Published On: Fri, Jul 11th, 2014

US shale fracking fears grow on increasing earthquakes

The increasing frequency of earthquakes in the shale fracking regions of America is spurring fears that this is due to the drilling of oil in rocks.

So far this year, Oklahoma has had more than twice the number of earthquakes as California, making it the most seismically active state in the continental US. As recently as 2003, Oklahoma was ranked 17th for earthquakes.

That shift has given rise to concern among communities and environmentalists that injecting vast amounts of wastewater back into the ground is contributing to the rise in Oklahoma’s quakes. The state pumps about 350,000 barrels of oil a day, making it the fifth largest producer in the US.

The rise in earthquakes isn’t just happening in Oklahoma, challenging scientists and regulators across the country. The growth of seismic activity alongside oil production in fracking states from Colorado to Ohio has sparked a series of studies tying the temblors to drilling activity. Most seismologists around the country are convinced that wastewater injected back into the ground is jolting fault lines and triggering earthquakes. Between 2006 and 2012, the amount of wastewater disposed in Oklahoma wells jumped 24 percent, to more than 1 billion barrels annually, according to the Oklahoma Corporation Commission, which regulates the industry.

“There’s a couple of good examples where I think it’s pretty clear that if you turn off the well the earthquakes stop,” said Justin Rubinstein, deputy chief of the US Geological Survey’s induced seismicity project “It’s a pretty strong correlation.”

Oil companies say the science isn’t far enough along and that correlation in activity does not amount to proof that their wastewater wells are causing the earthquakes.

“We’ve been doing injection in the state for a long time,” said Chad Warmington, president of the Mid-Continent Oil and Gas Association of Oklahoma. “It deserves a lot more investigation before making a determination.”

The development is important for the global oil industry as the US will remain the world’s biggest oil producer this year after overtaking Saudi Arabia and Russia as extraction of energy from shale rock formations surge.

The International Energy Agency (IEA) said in June that the US was the biggest producer of oil and natural gas liquids.

US production of crude oil, along with liquids separated from natural gas, surpassed all other countries this year with daily output exceeding 11 million barrels in the first quarter.

The rise in US oil production has had an impact on Nigeria.

Oil exports to the US from Nigeria fell 66 percent to 400,000 barrels a day at the end of 2013, from 1.2 million in 2005, according to the US government’s Energy Information Administration (EIA).

The oil and gas industry accounts for 75 percent of the Nigerian government’s revenue and up to 95 percent of dollar earnings.

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  1. Michael Mobolaji Lawal says:

    We need not worry much about dwindling sales of crude to the U.S. rather let us aggressively pursue the establishment of refineries and petrochemical plants whose products, In the first instance, are the final demand of markets around Nigeria and the world at large.
    Fearfully walking into the hands of India as the government is desperately doing now may land us in payment problems with the Indians. The mentality of a reluctant buyer facing a desperate supplier comes to play and the Indians are perfect at the game.
    If we refine 1.5 million barrels daily it will barely satisfy the west Africa states. The derivatives of our crude coming out of the petrochemical plants command producer’s price- not manipulative by buyers.
    We can in the short term buy-into, buy-out or contract cash -trapped refineries all around our targeted markets for immediate take-off. The market to work on is not U.S. crude but the world market of the derivatives of crude. NIGERIA, TAKE YOUR CRUDE TO THE ZENITH.

  2. Chistar says:

    The fact that the US is the current largest producer of oil and gas is a testament to the truth that if you search hard enough, you will find solutions to any problems you are faced with. Nigeria will do well to borrow a leaf from the US, which went into shale oil and other researches as a response to the many challenges it encounters in sourcing crude from the not so friendly Middle East and other regions.

    Is is definitely not healthy for Nigeria to have 75% of it’s revenue and 95% of it’s Dollar earnings from one commodity alone. It will do well to engage in long term heavy investments into other sectors like Agriculture and Tourism. In this modern world all you need is interest and commitment. The tools to achieve just about anything abound everywhere.

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