I live in Culver City, not far from the Baldwin Hills, La Cienega or Inglewood oil fields. For as long I’ve been living there, close to 40 years now and for decades before, these pumps have been pumping oil with their slow moving up and down motion like the head of a grasshopper. Not a pretty sight, but you can get used to it. Recently there has been a neighborhood activist or environmentalist movement to try everything possible to stoke fear in the public to limit or possibly eliminate them all in the name of “protecting the environment”. The latest very fashionable weapon they’re trying to use is that these wells and the methods some of them use (namely “fracking”) is causing earthquakes, therefore they should be banned. But evidence shows that “fracking” has no influence on seismic activity in California. Since bashing “fracking” became so popular, I thought a discussion about “fracking” and earthquakes would be an interesting topic me to write about.
“Fracking,” or hydraulic fracturing, is done by pumping a high volume of water, chemicals and sand into the ground under high pressure to break or fissure rock formations to access hidden pockets of oil and gas. When they break or fissure these rock formations energy is being released. Fracking operations generally pressurize a small amount of rock for about two hours which causes extremely small micro seismic events, but nothing close to earthquakes. “The energy released by these tiny micro seismic events is equivalent to the energy of a gallon of milk hitting the floor after falling off a kitchen counter,” said Stanford University Geophysicist Mark Zoback, who was a government Energy Department advisor.
“We also find that there is no evidence to suggest that hydraulic fracturing itself is the cause of any increased rate of earthquakes,” wrote David Hayes, deputy secretary of the Interior Department in a 2012 report.
U.S. Geological Survey seismologist Lucy Jones, a.k.a. “earthquake lady,” who appeared on so many TV interviews after the recent La Brea earthquake, said, “Induced earthquakes are almost always shallower than the recent La Brea or other earthquakes.”
To compare these “hydraulic fractioning micro seismic events” to an earthquake is grossly misrepresenting the truth. In one of my previous newsletter I touched on some basic knowledge about how earthquakes are induced by the earth’s moving crusts. If you remember the thickness of these crusts are about 20 to 30 miles deep. The depths of the oil wells, where rock formations are found for fracking, are only about a mile deep.
End of discussion. At least as far as earthquakes are concerned.
Other aspects of Fracking and its impact on the environment can and should be discussed, i.e. ground water contamination, using high volumes of water, a rather precious commodity for us here in California, safe disposal of the used fracking compounds, etc.
These were my thoughts. What do you think?