Sunday, November 6, 2011

The Earth Moves in Oklahoma

The 5.6 magnitude earthquake that surprised Oklahoma yesterday and the aftershocks that continue today have elicited many news stories quick to point out that the quake happened over a fault. None of the coverage has acknowledged that the hydraulic fracturing method of oil and gas mining, or fracking, now being used in Oklahoma, has been causing hundreds of smaller earthquakes in Oklahoma.

Whether the quake occurred on a fault or not is a distraction. The question to ask is whether the quake happened because of the fracking being done in the area.

Frack truck on site-Joel Kirkland photo
Fracking consists of pumping a lot of oil based solution into the ground under high pressure, causing shale layers to break apart and so release more gas and oil. It causes problems besides earthquakes. In the vast Marcellus Shale region of New York and Pennsylvania, water supplies are being ruined by fracking. In one often reported case, a man uses a cigarette lighter to ignite the gas that comes out of his kitchen sink faucet.

Every morning in Farmington and Bloomfield, New Mexico I pass the little convoys of frack trucks headed out to the oil and gas fields, mostly the big red Haliburton trucks, Haliburton of Dick Cheney, no bid contract fame.

Republican Governor Susana Martinez has been busy bending over backwards to make it easier for the gas and oil boys who fill her campaign coffers to exploit New Mexico's gas and oil resources. What is the danger to New Mexico's water supply from all this fracking? When can we expect the earthquakes to begin?



  1. Interesting! I had never heard of Fracking until now. Thanks for educating.
    Didn't Tesuque, just a few miles NW of Santa Fe, experience an earthquake last month?

    in Tijeras

  2. This is interesting. I've been following the fracking debate primarily because of its heavy reliance on water supplies. I was not aware that it may be disrupting geologic faults. I was aware that Farmington and Hobbs have been booming for the last 5-10yrs.

  3. Thanks for these comments. Since seeing your comment, L, I have been looking but have not found anything at all indicating that the geologic effects of fracking in New Mexico have been studied or are being paid attention to.

    Here is a link to the study by the Oklahoma Geological Survey linking earthquakes and fracking there.

    When you start reading about this you soon come across reference to the UK, where it seems a pretty definitive link has been made between fracking and seismic activity.

    A guy named Josh Fox, who made an academy award nominated documentary Gaslands that shows a water faucet in Colorado being ignited, was just interviewed Friday by Amy Goodman.

    He talks about fracking and also how he and well known environmentalist Bill McKibben and many others are now trying to prevent the Delaware River Basin from being opened up to fracking.

    I drove in the oil and gas fields in Oklahoma and in New York and PA last year for awhile and can testify as to how just normal ways of doing business, human error, cause many small localized spills, but this fracking is different. They drill down, say 1,000 feet, then go parallel to the surface, through the shale, for say, 3,000 feet. It's made possible by new drilling technology. Then the fluid is pumped in at 20,000 lbs per square inch to crack the shale up and release more gas or oil than just a traditional "bore" hole would. Hopefully they are in a different area than where our drinking water comes from, below it ostensibly. The image I get isn't a reassuring one.

    But seismic activity occurs without this kind of disturbance going on, so it stands to reason. It's like bumping into a table set with fine china.