From the Greek meaning 'heavy with wine'
A blog devoted to science and reason
Written after a glass or two of Pinot Noir.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

James Bond, Earthquakes, and Fracking

In the 14th James Bond film, A View to a Kill, Nazi-created Max Zorin (played deliciously by Christopher Walken) plans to take complete control of the world's microchip market by destroying Silicon Valley.  His diabolical plot is to flood the valley by triggering a massive earthquake.  How does he cause this earthquake.  He sets out to lubricate both the San Andreas Fault and the Hayward fault by draining San Andreas Lake into the faults, and then set off a explosion that actually triggers the geologic event.

This movie is bad on many accounts - the only Bond film worse in my opinion is Moonraker, but I remember when I saw this movie in 1985, I thought the movie makers were taking much too much artistic license with the science.  Lubricating faults?  Bah!

Now comes conclusive evidence that fracking causes earthquakes.  From Wikipedia:
Hydraulic fracturing is the propagation of fractures in a rock layer caused by the presence of a pressurized fluid. Hydraulic fractures form naturally, as in the case of veins or dikes, and is one means by which gas and petroleum from source rocks may migrate to reservoir rocks. This process is used to release petroleum, natural gas (including shale gas, tight gas, and coal seam gas), or other substances for extraction, via a technique called induced hydraulic fracturing, often shortened to fracking or hydrofracking. This type of fracturing, known colloquially as a 'frac job', creates fractures from a wellbore drilled into reservoir rock formations.
In August 2011, a scientist with the Oklahoma Geological Survey thought it reasonable to conclude that "the strong correlation in time and space as well as a reasonable fit to a physical model suggests that there is a possibility these earthquakes were induced by hydraulic‐fracturing."(1)

Then in November, the oil and gas company Caudrilla Resources reported that "most likely, the repeated seismicity [in Lancashire, England] was induced by direct injection of fluid into [the] fault zone."(2)

Just this past month, on the advice of the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, Gov. Jahn Kasich ordered an immediate moratorium on fracking operations.  This was after a 4.0 magnitude earthquake struck the Youngstown area.(3) 

The latest research by the United States Geological Survey to be presented at the April meeting of the Seismological Society of America indicates that "the seismicity rate changes described here are almost certainly manmade," and that "a naturally-occurring rate change of this magnitude is unprecedented outside of volcanic settings or in the absence of a main shock."(4)


Aside from the earthquakes, flaming faucets in Pennsylvania are allegedly linked to fracking. You've probably already seen the video.

1. Austin A. Holland, Examination of Possibly Induced Seismicity from Hydraulic Fracturing in the Eola Field, Garvin County, Oklahoma, Oklahoma Geological Survey Open, File Report OF1, 2011.
2. C.J. de Pater and S. Baisch, Geomechanical Study of Bowland Shale Seismicity, Cuadrilla Resources Ltd, November 2011.
3. Ohio Department of Natural Resources, Executive Summary: Preliminary Report on the Northstar 1 Class II Injection Well and the Seismic Events in the Youngstown, Ohi, Area, March 2012.
4. W.L. Ellsworth, et al., Are Seismicity Rate Changes in the Midcontinent Natural or Manmade?,  Seismological Society of America, April 2012.

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