Fracking has been blamed for causing at least 30 earthquakes since November in the rural area around Azle, Texas population 11,000. The residents living in the area protested at the state capital to demand that Texas put a ban on hydraulic fracturing or fracking. The group alleges that “big oil” is causing the ground to shake when they use fracking in their quest to access gas reserves.
The process of fracking allows oil and gas companies to access and tap into subterranean natural gas reserves. Technology has improved so much in the industry that subterranean 3D mapping is now available for companies to know exactly where the gas reserves are located. An operation that was once thought to be impossible is now feasible using drilling technology to bore holes in shale plays that hold pocket of the desired gas. Part of the drilling procedure involves pumping high-pressured vast quantities of chemicals into the ground to fracture the rock in order to create new channels through which the gas can be extracted. Using fracking, the gas companies can extract the gas at much greater rates than previous and more traditional methods would allow.
The fracking process has been known to cause seismic events as researchers linked drilling rigs to a series of quakes in Ohio last year. In some instances when a drilling well using fracking was shutdown, the earthquakes ceased. Now the residents of Azle, Texas also think that fracking in their area has been a cause of the recent earthquakes they have been experiencing.
If was estimated that around 100 residents were at the Texas Railroad Commission (TRC) to demand that action be taken to stop the fracking that is shaking all across town. The TRC is the regulating body for mineral energy production for Texas and the committee listened to testimony from at least a dozen of the protesters.
Sharon Wilson of the Earthworks Oil and Gas Accountability Project spoke to the TRC and demanded three things:
- The group asked for wastewater injection to cease until science can prevent earthquakes.
- They want all seismic data made available to the public online and in real-time.
- They want the responsible parties to be liable for earthquake damage in their area.
A resident of Briar, Texas, Larry Griffith, also testified to the TRC. Griffith said that he lives in a mobile home that is nearly 5 miles from the nearest site where fracking has been occurring. Even at that distance Griffith says he felt the quake as though a big truck hit the side of his house. Griffith also questioned the process of injecting water under an open hole. He feels that this causes the ground to be unstable causing the tremors and possibly causing a collapse in the future.
Billy Caldwell is a geologist that has studied and evaluated drilling wells in the state of Texas for over 50 years. Caldwell instinctively knew that big oil and gas companies would not be too happy about his research. The geologist confirmed that three small fault lines exist just northwest of the town of Azle. Caldwell theorizes that the injecting fluid is seeping into these faults and causing an earthquake of magnitude 2.0 to 3.6.
After the protest by residents Texas, the TRC stated they were seeing more data on the earthquake problem and fracking process. The TRC will also be hiring a staff earthquake expert to investigate the ground shaking in the future.
By Brent Matsalla