I was reading in Google News this morning an article about how we shouldn’t worry too much about the potential for earthquakes that surrounds the process of “fracking” natural gas wells.
The article was entitled: Report: Don’t worry much about quakes and fracking.
Honestly, after reading the report, I had the feeling that the author was a little biased in their “interpretation” of the real potential “fracking” has to cause earthquakes.
In the article, the author throws around a few fancy statistics and downplays the potential for “Induced Seismicity” as a true proponent of the natural gas industry would.
It is interesting to note that since the surge in usage of fracking as a technique for revitalizing old “plays”, natural gas prices have indeed tumbled down to around $2 USD per million cubic feet, far short of where they were just a few years ago.
That is a pretty stellar statistic in economic terms and therein we find the 800 lb gorilla that will have to eventually be faced.
So if one were to complete the argument about natural gas well fracking and the real potential for induced seismicity, should we really be worried.
Well, as the author stated most of the seismic activity surrounding fracking is indeed low grade, meaning less than 3 on the Richter Magnitude Scale, meaning that their potential for damage is greatly reduced.
However, the problem is really two fold.
The first problem is that fracking does indeed increase the number of “human induced seismic tremors”.
Now, this in itself is not ground-breaking news. But, an increase in the number of induced seismic events can only mean one thing for the second problem: triggering real seismic activity from unmapped fault lines buried deep underground. These are the ones we should be worried about because they are the ones with real potential for greater than 3 magnitude.
In some cases, faults release their energy slowly, very slowly, that is, unless something triggers them in a way that prompts them to do otherwise.
That being said, in the world of seismic activity, seismic events are much like dominoes and the triggering of one “event” can lead to the triggering of another (much larger) “event”.
If it turns out that there are a large number of unmapped fault lines running through the ground beneath our feet (which there probably are) then we will be in for an interesting 20 years or so as these drilling techniques become more and more widespread.
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