Big Oil’s Four Dog Defense &
How to Beat it!
Frack Quakes are human induced earthquakes caused by the injection or withdrawal of drilling related fluids. Do not be fooled by industry jargon; Hydraulic Fracturing (Fracking) cannot take place without disposal usually re-injection of vast amounts of wastewater and toxic chemicals. By the same token oil and gas production cannot continue without the production and frequently the injection of vast amounts of water into the rocks.
A study of past litigation against offending oil companies by Eco-Alert reveals a legal strategy which is referred to as the Four Dog Defense. In the past, victims became aware of this carefully honed strategy only when they have signed with an attorney for representation. We are presenting this defense and the counter arguments as a public service in the context of induced or triggered earthquake damage.
The four dog defense was developed by the tobacco industry and it works like this:
- My Dog Does Not Bite. (Fracking activities do not cause Earthquakes)
- My Dog Bites, But It Didn't Bite You. (Some fracking activities have caused earthquakes but not in this area.)
- My Dog Bit You. But It Didn't Hurt You. (Fracking related earthquakes are very small and have not been shown to cause significant damage)
- My Dog Bit You and Hurt You, But It Wasn't My Fault (We didn’t know that fracking activities could cause significant earthquake damage, but we have taken every precaution to limit the chances of earthquakes and prevent damages in the future.)
Now let us debunk these arguments one at a time
1. My Dog Does Not Bite. (Fracking activities do not cause Earthquakes)
All Oil and Gas companies know this is a lie. Therefore, they disguise their defense in industry jargon designed to limit both the time frame and conditions under which the rebuttal cases can be applied. They talk about high volume horizontal drilling, or slick-water drilling They obfuscate with proppants, gels and produced water.
They basically drill the hole vertically and horizontally, line it with pipe and cement, perforate the pipe and then pump fluids in as a way to enhance pumping gas and fluids out. The big differences between traditional completions are the higher pressures, much higher volumes and the mix of chemicals they add to the fluids being pumped in.
EARTHQUAKES BENEATH OIL AND GAS FIELDS CALIFORNIA EARTHQUAKES CASE STUDY
40 Case Studies for Induced or Triggered Earthquakes-McGarr 2002
The 1983 Coalinga earthquake [M6.2] occurred beneath a major producing oil field, but geologists were initially skeptical that the two were related due to the 6-mile depth of the earthquake focus. Numerous large aftershocks in the vicinity of the field failed to convince them at the time
But the ensuing occurrence of large earthquakes directly beneath two other oil fields from which exceptional amounts of liquid had been extracted, i.e., the 1985 M = 6.1 Kettleman North Dome and the 1987 M = 6 Whittier Narrows earthquakes, generated renewed interest in a possible link between oil production and large, midcrustal earthquakes. McGarr (1991) noted that the dimensions of the oil fields, 13 km for Coalinga, 23 km for Kettleman North Dome, and 6 km for the Montebello field above the Whittier Narrows earthquake, are similar to the dimensions of the respective aftershock sequences.
Of particular interest, though, is that the ratios of net liquid production to total seismic moment are nearly the same for all three events. The agreement between the seismic deformation and expectations based on liquid production is quite good
These are only a few of the more than 40 case studies for induced or triggered earthquakes from man-made activities documented by McGarr in 2002.
LOS ANGELES BASIN CASE STUDY Injection-Induced Seismicity Leading Edge 2015
The Century of LA Basin Fields (Hauksson et al 2015) revealed “6 damaging events of as much as Mag 3.3 induced by fluid extraction from 1947 to 1961 in the Wilmington oil field, before fluid injection became common. Historical production at the Wilmington oil field was linked to significant surface subsidence as well as some induced seismicity. The subsidence in the Wilmington field reached about 30 feet from 1926–1968 and affected the Los Angeles harbor and adjacent regions. Due to high production rates in Los Angeles, only three oil fields — Huntington Beach, Richfield, and Wilmington — have experienced net injection since 1977. The Wilmington earthquakes began about two decades after the initiation of extraction.
Previously, both the 1933 M 6.4 Long Beach and the 1987 M 5.9 Whittier Narrows earthquakes occurred close to major oil fields, the Huntington Beach and Montebello fields. Deeper seismicity within these oilfields exhibited apparent rate increases and also in the 2001 sequence beneath the Beverly Hills oil field, and the 2014 MW 5.1 La Habra sequence near the abandoned West-Coyote field.
Earthquakes induced by extraction might be less likely to occur than events caused by injection because crustal stress changes resulting from fluid extraction are approximately an order of magnitude lower than for fluid injection.
