Friday, October 31, 2008

Earthquake Shakes North Texas! Is Gas Drilling The Cause?

I thought Texas did not have earthquakes. I've been told that more than once. Where I used to live, in Washington, earthquakes were quite regular. That and mountains blowing up.

Where I lived, in Mount Vernon, we went through a series of localized earthquakes centered about 3 miles east of my house. It was day after day of quakes. I remember laying on my waterbed when one happened and the waves about tossed me out of bed. Another one I was sitting in my living room and I thought the windows were going to pop out. Another one I heard loud cracking and went into the kitchen to find a fault line had formed across my tile floor.

So, I thought my earthquake days were behind me. But then last night, coming up on midnight, we got hit with a series of quakes here in North Texas. The first struck about a half hour before midnight, centered 4 miles north of Grand Prairie. Grand Prairie is the town next to Arlington. I live in East Fort Worth, about 10 miles west of Grand Prairie. I think I felt the quake but thought it was a noisy truck.

The largest quake occurred just after midnight. A 3.0 centered 4 miles southwest of Irving. Irving is the town due west of Dallas where the Cowboys currently play football.

Several smaller quakes in the 2.0 range were felt, with the last shaker occurring around 3 in the morning.

Police were flooded with 100s of calls. Most people thought it was an explosion or a plane crash.

I remember when all this Barnett Shale drilling and fraccing started happening I thought to myself, good thing they don't have quakes here, as doing that much damage to the earth's upper crust would likely have a bad result up in Washington.

The same thought occurred to Fort Worth's wise sage, Don Young. Way back in August of 2007 Don Young wrote the following....

While vacationing recently in Marfa, Texas, I stumbled into a bookstore seeking shade and ran across an interesting book titled, Texas Earthquakes.

I thought to myself, We don't have earthquakes in Texas! The concept seemed counterintuitive. The authors of the book know better. Opening the book at random to page 70, I read the following:

"Three human activities that commonly induce earthquake activity are:

1) Injecting high pressure fluids into rock formations beneath the earth's surface.
2) Withdrawing large amounts of fluid or gas.
3) Construction of reservoirs and lakes."

Until very recently, the first 2 items have occurred only in remote parts of the state, away from densely populated areas. The Barnett-Shale play and subsequent fracing technology have changed all that.

According to the Texas Railroad Commission, in the year 2000, there were less than 10 gas wells in Tarrant County. Today, there are more than 1,000 with many more planned and thousands more in the immediate vicinity.

I'm not suggesting there is a serious risk from earthquakes in Tarrant County, there are far more serious risks from drilling, but, expanded gas drilling and injection wells in the north Texas region have moved us into uncharted territory.

To paraphrase Paul Harvey, "One fine day we may know, the rest of the story."

I fear we are doomed here in North Texas, doomed I tell you.

1 comment:

Innovations MedSpa said...

Great post! I am a Texas native and have lived under the assumption that we don't have earthquakes in the state. As I write this post I am 9 stories up in a downtown office space and just felt a tremor - after hearing of the quakes last week my mind jumped to Chesapeake.