An interesting fact not very widely covered this week is that the record-breaking Oklahoma earthquake over the weekend, a 5.6-magnitude quake, struck nearly right on the planned path of the Keystone XL oil pipeline. The pipeline would have gone almost right through the epicenter of the Oklahoma earthquake. That’s nice to know, isn’t it?
The good news, of course, is that the Keystone XL oil sands pipeline will not be reviewed for approval until 2013 at the earliest, after the next presidential election, and that is likely to mean that the oil pipeline won’t be built at all. A much more extensive environmental review (that actually includes the pipeline’s climate change impact) will now be conducted (mainly due to thousands upon thousands of activists putting pressure on the White House an nearly every environmental organization doing so, as well), and the pipeline route will be re-examined (mainly due to opposition in Nebraska).
Earthquakes & Fracking
We’ve covered the link between fracking and earthquakes many times now, but someone recently shared more news on this that I think is worth sharing here.
Apparently, both the U.S. Army and the U.S. Geological Survey have concluded that there is a causal link between fracking wastewater injection wells and earthquakes. Here’s more on the U.S. Army’s earthquake & fracking study from Solar Thermal Magazine:
According to the U.S. Army’s Rocky Mountain Arsenal website, the RMA drilled a deep well for disposing of the site’s liquid waste after the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency “concluded that this procedure is effective and protective of the environment.” According to the RMA, “The Rocky Mountain Arsenal deep injection well was constructed in 1961, and was drilled to a depth of 12,045 feet” and 165 million gallons of Basin F liquid waste, consisting of “very salty water that includes some metals, chlorides, wastewater and toxic organics” was injected into the well during 1962-1966.
Why was the process halted? “The Army discontinued use of the well in February 1966 because of the possibility that the fluid injection was “triggering earthquakes in the area,” according to the RMA. In 1990, the “Earthquake Hazard Associated with Deep Well Injection–A Report to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency” study of RMA events by Craig Nicholson, and R.I. Wesson stated simply, “Injection had been discontinued at the site in the previous year once the link between the fluid injection and the earlier series of earthquakes was established.”
Twenty-five years later, “possibility” and ‘established” changed in the Environmental Protection Agency’s July 2001 87 page study, “Technical Program Overview: Underground Injection Control Regulations EPA 816-r-02-025,” which reported, “In 1967, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) determined that a deep, hazardous waste disposal well at the Rocky Mountain Arsenal was causing significant seismic events in the vicinity of Denver, Colorado.”
The same sort of thing has occurred in Arkansas this year.
And, the USGS itself has the following on its website:
Earthquakes induced by human activity have been documented in a few locations in the United States, Japan, and Canada. The cause was injection of fluids into deep wells for waste disposal and secondary recovery of oil, and the use of reservoirs for water supplies. Most of these earthquakes were minor. The largest and most widely known resulted from fluid injection at the Rocky Mountain Arsenal near Denver, Colorado. In 1967, an earthquake of magnitude 5.5 followed a series of smaller earthquakes. Injection had been discontinued at the site in the previous year once the link between the fluid injection and the earlier series of earthquakes was established. (Nicholson, Craig and Wesson, R.L., 1990, Earthquake Hazard Associated with Deep Well Injection–A Report to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency: U.S. Geological Survey Bulletin 1951, 74 p.)
Oil and gas have their costs. Unfortunately, these costs often aren’t taken into account when calculating the price of these energy options. If they were, we’d be seeing a lot more clean energy in use than we see today. However, with the recent Keystone XL decision, the activism that led up to it, and an increasing awareness of the link between earthquakes and fracking, perhaps that will change.
Image Credit: David Roberts via Twitter