Instead of the usual financial blog today were going to get a little bit crazy with some breaking news about fracking, the relatively new approach to mining natural gas, and its possible link to earthquakes. (When we’re done you may be wishing that we‘d given you a financial blog instead.)
In Ohio, geologists have for the first time linked fracking in the Appalachian Mountains to earthquakes, something that is at once terrifying and unsurprising that the same time. It’s also led to new, stricter conditions for companies to get permits in one of the areas of the country where the laws are already quite strict.
In March an investigation by the state that concluded that five small tremors in the Youngstown area of Ohio, which lies in the Appalachian foothills, were caused by the increased pressure due to the high pressure injection of sand and water that accompanies something called “hydraulic fracturing” or “fracking” for short.
Rick Simmers, the state oil – chief for Ohio, called the link between this newish form of drilling and the small tremors “probable”.
This is the first time that fracking has been directly linked to earthquake tremors and, even though they couldn’t be felt by people living in the area, it was concluded that the five seismic events that happened in March of this year were all part of a single, larger event.
This this was confirmed by the Glenda Ostman, a seismologist with the US Department of the Interior, and makes it the first time that a connection between the extraction of oil and gas (as opposed to wastewater disposal) and earthquakes has been made. At the same time it was found that a series of quakes in the same region back in 2012 were likely caused by a deep injection well involved in the same type of natural gas extraction activities.
James Zehringer, director of Ohio’s natural resources department, said that “While we can never be 100 percent sure that drilling activities are connected to a seismic event, caution dictates that we take these new steps to protect human health, safety and the environment.”
The scarier factor behind all of this is that, over the last several years, energy companies have been drilling literally thousands of what they call “unconventional” gas wells in and around Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Ohio, an area of the country with an abundance of Marcellus Shale.
The fact that Marcellus shale is one of the richest natural gas reserves in the entire world, and that drillers of only recently begun to tap deeper into it, has many people in the Northeast concerned that one day fracking won’t just lead to tremors but to an actual, full-blown earthquake.
And now we return your back to your regularly scheduled personal finance blogs.