ROCKY MOUNTAIN ARSENAL WELL CASE STUDY
One of the earliest and most spectacular examples of seismicity related to fluid injection occurred near Denver, Colorado in the 1960s (Evans, 1966; Healy et al., 1968) Hazardous wastes were being injected under high pressures at a depth of 3.7 km at the Rocky Mountain Arsenal. Soon after injection started, earthquakes began to be felt in the Denver area, a region that previously had experienced little or no earthquake activity. The seismicity was initially concentrated near the bottom of the injection well, but eventually spread along a linear zone for about 8.7 km. Of particular interest, however, is
that the largest earthquake, of magnitude 4.85 (Herrmann et al., 1981) occurred more than a year after injection had ceased.
ASHTABULA, OHIO – CASE STUDY
Liquid waste was injected into the 1.8 km deep basal Paleozoic formation of the Appalachian Plateau near Ashtabula Ohio. A magnitude 3.6 mainshock occurred in 1987 a year after the onset of injection and more than 30 km from any other known earthquake.
2. My Dog Bites, But It Didn't Bite You. (Some fracking activities have caused earthquakes but not of this magnitude in this area.)
The following case studies are based on a recently released volume of the LEADING EDGE Special Section on Injection Induced Seismicity from June 2015.
OKLAHOMA EARTHQUAKES – Case Study
According to Fox News [Feb 14, 2016], briny wastewater, a result of gas and oil production, has been blamed for the increasing number of earthquakes in Oklahoma. Though there are options available to reduce, or even eradicate, some of these collections of wastewater, oil and gas operators are reluctant to take any steps to lessen the volume.
Oklahoma experiences more earthquakes than anywhere in the world. Before 2009, Oklahoma had two earthquakes of magnitude 3.0 or greater each year, but now there are two a day. A 5.1 magnitude earthquake that shook northwest Oklahoma Feb 14, 2016 was the third-strongest ever recorded in the state, the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) said. And, on Feb 23, 2016 experienced seven earthquakes which rattled the city of Edmond in central Oklahoma.
A Century of Earthquakes in Oklahoma Hough and Page 2015 Bull SSA
The rate of earthquakes has increased sharply since 2009 in the central and eastern United States, with growing evidence confirming that these earthquakes are primarily caused by human activity, namely the injection of wastewater in deep disposal wells
"In Oklahoma, seismicity rates since 2009 far surpass previously observed rates at any time during the 20th century," The lead author states “most of the significant earthquakes in Oklahoma during the 20th century may also have been induced by oil production activities Deep injection of waste water, now recognized to potentially induce earthquakes, in fact began in the state in the 1930s."
Prior to the 2011 magnitude 5.7 Prague, Oklahoma earthquake, the largest historical earthquake in the area was the 1952 magnitude 5.7 El Reno earthquake, which the study concludes was likely induced by activities related to oil production near Edmond, Oklahoma.
Efforts to Monitor and Characterize the Recent Increasing Seismicity in Central Oklahoma McNamara et al 2015
South-central Oklahoma is the most populated region of the state, with more than one million inhabitants in the Oklahoma City metropolitan area. It is also the location of significant energy-industry and national strategic infrastructure such as the Cushing crude-oil storage facility
The specific earthquake sequences observed in central Oklahoma in recent years do not behave with a typical main-shock– aftershock progression. Instead, they are swarmlike, similar to volcanic sequences, with large- and small-magnitude events interspersed in time, and most of the larger earthquakes are preceded by numerous moderate foreshocks. The November 2011 Prague, Oklahoma, sequence is a good example, with an equal number of magnitude 4 foreshocks and aftershocks.
1. My Dog Bit You. But It Didn't Hurt You. (Fracking related earthquakes are very small and have not been shown to cause damage)
Modern fracking methods require 4-8 million gallons of water and use toxic additives such as diesel fuel, biocides, benzene, acids and more recently polyacrylamides. These can consist of more than 300 individual chemicals whose function is to prop open fractures, decrease friction increase fluid viscosity, prevent clays from swelling, break emulsions, reduce surface tension etc. many of these chemicals have never been tested for toxicity to humans and some are still claimed to be proprietary.
Benzene is a known carcinogen responsible for increased rates of leukemia and liver failure. Operators frequently argue that the fracking fluids only contain about 1% benzene but that still amounts to 40,000 to 80,000 gallons of a potent cancer causing chemical. Polyacrylamide is not very toxic except that it always contains impurities of acrylamide which is a neurotoxin. Furthermore, conditions in the subsurface may cause degradation and depolymerization (above 300deg F leading to even more acrylamide.)
Elevated hazard for Oklahoma City. Beginning in 2010 and continuing to the time of writing (late February 2015), earthquake rates have shown a significant increase in the region northeast of Oklahoma City.
