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posted by hubie on Wednesday November 23, @04:24PM   Printer-friendly
from the I-feel-the-earth-move-under-my-feet dept.

The state's Railroad Commission is investigating whether the 5.4-magnitude quake last week was a natural event:

The Railroad Commission Texas, which regulates the state's oil and gas industry, is investigating a 5.4-magnitude earthquake that rocked communities in West Texas last Wednesday, The Texas Tribune reports. Hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, is a drilling technique common in the area that is known to cause earthquakes.

According to the U.S. Geological Survey, the earthquake occurred on November 16, just west of Pecos, Texas. This was the state's largest earthquake since 1995 and was felt as far as El Paso. The oil and gas regulatory agency is trying to understand if this was a naturally occurring earthquake or if it was caused by waste water from fracking. Waste water disposal from fracking has dramatically increased the number of earthquakes in Texas. The seismic activity has especially become more common around the Permian Basin in West Texas, where oil and gas production is concentrated, according to the Texas Tribune.

[...] The Texas Tribune previously reported that the number of earthquakes in the state doubled in 2021. According to data from the Bureau of Economic Geology at the University of Texas at Austin, there were more than 200 earthquakes categorized as 3 magnitude and higher. There were only 95 earthquakes reported in Texas in 2020, according to the Bureau's data.


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  • (Score: 5, Touché) by ilsa on Wednesday November 23, @04:57PM (17 children)

    by ilsa (6082) Subscriber Badge on Wednesday November 23, @04:57PM (#1281292)

    Injuries, deaths, and massive property damage are a small price to pay as long as the rich can keep raking in their massive profits.

    • (Score: 4, Interesting) by ElizabethGreene on Wednesday November 23, @06:52PM (7 children)

      by ElizabethGreene (6748) on Wednesday November 23, @06:52PM (#1281312)

      It seems unfair to count the cost of fracking this way without similarly considering the cost of not being able to meet our energy needs. The cost of California's 2019 rolling blackouts alone was spitballed at $2 Billion dollars, a little under 1% of the State's GDP. If you want to talk about a cost in lives instead of dollars, consider what will happen if Russia continues to press their war in Ukraine through the winter. A lot of people are going to be cold this winter because of their energy dependence.

      The knee-jerk response to that is "But Renewables!" and I agree with you. We're seeing renewables increase several percent per year and that's a good thing. Before you consider the matter closed though, please consider that if it grows at the astounding rate of 3% per year, year-over-year, it will still take decades to replace what we currently get from fossil fuels. You could build a new gas-fired power plant today with a 50-year service life and hit that service life before we are able to fully replace fossil fuels with renewables. So obviously we need to deploy renewables faster. Agreed, but even if we double the growth rate it still takes decades.

      So thank you, greedy oil company bastards, for keeping the lights on. I really do appreciate it. Please keep doing your thing until we catch up. Don't think this makes up for suppressing renewables for decades. You are still up for the guillotine for that.

      [Source Data: In 2021, per https://www.eia.gov/totalenergy/data/monthly/pdf/sec1_7.pdf, [eia.gov] renewables including biomass which is bullshit but that's another conversation made up 12.4% of our energy mix. That's up from 10.6% in 2016.

      • (Score: 5, Insightful) by ilsa on Wednesday November 23, @07:39PM (5 children)

        by ilsa (6082) Subscriber Badge on Wednesday November 23, @07:39PM (#1281322)

        The fundamental flaws with your argument is that you assume the way things are currently run is the ONLY way things can currently run, so we just have to accept the blatant corruption and wealth transfer to the rich. You also assume that they are, in fact, "keeping the lights on".

        The fact is, these greedy oil company bastards are NOT keeping the lights on. They have demonstrated that several times now. Texas has more than enough resources they need a hundred fold over, yet they have _willingly chose_ to let people freeze to death rather than risk the possibility that they might not make quite as much profit as they feel they are entitled to.

        They socialize the ramifications of what they do, but privatize the profits. It's sad that you willingly swallow the libertarian bullshit they spoonfeed you.

        • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday November 23, @08:21PM

          by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday November 23, @08:21PM (#1281331)

          The fundamental flaws with your argument is that you assume the way things are currently run is the ONLY way things can currently run, so we just have to accept the blatant corruption and wealth transfer to the rich.

          This was all known by baboons decades ago: https://youtu.be/A4UMyTnlaMY?t=14 [youtu.be]

        • (Score: 2, Interesting) by khallow on Thursday November 24, @06:30AM (1 child)

          by khallow (3766) Subscriber Badge on Thursday November 24, @06:30AM (#1281408) Journal

          The fundamental flaws with your argument is that you assume the way things are currently run is the ONLY way things can currently run, so we just have to accept the blatant corruption and wealth transfer to the rich. You also assume that they are, in fact, "keeping the lights on".

