Stay the Frack Out of Our ForearcPermalink +
Sun, May 11, 2014, 1:20 pm // Terry Wechsler
Note: This is the first of a series of articles discussing the real possibility companies holding mineral rights may begin exploration (if they haven't already) and permits to frack in Whatcom County. Future articles may address fracking’s implications for the region’s potable water; appropriate regulatory schemes to address fracking in our communities; and what actions citizens can take to ban fracking, examining actions in other communities around the nation.
Last Revision: 5/12/14
Since fracking began in Oklahoma, earthquakes of magnitude 3.0 (M3.0) or greater have increased from 1-3 per year to roughly 40 per year, with the November 6, 2011, M5.6 quake centered near Prague damaging 14 homes. It is not the facking that causes quakes but, rather, what the U.S. Geologic Service (USGS) calls “injection-induced seismicity” which occurs when fracking wastewater is injected into the ground for disposal.
The USGS has long known that such human activity as impoundment of water in reservoirs, mining, withdrawal of fluids and gas from the subsurface, and injection of fluids into underground formations, induces earthquakes. Fracking produces so much wastewater, the most economical way to dispose of it is to inject it underground, but it is so heavily polluted with toxins, it must be injected deep enough not to contaminate aquifers that provide drinking water. That injection, the USGS and Oklahoma Geological Survey concluded in a joint statement, contributed to the earthquake “swarm” Oklahoma experienced in 2011, particularly the M5.6 event.
Fracking wastewater may serve as a lubricant to nearby faults, weakening them at the same time the injection process increases the underground pore pressure. Even faults that have been inactive for millions of years may slip if pore pressure increases enough, with a resulting earthquake, the USGS explains. This matters in Whatcom County because we live in an identified earthquake zone, the Bellingham Basin, and we are sitting on untapped reserves of coal bed methane and natural gas.
The Bellingham Basin is the northernmost of four basins of the northern Cascadia forearc. According to geologists, the forearc is “actively deforming,” which means it is increasingly prone to earthquakes in the 6.0–6.5 magnitude range between Vancouver and Bellingham. NOAA assumes M7.2 in the Seattle Fault for purposes of tsunami modeling, but M9.1 in the Cascadia Subduction Zone.
Most Whatcom County residents know coal was mined in Bellingham. What some may not know is that we have coal bed methane and natural gas formations in the county as well. The Bellingham Basin (Play #450) is one of three potential coal bed methane production areas, but no test drilling had occurred, according to DNR, as of 2005. According to a 1997 U.S. Geological Survey, there were 22 wells dug in the U.S. portion of the Bellingham Basin through1991 to depths of 9000 feet, with most averaging 5000 feet. The USGS survey notes that inactive wells are active polluters for Whatcom County, with one uncapped well about five miles northwest of Bellingham releasing 10,000 cubic feet of methane gas per day as of 1997.
According to Wash. Dep’t of Natural Resources (DNR) data as of 2012, most wells in Whatcom County for natural gas were drilled in the 1930s. Though roughly 600 gas and oil wells have been drilled in Washington, there has never been large-scale commercial production state-wide, with the Bellingham Gas Field east of Ferndale producing only small amounts of gas. Most traditional drilling in the state had ceased by 1962, but in the last two decades, with the advent of fracking technology, companies have begun exploration, particularly for coalbed methane. In Whatcom County, exploration began at the beginning of the century in the northern part of the Bellingham Basin because of beds of natural gas and coal bed methane located at depths of up to 2000 feet. One Canadian Company, interested in drilling in Canada and remote areas in Whatcom County, used a novel approach to fund exploration: it applied to the U.S. Department of Energy for a $500,000 grant to drill ostensibly for the purpose of carbon sequestration in coal beds.
DNR regulates drilling and related operations in the state, and manages oil and gas leasing on state trust lands held by various state agencies, including plats running from the Canadian to Skagit County borders through the South Fork Valley. Those plats continue south, running through all the prime agricultural regions of the western part of the state. DNR notes that if coalbed methane or natural gas were discovered, production would have to be “legally permitted.” Any gas recovered would be processed, compressed, and transported by the same type of small-diameter pipelines currently used to pipe gas to communities' mainline systems throughout Washington.