In 2014, 608 magnitude 3 and greater earthquakes occurred in central Oklahoma (more than in California), including 17 earthquakes with magnitudes of 4 or larger (a rate of 1.4/month). This year, 2015, shows no sign of decline in earthquake rate, with more than 200 M 3 and nine M 4 earthquakes by late March — a rate of three M 4 and larger earthquakes per month (Figure 2).
Of particular concern for residents of Oklahoma City are active earthquake sequences associated with long fault structures that might be capable of supporting large earthquakes (M 5 to 6).
Faulting in this area “could cause a cascade of earthquakes in the same manner as the Prague sequence in November 2011 (Sumy et al., 2014). An earthquake of similar magnitude to the Prague MW 5.6 would produce severe shaking a broad region around the epicenter (MMI VIII) and would pose significant hazard to the higher-population-density region of the Oklahoma City metropolitan area.
[OKC COULD BE FACING NOT ONE DAMAGING AND POTENTIAL DEVASTATING EARTHQUAKE BUT A SWARM OF EARTHQUAKES CHARACTERIZED BY SEVERAL LARGE FORESHOCKS THEN A MAIN SHOCK OF PEAK MAGNITUDE FOLLOWED BY NUMEROUS AFTERSHOCKS.
Do you think the people of OKC should have a vote on whether they would risk their lives and the lives of their families in order for the obsolete oil industry to make a larger profit while demanding their right to dump their waste water in the nearest well?
October 2014 Cushing earthquake sequence: Elevated hazard for national strategic infrastructure.
In October 2014, two moderate-sized earthquakes (MW 4.0 and 4.3) struck immediately south of Cushing, Oklahoma, 5 km beneath the site of the largest crude-oil storage facility in the conterminous United States and a major hub of the U. S. oil-and-gas pipeline transportation system (Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration, 2015).
Minor damage was reported throughout Cushing, including cracked plaster, broken window glass, and items thrown from shelves.
Shortly after the 7 October 2014 Cushing MW 4.0 event, the OCC halted injection operations at three wells within a six-mile radius around the main-shock epicenter. This was the first implementation of the OCC’s traffic-light system since its inception in late 2013.
Earthquakes within the Cushing sequence are of particular interest because of their proximity to critical industry infrastructure. Based on the results from this study and the similarity of the conjugate strike-slip fault systems in Cushing and Prague, we suggest that a moderate-magnitude (M 5.6) earthquake, similar to the 2011 Prague earthquake (M 5.6) could occur at the conjugate fault intersection directly beneath the Cushing oil storage facility. The Oklahoma Geological Survey reports that the immediate vicinity of the 2011 Prague M 5.6 epicenter experienced very strong shaking of intensity levels (MMI VII = 18-34% g) shaking intensity of MMI VII could cause moderate to heavy damage to storage tanks in the Cushing facility depending on the tank height, diameter and percent fill [O’Rourke and S0, 2000]
Based on the stress changes due to the 2014 Cushing sequence and continued wastewater injection, we hypothesize tha the Cushing and Wilsetta-Whitehall fault zones are critically stressed in a region sufficient enough to increase the likelihood of a large and damaging earthquake similar to the 2011 M 5.6 Prague earthquake.
With the plummeting price of crude oil, the Cushing storage facility was expected to approach peak capacity (80 million barrels) by April 2015 (Wilmoth, 2015), exposing critical resources and infrastructure to elevated earthquake hazard. The OCC implementation of the traffic-light system has been a success so far in this case for mitigating potential damage to the Cushing facility and possibly avoiding an environmental disaster for the residents of nearby Cushing and costly cleanup for the energy industry.
YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED!
Recent seismicity in northwest-central Oklahoma. Northwestern central Oklahoma has experienced the most recent seismicity as a result of northwest migration of active earthquake sequences.
The most recent of these larger events occurred within six days of each other, 30 January and 5 February 2015, within 10 km of Cherokee. After the MW 4.0 on 30 January 2015, injection operations at the SandRidge Energy Miguel well were halted. This marks the second implementation of the OCC traffic-light system. Less than a week after this decision [injection well shut-in] was made, a second large earthquake occurred (MW 4.2), less than 8 km from the first, with multiple smaller accompanying aftershock
They concluded “that the increased rate and occurrence of earthquakes near optimally oriented and long fault structures has raised the earthquake hazard in central Oklahoma and has increased the probability for a damaging earthquake.
Recent seismicity in northwest
2. My Dog Bit You and Hurt You, But It Wasn't My Fault (We didn’t know that fracking activities could cause significant Earthquakes but we have taken every precaution to limit the chances of earthquakes and prevent damages in the future.)