          I agree with the grandparent. They are indeed keeping the lights on. And the people who rant about "blatant corruption and wealth transfer to the rich" from normal market activity? I wouldn't trust them to run a lemonade stand much less have an informed opinion on the energy industry.

          The fact is, these greedy oil company bastards are NOT keeping the lights on. They have demonstrated that several times now. Texas has more than enough resources they need a hundred fold over, yet they have _willingly chose_ to let people freeze to death rather than risk the possibility that they might not make quite as much profit as they feel they are entitled to.

          In other words, they had a one-time power outage due to a freak ice storm and now it's a narrative about rich people. I suggest for more examples, the lack of new nuclear plants (or means to recycle the ever growing pile of nuclear waste) or new refineries for half a century because the public thought they were bad. Rich people were too greedy to fix that too.

          • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Friday November 25, @06:51AM

            by Anonymous Coward on Friday November 25, @06:51AM (#1281553)

            Yes.

        • (Score: 3, Funny) by Username on Friday November 25, @05:23PM (1 child)

          by Username (4557) on Friday November 25, @05:23PM (#1281612)

          This is hard to follow for me, but from what I understand your point is:

          You shouldn't be a self sufficient libertarian who generates their own power because the socialized windmills put up to counter climate change stopped spinning because of the greedy bourgeoisie.

          • (Score: 1) by khallow on Monday November 28, @02:08AM

            by khallow (3766) Subscriber Badge on Monday November 28, @02:08AM (#1282067) Journal
            My mental failwaves can stop windmills at 225 km. Fear me.
      • (Score: 5, Insightful) by sjames on Wednesday November 23, @09:50PM

        by sjames (2882) on Wednesday November 23, @09:50PM (#1281341) Journal

        What seems unfair is the people making all the profits not being the ones to pay the costs. Internalize the costs and then we can talk about the risk/benefit calculations.

    • (Score: 5, Insightful) by epitaxial on Wednesday November 23, @07:36PM (1 child)

      by epitaxial (3165) on Wednesday November 23, @07:36PM (#1281321)

      Republicans were running commercials all over Texas to vote for them to fix things. The republicans have been in power in Texas for 27 years...

      • (Score: 1, Troll) by Farmer Tim on Wednesday November 23, @09:28PM

        by Farmer Tim (6490) on Wednesday November 23, @09:28PM (#1281337)
        To be fair, that means the Democrats haven’t fixed anything for 27 years either.
        --
        Came for the news, stayed for the soap opera.
    • (Score: 3, Insightful) by PiMuNu on Wednesday November 23, @07:52PM (6 children)

      by PiMuNu (3823) Subscriber Badge on Wednesday November 23, @07:52PM (#1281326)

      > Injuries, deaths, and massive property damage are a small price to pay as long as the rich can keep raking in their massive profits.

      From

      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Richter_magnitude_scale [wikipedia.org]

      5.0–5.9: Can cause damage of varying severity to poorly constructed buildings. Zero to slight damage to all other buildings. Felt by everyone.

      Where is the problem?

      • (Score: 2, Touché) by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday November 23, @09:14PM (1 child)

        by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday November 23, @09:14PM (#1281335)

        From TFA:

        Communities near hydraulic fracturing sites are at risk from more than just rumbling ground. A study this past January connected fracking to premature deaths of people who live near the sites. Fracking is known to pose significant health risks: The sites contaminate nearby water sources [gizmodo.com], and fracking leaks carcinogenic pollutants [gizmodo.com] into the air and water. Fracking can also release PFAS into the environment [gizmodo.com], chemicals linked to a variety of health issues.

        There's also the "what's good for the goose" angle [texasmonthly.com] that never seems to be followed.

        • (Score: 2) by PiMuNu on Thursday November 24, @08:36AM

          by PiMuNu (3823) Subscriber Badge on Thursday November 24, @08:36AM (#1281432)

          Sure, but this is and should be captured by existing legislation. Most industrial processes release toxic chemicals if not handled correctly therefore ban all industry?

      • (Score: 2) by ilsa on Wednesday November 23, @09:46PM

        by ilsa (6082) Subscriber Badge on Wednesday November 23, @09:46PM (#1281340)

        Hopefully nothing more than inconvenience, but without being at ground zero, I have no idea for sure.

