How far will man go in search of energy? Deep underground, where the consequences of their search may be causing earthquakes.
Concerns over the price of foreign oil have led the US to look within to resolve the issue of energy security. As the US transitions to alternative energy sources over the next 20 to 30 years, natural gas will play a vital part in bridging the gap from where the country is now to where it will be. Natural gas is abundant in America, plus it is one of the cleanest sources of fuel.
All along the Great Lakes region and from Texas to Canada in the Great Plains region there are pockets of gas trapped within rock located deep underground. Energy scientists created a process called fracking — formally known as hydraulic fracturing — to capture the gas.
The principle process of fracking is as such: a drill bores 1 to 2 miles down into the earth to create a well, the walls of the well are then covered in cement and/or steel to seal the well off from contact with groundwater. With that done, highly pressurized fluid is pumped into the well with the purpose of fracturing the surrounding rocks. That fracturing fluid frees the pockets of gas, which is then pumped back to the surface, along with millions of gallons of the fluid. The last step of this process involves pumping the fluid back into the Earth. That fluid, by the way, is contaminated with many toxins such as heavy metals, radioactive material, and hydrocarbons.
Here’s a local news segment on the subject, from Oklahoma
Scientific studies suggest that storing all that water deep underground, at a highly pressurized state, may not be the best idea. A new study finds that since 2008, hundreds of earthquakes around Oklahoma City were caused by four fracking wastewater wells. This latest study provides the strongest link to date between the the Oklahoma City earthquakes and the surrounding wastewater injection wells. “Modern waste disposal wells can trigger earthquakes,” said Geoff Abers, a Cornell University geophysicist. Abers, a co-author of the new study, also said “It’s pretty clear high-volume pumping is having an impact on the natural system.” The study found that of all the earthquakes Oklahoma has had over the last 10 years, the four high-volume injection wells in question account for 45 percent of those earthquakes.
Some energy companies remain unconvinced and refuse to take any action. However, environmentally-focused scientists aren’t calling for an end to fracking. They realize the need America has for natural gas. What they suggest is to implement a monitoring system of the injection wells. Not all wells are at risk of causing earthquakes. A monitoring system would allow for wells that posed a public threat to be closed down, while allowing safer wells to remain in operation.
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