Thursday, January 19, 2012

Earthquakes raise questions about safety of natural gas fracking, at least in Ohio

Some small earthquakes in eastern Ohio, in the Youngstown area and more or less around the northern extension of the West Virginia panhandle, could raise questions about the expected boom in natural gas drilling in the region. (ABC had a story about the jobs in Stuebenville Oct. 18, 2011 here.)  The Dec. 31 4.0 quake was 40 times as powerful as any others in 2011, which could have been pre-shocks.

As a result, some injection wells cannot open now, as in this CNN  (website url) story

The fluid injection wells are supposed to act as a repository for wastes generated by fracking, our hydraulic drilling, to locate deep but plentiful natural gas reserves.

Actually, much of Ohio has long had a natural gas industry.  The mother’s side of my family has earned income in the past from owning a natural gas well in the Wellington area.   The well-being of a family in retirement can be made much safer by even a relatively modest well on its land, and in a perverse way, higher fuel prices could be desirable.   But the discovery of much more natural gas in the US available by fracking may well lead to a drop in price and increase in supply, leading many such as Pickens to suggest that natural gas can be an effective way to deal with oil supply problems and producing much cleaner energy.  Natural gas service prices in many areas have dropped during the past year.

This scientist found a quarry next to the site of a 2.5 earthquake on Dec. 29.

Here, citizens around Youngstown, OH talk about the problems cause by fracking:

Youngstown is near the crossover into Ohio from the Pennsylvania Turnpike to the Ohio Turnpike, which as a boy I rode through umpteen times as a boy on family trips.  The area has experienced serious economic downturns in the loss of manufacturing, especially autos and auto parts. 

My father had business interests (Imperial Glass) in Bellaire, somewhat to the south, where we often stopped.  We also used to enter Ohio at East Liverpool in the days before the Ohio Turnpike was built.  Even in my IT career, I once worked with a client in Weirton, WVA, the steel company, and I’ve actually driven through the city once. 

Yesterday, the president denied immediate approval to the Keystone Pipeline project, saying regulators needed more time for environmental studies. He left open the idea of a revised route.  But given the situation in Iran, the president could wind up looking to be on the wrong side of energy policy, given this election year.  (See posts Dec. 12 and Nov. 6, 2011).  

Wikipedia attribution link for Bellaire Ohio bridge.

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