 For a discussion of fracking’s impact on water supply in the West, see Mark Trechock’s "Gone for Good: Fracking and Water Loss in the West." Mark was kind enough to crunch some numbers and, in an email, indicated fracking requires over 1 gallon of water to produce a gallon of crude for a new well in the Bakken fields; and 4 gallons of water for every 10 gallons of crude produced after the first year.
Sun, May 11, 2014, 1:20 pm // Terry WechslerPart 1: Introduction to the Bellingham Basin’s Potential for Fracking, Earthquakes, and Earthquakes Due to Fracking
3 comments; last on May 14, 2014
Fri, Dec 21, 2012, 1:18 pm // John ServaisThe Tunnel Creek avalanche and three skiers' deaths last February was a confusing tragedy. Experts killed. How did it happen?
Sun, Jul 29, 2012, 11:17 am // John ServaisNew report suggests U.S. weather stations reporting higher temperatures because NOAA has poorly managed sensors and caused false higher readings.
11 comments; last on Aug 06, 2012
Tue, Mar 01, 2011, 10:58 am // Larry HorowitzAccording to Superstring theory, the universe consists of 10 dimensions, not 3 or 4. But what does this all mean?
14 comments; last on Mar 07, 2011
Mon, Jan 24, 2011, 5:16 pm // John ServaisDr. Don Easterbrook looks at global temperature swings over thousands of years when CO2 remained constant
32 comments; last on May 08, 2013
Sun, Jan 16, 2011, 1:11 am // John ServaisEarthquakes occurring in a mile or so south of Fairhaven late this evening.
1 comments; last on Jan 22, 2011
Fri, Jul 16, 2010, 5:44 am // Guest writerEric Hirst reviews this October 2009 book by Stewart Brand of Whole Earth Catalog fame. Stewart is critical of several mainstream environmental stances.
1 comments; last on Jul 19, 2010
Thu, Apr 01, 2010, 11:00 am // Guest writerTom Anderson submits this guest column. He brings attention to our local earthquake risks - and what we can do to prepare.
1 comments; last on Apr 01, 2010
Wed, Mar 03, 2010, 6:00 am // Ham HayesEnough has been revealed, written and said about “Climate-gate” for me to be alarmed.
7 comments; last on Mar 07, 2010
Wed, Jan 27, 2010, 5:59 am // Ham HayesIssues are no longer relevant when secrecy is the name of the game.
1 comments; last on Jan 27, 2010
Wed, May 20, 2009, 12:25 pm // Larry Horowitz“At present, we are stealing the future, selling it in the present, and calling it gross domestic product.” So says renowned entrepreneur and visionary Paul Hawken at his…
1 comments; last on May 21, 2009
Thu, May 14, 2009, 12:08 am // g.h.kirschEvents have forced those who earlier warned of global warming to modulate their hysteria and instead ring the alarm for catastrophic “climate change” instead.
Why the nuance? If
2 comments; last on May 14, 2009
Fri, Apr 24, 2009, 7:04 pm // John ServaisWe expect to have clear or almost clear skies at dawn for the next few days. And, as chance would have it, the ISS - International Space Station…
1 comments; last on Apr 24, 2009
Thu, Apr 02, 2009, 9:57 pm // John ServaisBill McCallum has sent us the temperature graph for March. As he notes:
While March 2009 had the same number of days with temperatures above normal, 4 of them,…
3 comments; last on Apr 04, 2009
Thu, Dec 18, 2008, 2:39 am // John ServaisThe book on Northwest weather has just been published. I mean _the_ book. "The Weather of the Pacific Northwest by Cliff Mass. For any person who is not…
Thu, Oct 02, 2008, 12:37 am // John ServaisBill McCallum is creating these interesting graphs of our monthly weather and making them available to us. We will continue to post them through December and then try…
Fri, Jul 04, 2008, 1:21 am // Myron WlaznakOver the past few years, I’ve written in other venues about profound impacts we can expect to our daily lives from fundamental changes in a rapidly evolving world.…
2 comments; last on Jul 23, 2008
Tue, Jul 01, 2008, 7:35 am // John ServaisBill McCallum has sent us the June chart of temperatures. As you can see, we had another cold month. Bill notes:
"Temperatures have been below normal for the past…
Sat, Jun 28, 2008, 8:11 am // Larry HorowitzOn March 26, 2002, the US Patent Office issued Patent No. 6,362,718 B1, potentially altering the entire paradigm in our quest for the holy grail of unlimited clean…
11 comments; last on Jul 23, 2008
Sat, Jun 14, 2008, 10:40 am // John ServaisBill McCallum has provided us with his unique chart for our May temperatures. This is obviously a labor of love for Bill, as he compiles the weather data…
Thu, Jun 05, 2008, 6:41 pm // Myron WlaznakIt’s been a pretty sorry spring so far. With the exception of Ski to Sea weekend, our little corner of the globe has been somewhat less than a…
1 comments; last on Jun 05, 2008
Wed, May 07, 2008, 4:24 pm // John ServaisBill McCallum has provided us with a unique and interesting look at our monthly temperatures. Above is the chart for April 2008, with the actual temperatures compared to…
Tue, Jan 08, 2008, 7:18 pm // John ServaisOK, we are running on the new server. And the design and programming are going well. I have cautious hope the transformed site will be running by early…
Fri, Dec 14, 2007, 3:16 pm // John ServaisIs a New Solar Cycle Beginning? This is on NASA's site and has strong credibility. You won't find this article on a Google news search. I'll continue to…
Thu, Dec 13, 2007, 2:43 am // John ServaisSome items that I think are neat or news and which will perhaps impact us a lot in the near future.