To combat this argument, you will have to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that companies have known since the mid 1970’s that fluid injection and extraction have triggered shallow earthquakes. Fortunately, recent research has documented historical frack quakes in the West and Midwest which leave little doubt.
A recent study concluded that the M 3.0 Ohio earthquake on 10 March 2014 was induced by hydraulic fracturing (Skoumal et al., 2015). Additionally, there are now examples in England which have been documented.
CENTRAL EASTERN US EARTHQUAKES
High-Rate Injection is Associated with the Increase in U.S Mid-Continent Seismicity – Weingarten et al 2015 Science
The authors found “the entire increase in earthquake rate is associated with fluid injection wells. High-rate injection wells (>300,000 barrels per month) are much more likely to be associated with earthquakes than lower-rate wells.” One previous study examined earthquakes in Texas’s Barnett Shale region and found that earthquakes are commonly located near wells injecting more than 150,000 barrels per month.
The injection of fluids into the subsurface has been known to induce earthquakes since the mid-1960s [in the Mid-Continent]. The largest observed [induced earthquake] prior to 2011 was the M 4.9 Rocky Mountain Arsenal earthquake in 1967.
The central and eastern United States(CEUS) has seen an unprecedented increase in earthquake rate since 2009, and many of these earthquakes are believed to be induced (7). Along with the increased rate, several damaging earthquakes have occurred such as the 2011 magnitude (M) 5.6 Prague, Oklahoma, earthquake (8, 9), the 2011 M 5.3 Trinidad, Colorado, earthquake (10), the 2012M4.8 Timpson, Texas, earthquake (11), and the 2011 M 4.7 Guy, Arkansas, earthquake.
The database contained 187,570 wells as of December 2014, with 56% actively injecting fluid (Fig. 1) and the remaining 44% being inactive or abandoned
During the study period (1973 to 2014), they identified 7175 earthquake events in the catalog in the CEUS region. They considered any earthquake within 15 km of an active injection well to be associated with that well. They found 18,757 injection wells (~10% of all wells) associated with earthquakes in the CEUS after filtering, mostly in the states of Oklahoma and Texas (Fig. 1). The number of associated injection wells has tripled since the year 2000.
Wells in central and northcentral Oklahoma are the main contributors to the dramatic increase in associated seismicity. New production methods in these regions are generating large volumes of produced water, which are injected at high rates. Only 8% of all injection wells are located in Oklahoma, but 40% of the associated injection wells in the CEUS are located in Oklahoma. High-rate Salt Water Disposal wells are nearly twice as likely as low-rate wells to be near an earthquake. These high-rate wells perturb the ambient reservoir pressure by a larger magnitude and over a larger area than low-rate wells, thus increasing the likelihood that pressure changes will reach an optimally oriented, critically stressed fault.
They concluded nearly a year ago that “the oil and gas industry and regulatory bodies can use this operational parameter to lower the likelihood of earthquakes associated with injection wells.”
Shaking intensity from injection-induced versus tectonic earthquakes in the central-eastern United States Hough 2015 LEADING EDGE
Seventeen CEUS events are considered between 2013 and 2015. The results of this study suggest that 15 of the 17 events, most of which occurred in areas where induced earthquakes have been documented in recent years, are induced
[Oil companies know if evidence is not gathered it cannot be used in court. Removing links in the body of evidence makes it impossible to prove beyond a reasonable doubt the offending company is responsible. Therefore, oil companies refuse to supply essential information on the contents of the spill, claiming it is proprietary. Ask yourself, how can it be legitimate to claim information on the material damaging the health of victims is proprietary?]
And why is the offending company allowed access to materials which, in any other investigation, would be secured by law enforcement?
The company knew what was flowing through their pipe – but the victims, including locally hired clean-up workers, do not. To ensure justice is done the offending company should be denied any contact with the spilled material. This should be gathered and analyzed, directly, by law enforcement.
USGS INDUCED EARTHQUAKES REFERENCES
USGS Publications on Induced Seismicity
- Benz, ?Harley M., McMahon, Nicole D., Aster, Richard C., McNamara, Daniel E., and David B. Harris? (2015), Hundreds of Earthquakes per Day: The 2014 Guthrie, Oklahoma, Earthquake Sequence, Seismological Research Letters, V 86, Number 5, doi: 10.1785/0220150019.
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- Frohlich, C. et al. (2014), The 17 May 2012 M4. 8 earthquake near Timpson, East Texas: An event possibly triggered by fluid injection, Journal of Geophysical Research: Solid Earth, 119(1), 581-593.
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