Gas Fracking Shakes up Texas
Texas has always enjoyed the spot of being America’s number one energy producer. While oil has historically been its number one game, in recent years, it’s led the way in natural gas. Texas contains approximately twenty-three percent of the natural gas in the Continental United States, but the gas is in shale deposits and the method used for extracting it is gas fracking. While enthusiasts believe development of natural gas could give the Texas economy a much needed booster shot, opponents believe the price to pay is too high.
It is estimated that production in the Eagle Ford development could bring as much as $25 billion in revenue and create nearly 50,000 jobs. It is also suspected that the method of injecting waste water into the ground is triggering a number of small earthquakes.
Proceedings of the National Academy of Science announced recently that a series of 59 small earthquakes surrounding the Barnett Shale region of Texas, ranging from 1.4 to 2.5 in magnitude, had been documented but not reported to the US National Earthquake Information Center. Researchers from the University of Texas responded that the earthquakes could have been triggered from drilling in an area that already had a fracture zone.
Tremors have been gaining in frequency throughout areas where gas fracking is practiced, according to the US Geological Survey report. It was noted that tremors had occurred throughout the Midwest wherever the injection of wastewater into disposable wells was practiced. An Ohio agency concluded that deep well wastewater injection was responsible for a dozen small earthquakes in Youngstown over the past year.
Tremors aren’t the only concern of Texas residents. Environmentalists are worried that wastewater spill-over will contaminate the fresh water aquifer, while inhabitants debate whether there’s enough water to go around. Currently, Eagle Ford uses 13 million gallons per well in the process known as fracking. Fresh water is injected into the shale gas wells, forcing methane to rise to the surface. Texas is not a water-rich state, and though the prospect of renewed prosperity is tempting, inhabitants express their concern over the effect on agriculture.
Natural gas companies state there is very little to worry about as the tremors are too small to be widely felt on the surface, and that there is no evidence that injecting the waste waters back into the ground has harmed fresh water supplies. However, a report, delivered by Professor Charles Groat in February of this year, is now under question by the University of Texas, Austin. The University revealed that at the time of the presentation, Professor Groat, who led the study, which declared there was no proof gas fracturing contaminated ground water, was serving on the board of Plains Exploration and Production, a company devoted to gas drilling. The University provost and executive vice-president, Steven Leslie, states he does not anticipate any conflict with the report, as he was confident it met the University standards, but that it was important to allow a team of outside experts to conduct their own study.
The report might meet the University standards, but some residents feel the accepted standards are not enough. In 1980, oil field waste was exempted from the guidelines of the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act. Many citizens see this as a loophole allowing hydraulic fracturing fluids to go unregulated by natural gas and oil companies. A single fact remains clear. Gas fracking uses fresh water, combined with chemicals to force methane gas to the surface, then injects the waste water back into the ground. The displacement not only triggers earthquakes, but also without some serious attention paid to the problem, Texas may soon run out of fresh water.