The process of hydraulic fracturing, known as “fracking,” is a highly invasive method of extracting natural gas from the earth. Without getting too “geology nerd” on you, we’ll say that the process involves injecting explosives and millions of gallons of water and chemicals deep down into the shale regions of the bedrock to push ancient, trapped gas pockets to the surface, where it can be collected. This bedrock is a bit like the sub-basement of a house, it is the foundation upon which all the other layers of ground are built and it makes sure that the structures that sit on top can be stable. So, what happens when you start messing with that sub-basement … instability.
The link between fracking and earthquakes has been posited by scientists and anti-fracking advocates for years. Although fracking operations promise to provide America with independence from foreign oil and a “bridge” fuel that will help to wean us off fossil fuels … we are quickly learning that the short-term (which will be long-term) environmental impacts caused by fracking, such as water pollution, air pollution, and habitat destruction, hardly makes natural gas an eco-friendly option. Not to mention there is now definitive proof that fracking contributes to seismic activity.
A new study that tracked earthquakes in Poland, Ohio (a major fracking zone) registered a shocking 77 minor earthquakes that occurred last March and has deduced that fracking caused this activity. SEVENTY-SEVEN … that’s fracking ridiculous.
“These earthquakes near Poland Township occurred in the Precambrian basement, a very old layer of rock where there are likely to be many pre-existing faults,” said Mr. Skoumal of Miami University of Ohio. “This activity did not create a new fault, rather it activated one that we didn’t know about prior to the seismic activity.”
This new study points to the fact that we simply do not know enough about the potential impacts that fracking can have on the planet. However, rather than expending the necessary effort and research to fully understand how extracting natural gas might impact life at the surface, we have gone ahead with a blast now, deal with it later policy.
Thankfully, the earthquakes in Ohio haven’t surpassed a 3.0 magnitude (which creates a vibration equivalent to a passing truck), but given that we don’t know where the major faults in the Precambrian basement are … we probably don’t want to know what would happen if we accidentally tap into one.
Just another reason we think that continuing on the pursuit of natural gas is a total fraccident.
Image source: Wikimedia Commons