ODNR’s extreme lack of seismic data and understanding exposed by seismologists

In responding to the twelve recent quakes in NE Ohio suspected of being caused by fracking, including a 3.0 magnitude one, that led to a Lowellville fracking operation being shut down by ODNR order, an ODNR geologist admitted ODNR’s extreme lack of data on geology and seismic risks in areas where it has permitted hundreds of fracking and injection wells. According to a March 16th article in the Columbus Dispatch:

The county has one known fault line running through it — in its southwestern corner, said Mark Baranoski, a geologist with the state’s Division of Geological Survey.

“We know more about the surface of the moon than we do about the basement in Ohio,” he said. 

There might be many other fault lines that won’t reveal themselves until additional earthquakes are recorded.

Following the 2011 earthquakes near Youngstown, researchers found that a fracking-waste injection well linked to them had been drilled on an ancient fault line. (more…)

According to this and a March 14th article in the Dispatch, scientists with Columbia University’s seismology center say fracking, with its high pressure injection of liquids, is likely responsible for the quakes. They dispute ODNR’s denial of the significance of the recent seismic activity and of its likely connections to fracking and/or injection wells:

Natural Resources logged five earthquakes on Monday and Tuesday. Agency spokesman Mark Bruce said the additional earthquakes that Columbia monitored were incidental.

“Ohio’s increased monitoring network records micro-seismic events that happen around the state almost daily (and) are not felt,” he wrote in an email.

Kim, however, said they are significant and that a connection is likely.

“We need to think about what happened two years ago in Youngstown,” Kim said. “Maybe (recent fracking) activity is triggering earthquakes.”

From January 2011 to February 2012, researchers recorded more than 100 earthquakes there that eventually were linked to the pumping of fracking waste deep underground into an injection well in the Youngstown area.

In January 2012, the state halted the disposal of fracking waste in injection wells within 5 miles of the Youngstown well. At first, the state said there was no connection between the injection well and the temblors.

Kim published research that linked fracking-waste injection wells in the Youngstown area to the earthquakes.

This week, ODNR officials said injection wells were not to blame for the Lowellville earthquakes.

John Armbruster, a Columbia seismologist who monitored the area around the Youngstown injection well in 2011, said there are similarities between the most-recent earthquakes and those in 2011 and 2012.

“These are behaving like earthquakes that were caused by (fracking-waste) injection,” he said. But linking them might be difficult — the state does not have accurate data on the depth of the most-recent earthquakes. Depth was one of the ways experts linked the 2011-2012 earthquakes to the injection well.  More…

A March 13th Dispatch article also cites Arthur McGarr, a U.S. Geological Survey geophysicist, who is leading a national study of earthquakes and injection wells. According to the Dispatch, “McGarr said long-term disposal can cause temblors as far as 15 miles away. Even closed wells could cause earthquakes, he said.”

Note: There are two inaccuracies in otherwise excellent, informative coverage in these Dispatch articles:

1) Contrary to a statement in the March 13 article, ODNR does not “monitor seismic information at every well before, during and after waste was pumped below ground.” They do not do this anywhere in the state other than in the vicinity of the the Youngstown 2011 quakes. It would require on-site monitoring equipment, which is not in place.

2) Injection wells are not necessarily deeper than fracking wells. The K&H 1 and 2 wells are open holes below 2000 feet, much shallower than many frack wells.