Hydraulic fracturing is the propagation of fractures in a rock layer caused by the presence of a pressurized fluid. Hydraulic fractures form naturally, as in the case of veins or dikes, and is one means by which gas and petroleum from source rocks may migrate to reservoir rocks.

Energy companies may attempt to accelerate this process in order to release petroleum, natural gas, coal seam gas, or other substances for extraction, via a technique called induced hydraulic fracturing (illustration), often shortened to fracking or hydrofracking. This type of fracturing, known colloquially as a 'frac job', creates fractures from a wellbore drilled into reservoir rock formations. A distinction can be made between low-volume hydraulic fracturing used to stimulate high-permeability reservoirs, which may consume typically 20,000 to 80,000 gallons of fluid per well, with high-volume hydraulic fracturing, used in the completion of tight gas and shale gas wells; high-volume hydraulic fracturing can use as much as two to three million gallons of fluid per well. This latter practice has come under scrutiny internationally, with some countries suspending it, or even banning it completely. The first frac job was performed in 1947, though the current fracking technique was first used in the late 1990s in the Barnett Shale in Texas. The energy from the injection of a highly-pressurized fracking fluid creates new channels in the rock which can increase the extraction rates and ultimate recovery of fossil fuels. READ MORE>



Fracking’ waste disposal tied to Ohio earthquakes

By Ben Wolfgang


The Washington Times

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Northstar Disposal Services LLC in Youngstown, Ohio, has halted operations at its injection well, which disposes of brine used in gas and oil drilling, after a series of small earthquakes in the area, including a magnitude 4.0 on New Year's Eve. (Associated Press)Northstar Disposal Services LLC in Youngstown, Ohio, has halted operations at its injection well, which disposes of brine used in gas and oil drilling, after a series of small earthquakes in the area, including a magnitude 4.0 on New Year’s Eve. (Associated Press)
The disposal of wastewater used in the booming practice known as “fracking” is responsible for a rash of recent earthquakes in Ohio, and critics have latched on to the seismic events as evidence that the popular natural gas extraction method is dangerous and should be banned.

Ohio has experienced at least 11 tremors since March, including a 4.0 temblor that shook Youngstown on New Year's Eve. State officials say the earthquakes were triggered by deep injection wells, where the water, sand and chemical cocktails used to frack wells are deposited.

State officials have shut down all disposal wells within a five-mile radius around the epicenter of the Dec. 31 tremor, which reportedly was felt as far away as upstate New York.

The events have cast more doubt on the safety of fracking, which has enabled companies to tap natural gas trapped thousands of feet below ground and, in the process, helped fuel economic revivals in Pennsylvania, North Dakota and elsewhere.

Last month, the Environmental Protection Agency blamed the process for the contamination of drinking water in the small town of Pavillion, Wyo. The industry has denied those charges, and a third-party review of the EPA report is expected to begin soon.

Further investigation of the Ohio earthquakes is also under way, and fracking supporters are sticking to their guns.

“There’s plenty of data out there that suggests this is not a recurring problem,” said Rob Nichols, spokesman for Ohio Gov. John Kasich, a Republican. “Natural gas could generate tens of thousands, if not hundreds of thousands, of jobs in Ohio. For those out there who are willing to drive a stake through the heart of what could be an economic boon, we’re not going to let that happen.”

Mr. Nichols stressed that fracking itself - as distinct from the waste disposal - is in no way responsible for the tremors, despite several news reports to the contrary. Federal officials have confirmed that the practice is unlikely to generate significant seismic activity.

“The fracking itself probably does not put enough energy into the ground to trigger an earthquake. … That’s really not something that we should be concerned about,” William Leith, senior science adviser for earthquake and geologic hazards with the U.S. Geological Survey, said in an interview with National Public Radio last month.

While the most recent temblor gave residents in and around Youngstown a scare, there were no serious injuries or property damage. With the exception of the New Year's Eve event, all of the Ohio tremors had a magnitude of 2.7 or lower, barely blips on the radar screen when compared with the 5.8 earthquake that shook the East Coast last year.

That August quake - which also caused no deaths - was more than 1,000 times as powerful as a 2.7 temblor and still less than one-tenth as powerful as the 7.0 earthquakes that often cause catastrophic damage in such places as Japan, New Zealand and California.

Despite their relatively low magnitudes, Mr. Nichols said, the temblors are getting the necessary attention from state officials. All options, he said, will remain on the table, including a prohibition on wastewater wells near fault lines.

Fracking advocates also point out that while the disposals did cause the quakes, most natural gas companies do not dispose of fracking waste that way. Instead, they recycle and reuse the millions of gallons of water needed to frack a well.

Others opt for the much cheaper method of pumping the used fluids back into the ground. There are at least 177 such sites across Ohio, and about 1 million gallons of wastewater were deposited there last year.

The vast majority of those wells have caused no trouble, but Mr. Nichols and others expect the Ohio earthquakes to be used as ammunition for those fundamentally opposed to fracking for unrelated reasons, including hostility to fossil fuels. Read more>





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