down into the well and the fluid leaks into the fault, guess what happens? An earthquake. According to the NRC study how many earthquakes have resulted from those 30,000 injection wells? Eight. Once again, statistically zero.

It is fracking that has produced a boom in the production of natural gas, a fossil fuel, that has produced a significant reduction in the U.S. of so-called “greenhouse gases”. As the Washington Times reported:

White House senior advisor Brian Deese cheered the falling carbon dioxide levels at a Monday press conference without mentioning the outsize role played by natural gas, as the cleaner-burning fuel increasingly overtakes coal in electricity generation.

“For those of you who are not breathlessly following the most recent data that has come out, I would note recent data that we’ve seen suggests or finds that for the first half of 2016, energy sector emissions in the United States are actually down 6 percent from last year, and 15 percent from 2005,” said Mr. Deese. “And they’re at their lowest level in nearly 20 years.”

He said nothing about the U.S. natural gas boom, an omission that critics say has become par for the course as the Obama administration highlights renewable energy and emissions restrictions without acknowledging the role of fracking in natural gas extraction.

“To add dishonesty to injury, his administration is bragging about the reduced CO2 emissions of [the] U.S. industry without crediting the fracking for natural gas, a fossil fuel, that largely caused it,” said Alex Epstein, author of the book “The Moral Case for Fossil Fuels.”

Fracking itself is in fact saving the environment by reducing the emission of greenhouse gases the greenies hate. It does not slice and dice birds, including endangered species, en masse like wind turbines, nor does it fry them to a crisp like solar panel farms have done. And it does not cause major disastrous earthquakes.

Daniel John Sobieski is a freelance writer whose pieces have appeared in Investor’s Business Daily, Human Events, Reason Magazine and the Chicago Sun-Times among other publications.