Twitchy in Illinois? Letter: Earthquake myth by Seth Whitehead, Illinois Petroleum Resources Board. Do you care if frac quakes or frac waste or waste water quakes shake your home unsafe?

Why write a letter if there’s nothing to worry about in frac-rule-loopholed Illinois?

Letter: Earthquake myth by Seth Whitehead, Illinois Petroleum Resources Board, January 27, 2016, Kendall County Now

To the Editor:

Roger Matile’s recent column headlined “Reflections: There’s a whole lotta shakin’ going on…” endorses the myth that hydraulic fracturing is the cause for Oklahoma’s recent earthquakes.

Experts actually agree the likely cause of Oklahoma’s spike in earthquakes is wastewater disposal from day-to-day oil and gas production – not fracking, which is a separate well-completion process. In fact, Stanford geophysicist Mark Zoback has said, quite bluntly, of the spike in seismic activity in Oklahoma, “It is not caused by the hydraulic fracturing process at all…” [Where’s his proof?]

To understand Zoback’s assessment, it is important to understand the difference between fracking and wastewater disposal.

Fracking refers to a well stimulation/completion process that enhances the flow of oil or natural gas from a production well. It is typically conducted on just one occasion on a newly-drilled well before that well goes into production, and it usually lasts a just a few days.

[How many lies can an energy regulator wrap up in one “typically?”

Image from FrackingCanada How the West was Lost ]

Wastewater disposal, on the other hand, consists almost entirely of the injection of wastewater from day-to-day production into a designated disposal well over the lifespan of a production well.

Media reports often indicate that most, if not all, the wastewater being disposed of in Oklahoma injection wells is spent fracking fluid or “flowback” water. This is untrue. A vast majority of it is the brackish, salty wastewater also known as brine or “produced” water.

“Produced” water is generated from oil and natural gas wells regardless of whether hydraulic fracturing is used. This is because hydrocarbon-bearing formations typically contain plenty of water from ancient oceans that naturally coexists with oil and gas within the Earth. This water is pumped to the surface along with oil or natural gas. Even without the use of fracking, underground disposal of wastewater would be needed because of the large volumes of “produced” water generated from oil and gas production.

For instance, most of the wastewater – between 90 to 95 percent – that is disposed of in Oklahoma injection wells is “produced” water that comes up with oil and gas during day-to-day production over the lifetime of a well.

Notably, thousands of wastewater disposal wells have been operating in Illinois for 100 years without a single instance of induced seismicity. Still, Illinois’ active seismic history was carefully considered during the drafting of the Illinois Hydraulic Fracturing Regulatory Act. Section 1-96 requires the IDNR to adopt rules in conjunction with the Illinois Geological Survey to establish a protocol for controlling operational activity of injection wells in instances of induced seismicity. Essentially, if a significant level of seismicity is detected near an injection well, injection will be scaled back or shut down completely.

Understanding that wastewater injection is the likely cause of Oklahoma’s earthquakes is essential to understanding why there is an exceedingly low risk of the same thing happening here in Illinois, where injection wells have been extensively regulated and operating without induced seismicity for decades. [Emphasis added]

Seth Whitehead

Illinois Petroleum Resources Board

St. Peter, Illinois

[Refer also to:

illinois fracking earthquake may 31 2015


2014: How Much Fracking Will Remain Unregulated in Illinois?

Fracking has begun in Illinois. Governor Pat Quinn’s Department of Natural Resources issued a permit for a test well at a site where oil fracking is planned. The well isn’t subject to Illinois fracking rules due to loopholes in the law passed last year.

By utilizing methods that require a lower volume of water, and exploiting other loopholes, oil frackers can avoid new regulation. As Illinois State University emeritus professor William Rau writes, that will deny the state tax revenue from those operations, along with other consequences.

Public notice requirements, baseline water testing, insurance provisions, modest environmental protections and setbacks, earthquake mitigation, bans on open pit storage of frack waste water, etc., are all gone. Illinois will become the wild and woolly west of fracking.

The public doesn’t yet know how much horizontal fracking will occur outside compliance with the law. Illinois residents are facing a major public safety crisis and state politicians don’t seem to notice.

Opposition continues as people learn more about the inadequacy of a law that was written behind closed doors and rushed through the legislature with very little public scrutiny. A recent day of action saw citizens in Chicago and southern Illinois bring accountability to those responsible for the dangerously weak fracking law.

… Next, the Heartland Institute was cited for producing embarrassingly offensive attacks against the scientific reality of climate change. And of course, they stopped at the offices of Governor Pat Quinn, who bragged of bringing fracking to Illinois to create jobs and solve the state budget problem.

Quinn isn’t bragging about his fracking law anymore. He clearly wishes the issue would go away as he faces frequent public embarrassment during a difficult re-election campaign. But, environmentalists and many southern Illinois residents aren’t going to forget Quinn’s betrayal before election day. He’ll have to stop fracking if he hopes to win back their support. [Emphasis added]

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