        There's also issues involving chemical contamination but I guess that's not a problem either for anyone that doesn't live there.

      • (Score: 2) by Reziac on Thursday November 24, @03:01AM (1 child)

        by Reziac (2489) on Thursday November 24, @03:01AM (#1281381) Homepage

        Also, if fracking is the cause, explain Alberta.

      • (Score: 1) by khallow on Thursday November 24, @02:49PM

        by khallow (3766) Subscriber Badge on Thursday November 24, @02:49PM (#1281483) Journal

        Where is the problem?

        If the activity continues (especially if it continues to increase), it'll likely create bigger earthquakes which can kill people. My take is that this sort of thing has a scaling factor of roughly 30 [soylentnews.org]. That is, for 30 earthquakes of a given magnitude N, you'll see one earthquake of magnitude N+1.

        Energy goes up as 10^1.5 (which is almost a factor of 32) per one delta. It's the motion that goes up by a factor of 10. The interesting thing is that the power law seems to apply well to the frequency of earthquakes, which decline by similar amounts as one increases in the magnitude scale. Stuck faults tend to decline in frequency by a factor of 10, while slippery faults (and the Oklahoma situation) tend to decline as a factor of 30. That has the consequence that large earthquakes are far more likely on stuck faults than on slippery ones and far larger numbers of small earthquakes happen on the slippery faults.

        The present quake is already at the threshold for damaging earthquakes. Bigger ones have a good chance of killing people despite the low population density of most of the region. But it should be gradual with plenty of opportunity for regulation to intervene. My take also is that once the waste water pumping stops then earthquakes will drastically decline in frequency.

  • (Score: 4, Touché) by DannyB on Wednesday November 23, @05:06PM (1 child)

    by DannyB (5839) Subscriber Badge on Wednesday November 23, @05:06PM (#1281294) Journal

    The oil and gas regulatory agency is trying to understand if this was a naturally occurring earthquake or if it was caused by waste water from fracking.

    It must be a natural occurrence. No other explanation is conceivable. Otherwise, someone might get the crazy idea that regulation may be necessary.

    --
    I get constant rejection even though the compiler is supposed to accept constants.
    • (Score: -1, Flamebait) by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday November 23, @08:15PM

      by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday November 23, @08:15PM (#1281330)

      Regulation? Those enviro-whackos just want to oppress humanity with bureaucratic collectivism. That's their goal, see? They may look like a bunch of dope smoking hippies but they are fucking WORST nazis of all.

  • (Score: 4, Funny) by pTamok on Wednesday November 23, @06:25PM

    by pTamok (3042) on Wednesday November 23, @06:25PM (#1281310)

    ...on the West Texas decisions on patent law. The Deity is not amused. Cease your immoral decisons!

  • (Score: 1) by khallow on Thursday November 24, @06:37AM (2 children)

    by khallow (3766) Subscriber Badge on Thursday November 24, @06:37AM (#1281410) Journal

    The oil and gas regulatory agency is trying to understand if this was a naturally occurring earthquake or if it was caused by waste water from fracking. Waste water disposal from fracking has dramatically increased the number of earthquakes in Texas.

    In other words, these earthquakes are thought to come from the practice of pumping said waste water deep underground. In other words, it would not be fracking that causes the problem, but the disposal of the waste water involved in fracking in this particular way. There are other ways to dispose of waste water in an environmentally sound way though obviously they must cost more or they would be doing it that way now.

    • (Score: 2) by RS3 on Friday November 25, @09:35PM (1 child)

      by RS3 (6367) on Friday November 25, @09:35PM (#1281649)

      I'm not expert, but IIRC when you remove oil and/or gas from underground, you must replace the volume to prevent underground collapse. Very large depressions and sinkholes have formed when too much was pulled out from underground without pumping enough something back down to fill the newly formed void.

      "Wastewater" is not necessarily a bad thing, although it's often interpreted as bad.

      Again, not expert (although I know some) but IIRC the 'quakes are caused by the geologic activity- pumping in or out disturbs the underground rock formations. Not all underground formations are solid- often they're many large layers of effectively rubble, often called "fracture zones" which hold the water, gas, and/or oil. In some places they happen to be a bit of a "house of cards" - far underground but a precariously interlocked sort of structure. You move some and the whole thing crumbles, hence, earthquakes on the surface.

      • (Score: 1) by khallow on Friday November 25, @09:49PM

        by khallow (3766) Subscriber Badge on Friday November 25, @09:49PM (#1281650) Journal
        As I understand it, you generate more waste water by volume than oil extracted. It sounds like they're packing away this extra volume as well.
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