Do you know that today Russia withdrew from…
Sun, Dec 09, 2007, 3:07 am // John ServaisA little lightness for the weekend may be nice. While most 'blogs' include a lot of personal introspection and personal involvement in the posts, this web site has…
Wed, Oct 19, 2005, 3:28 pm // John ServaisGot your attention? Time magazine has an article this week about our Bellingham fight over whether or not to put fluoride in our drinking water. It is worth…
Sat, Jul 02, 2005, 4:18 pm // Site ManagementThe link to No Forced Fluoride in Bellingham is posted to the right. The pro-fluoride initiative backers - financed by Seattle powers with well-laundered money passed along to…
Wed, Jun 22, 2005, 4:28 pm // Site ManagementWe found the nerve endings. The fluoride proponents don't like the word "medicine" as used in the June 16 post below. Of course fluoride in water is just…
Thu, Jun 16, 2005, 4:32 pm // Site ManagementThe fluoride proponents don't have a clue. They don't get it. When I open my water tap, I want clean water to come out, not medicine.
These well-meaning folks…
Tue, Sep 16, 2003, 3:17 pm // John ServaisThe Auditor will post election results in almost-real time this evening. First post should be about 8:15, and because of the very few races the evening count may…
Wed, Sep 03, 2003, 3:41 pm // John ServaisPhone outage in Whatcom County, Bellingham and much of Skagit County since 7:45 am this morning according to news reports. KGMI is on top of this and the…
Tue, Jun 24, 2003, 5:13 pm // John Servaisthat provide national and international news that is most important and not always available. One site is truthout and it depends on visitor donations to continue. No ads,…
Election InfoCounty election results
State election results
Coal, Oil & Trains
Community Wise Bellingham
Powder River Basin R. C.
Local Blogs & NewsBellingham Herald
Bham Herald Politics Blog
Bham Politics & Economics
Friends of Whatcom
Get Whatcom Planning
League of Women Voters
Western Front - WWU
Local CausesChuckanut Community Forest
City Club of Bellingham
Futurewise - Whatcom
Lummi Island Quarry
N. Cascades Audubon
NW Holocaust Center
Reduce Jet Noise
Salish Sea Org.
Save the Granary Building
WA Conservation Voters
Whatcom Peace & Justice
Port of Bellingham
State election results
US - The White House
WA State Access
WA State Elections
WA State Legislature
Weather & ClimateCliff Mass Weather Blog
Nat Hurricane Center
Two day forecast
Watts Up With That? - climate
Edge of Sports
Famous Internet Skiers
Good Web SitesAl-Jazeera online
Foreign Policy in Focus
Innocence Project, The
Intrnational Herald Tribune
Julia Ioffe/New Republic
Middle East Times
New American Century
Paul Krugman - economics
Personal bio info
Portland Indy Media
Project Vote Smart
Stand for the Troops
Talking Points Memo
The Crisis Papers
War and Piece
NwCitizen 1995 - 2007Early Northwest Citizen
Quiet, Offline or DeadBellingham Police Activity
Citizens of Bellingham
Cordata & Meridian
Facebook Port Reform
N. Sound Conservancy
No Leaky Buckets
Protect Bellingham Parks
The American Telegraph