Monday 31 March 2014

Fracking in the US

Fracking the USA: New Map Shows 1 Million Oil, Gas Wells
If you’re wondering where oil and gas production and hydraulic fracturing are happening near you, FracTracker has a new mapping tool that will help you find out.

27 March, 2014

Researchers at FracTracker, an independent oil and gas research group that started as a mapping project at the University of Pittsburgh’s Center for Healthy Environments and Communities, analyzed oil and gas well location data for all 50 states and created a map showing where most of those wells are, including wells that have been fracked and those that haven’t.
Fracking is the energy industry’s practice of injecting water, sand and chemicals deep underground at high pressure to extract crude oil and natural gas from dense rock formations. It’s controversial because of its not-fully-determined affect on public health and the environment. The fossil fuel produced by way of fracking contributes to climate change through the burning of crude oil and possible leaks of methane and other gas emissions from oil and natural gas production equipment and distribution pipelines.

Using data available from individual state governments, FracTracker researchers counted more than 1.1 million active oil and gas wells across 36 states. The group published most of the raw well location data on its website and mapped them. The result is an interactive map showing generally where you’ll find oil and gas wells, fracked or not, and the oil and gas basins where wells could be drilled in the future.

The glaring exception to this is the state where you’ll find the highest concentration of oil and gas wells in the country — Texas.
FracTracker's map app also has the ability to zoom in on specific areas to show specific locations of individual oil and gas wells. Here, the map depicts the distribution of wells in the Denver-Julesburg Basin along Colorado's Front Range urban corridor, north of Denver and east of Boulder. Each dot represents one well.Click image to enlarge: Credit:

FracTracker researcher Matt Kelso said Texas, which has more than 300,000 active oil and gas wells, is the only state that charges a fee for researchers to obtain location data for its wells, and FracTracker chose not to publish the raw data or depict it on the map because Texas does not allow the data to be redistributed.

Aside from oil-rich Texas being a blank spot on the map, the oil and gas well location data the group compiled for the rest of the country comes with some interesting numbers and figures. To begin with, there is no confirmation that any of the wells included in FracTracker’s data have actually been fracked, except in Indiana, for which the group was able to obtain well fracking data. 

However, nearly all directionally or horizontally drilled wells have been fracked, Kelso said.
A moratorium currently bars fracking from ocurring in the state of New York, but FracTracker's map shows that New York has many oil and gas wells. Here, the map shows a high concentration of wells in the Finger Lakes region of New York near Auburn, Seneca Falls and Geneva.Click image to enlarge: Credit:

Also of note: New York State, where a moratorium currently bans fracking until the state can decide how to regulate it, has more than 15,000 active oil and gas wells, mostly in western New York at the northern edge of the natural gas-rich Marcellus shale, FracTracker data show.

But the data also illustrate how conflicting definitions of an oil and gas well can result in dramatic discrepancies in a state’s well count.
For example, FracTracker data show that Colorado, where energy companies are feverishly drilling and fracking the Niobrara shale and other formations in the Denver-Julesburg Basin for crude oil and natural gas, ranks fourth in the nation for total active well count — 84,357 active wells. That’s fewer active oil and gas wells than only Texas, Pennsylvania and Kansas.

But the state of Colorado’s official active well count was only 51,814 wells as of March 4 — the day FracTracker released its data.

Colorado generally counts wells as “active” if they’re actually producing oil and gas, or have recently produced oil and gas. Kelso said FracTracker has a broader definition that includes wells that aren’t producing but haven’t yet been abandoned or permanently plugged. That means FracTracker's figures for how many oil and gas wells are currently in a state may be much, much larger than a state's official numbers. 
Regardless how an “active” oil and gas well is defined, FracTracker’s map shows where oil and gas wells have been drilled, and it’s useful to anyone who wants to know where energy companies are looking for oil and gas, where they might drill for it in the future and where fracking could happen near you.

"NATO and the United States should change their policy because the time when they dictate their conditions to the world has passed," Ahmadinejad said in a speech in Dushanbe, capital of the Central Asian republic of Tajikistan

Oklahoma earthquake spike likely linked to fracking boo
Central Oklahoma has seen a massive increase in earthquakes in recent years, leading geological scientists to link the uptick in quakes to oil and gas development in the way of hydraulic fracking

20 February, 2014

From 1975 to 2008, the US Geological Survey found that central Oklahoma experienced one to three 3.0-magntitude earthquakes per year, The Nation reported. That number jumped to an average of 40 a year from 2009 to 2013.

The state has received 25 such quakes this year, and 150 total quakes just this week. Overall, the entire state of Oklahoma has experienced 500 earthquakes of any magnitude since Jan. 1.

Scientific data suggests the current fracking boom is a major part of the spike. Fracking is the highly controversial process of injecting water, sand, and various chemicals into layers of rock, in hopes of releasing oil and gas deep underground.

Fracking has long been associated with seismic activity, as researchers have shown connections between quakes and wastewater injection wells. The toxic wastewater is stored deep underground, causing friction along fault lines, scientists have found. For instance, researchers last year linked drill sites to a series of quakes in parts of Ohio.

The injection wells used for oil and gas development are the “most reasonable hypothesis” to explain the earthquake uptick in Oklahoma, Nicholas van der Elst, a post-doctorate research fellow at Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, told The Nation.

The burden of proof is on well operators to prove that the earthquakes are not caused by their wells,” van der Elst said.

One 2011 study, published in the journal Geology, linked liquid infusion with earthquakes in the state, including the largest ever recorded in Oklahoma. The state has over 4,400 disposal wells, StateImpact reported.

The Nation found that the seismic action associated with fracking wells are getting notice in state legislatures. Arkansas has banned wells in one 1,550-square mile area based on quakes there. Ohio has banned wells near fault lines, and a task force was assigned by the state of Kansas to assess links between quakes and fracking.

Vermont has banned fracking, despite negligible prospects for oil or gas production, and Massachusetts is seriously considering a ban.

Five Colorado cities have prohibited fracking, though they face legal challenges from the state – not the industry. And the city of Dallas passed late last year restrictions that prohibit fracking within 1,500 feet of a home, school, church, and other protected areas, effectively banning the practice within the city.

One town in rural Texas has taken to demanding that regulators act immediately to ban fracking in their area, as they allege that it is to blame for a spate of recent earthquakes.

Meanwhile, a recent report found that some of the most drought-ravaged areas of the US are also heavily targeted for oil and gas development using fracking, a practice which exacerbates water usage.

Half of the 97 billion gallons of water used since 2011 for fracking have gone to wells in Texas, a state in the midst of a severe, years-long drought. Meanwhile, oil and gas production through fracking is on track to double in the state over the next five years, the Guardian reported.

In California, 96 percent of new wells are located in areas where competition for water is high. A drought emergency for the entire state – which has traditionally dealt with water-sharing and access problems – was declared last month.

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