Sunday, May 17, 2009

Is Barnett Shale Drilling Causing Texas Earthquakes?

Yesterday I blogged about yesterday's earthquake here in the Dallas/Fort Worth Metroplex zone.

A couple people commented on the earthquake, one of whom experienced the quake. One of the comments speculated on whether the recent quakes are being caused by the Barnett Shale Gas Drilling. And then I got an email from Don Young on that very subject.

First I'll copy the comment from cd0103, who felt the quake, then the other comment, then the email from Don Young....

cd0103 has left a new comment on your post "North Texas Rocked By Minor Earthquake":

We lost power when it hit, it was very strange. Had a "thunderclap" that wasn't. I didn't think anything about it until a waitress downtown told me the same thing. ( has left a new comment on your post "North Texas Rocked By Minor Earthquake":

I didn't feel the earthquake we had today but saw it's effects. I had just made breakfast and had walked to the tv to turn it on and I heard this knocking noise on the wall coming from where my desk is. It had started rocking into the wall and my laptop screen was also rocking back and forth like I had bumped into it. It was really strange looking but only lasted a few seconds. I went ahead and finished breakfast and then got on twitter and noticed that a few local people had posted questions wondering if we had just had an earthquake.

This one was slightly bigger than the one we had in October but with the first one it seemed to make more noise and rattle the dishes, things I didn't notice with todays quake.

Oh well, I just hope we don't ever a "big one" as the houses and buildings in north Texas aren't designed to withstand quakes like they are along the west coast.

I've also heard some people make comments wondering if the recent quake activity could have anything do to with all the oil drilling that's been going on around the metroplex the last couple of years. Think that could have anything to do with?

And now Don Young answers the question regarding the role "all the oil drilling" may have to do with the quakes....

After today's (5/16/09) 3rd earthquake in the Barnett Shale region in less than eight months, I think my attached message from August, 2007 bears repeating.

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 earths 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."

Click here for more info about Induced Earthquakes.

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