Vicente is a local representative of the community of Santa Úrsula in the municipality of San Juan Bautista Tuxtepec, some 450 km south of Mexico City in the state of Oaxaca, where – he told IPS – “fracking is sort of a hidden issue; there’s a great lack of information about it.”
Tuxtepec, population 155,000, and another Oaxaca municipality, Loma Bonita, form part of the project Papaloapan B with seven municipalities in the neighbouring state of Veracruz. The shale gas and oil exploration project was launched by Mexico’s state oil company, Pemex, in 2011.
Papaloapan B, backed by the governmental National Hydrocarbons Commission (CNH), covers 12,805 square kilometres and is seeking to tap into shale gas reserves estimated at between 166 and 379 billion barrels of oil equivalent.
The project will involve 24 geological studies and the exploratory drilling of 120 wells, for a total investment of 680 million dollars.
But people in Tuxtepec have not been informed about the project. “We don’t know a thing about it,” said Vicente, whose rural community has a population of 1,000. “Normally, companies do not provide information to the local communities; they arrange things in secret or with some owners of land by means of deceit, taking advantage of the lack of money in the area.”
Shale, a common type of sedimentary rock made up largely of compacted silt and clay, is an unconventional source of natural gas. The gas trapped in shale formations is recovered by hydraulic fracturing or fracking.
Fracking involves the massive pumping of water, chemicals and sand at high pressure into the well, a technique that opens and extends fractures in the shale rock deep below the surface, to release the natural gas on a massive scale.
The process generates large amounts of waste liquids containing dissolved chemicals and other pollutants that require treatment before disposal, environmental organisations like Greenpeace warn.
The US Energy Information Administration (EIA) puts Mexico in sixth place in the world for technically recoverable shale gas, behind China, Argentina, Algeria, the United States and Canada, based on the analysis of 137 deposits in 42 countries. And Mexico is in eighth position for technically recoverable shale oil reserves.
Oklahoma City, Oklahoma — Historically speaking, Oklahoma used to be a place where almost no palpable earthquakes happened at all — but hydraulic fracturing, a.k.a. “fracking” has changed all that now.
Between the dates June 17 and June 24, 2015, Oklahoma was jolted by 35 earthquakes greater than magnitude 3.0 due to fracking and fracking wastewater injection activities the Oklahoma Geological Survey (OGS) has confirmed — this, in a state that experienced less than two such quakes per year before 2009.
The sketchy episode comes only two months on the heels of the implementation of new regulations in the state that prevent operators and waste disposers from injecting wastewater “below the state’s deepest rock formation, believed to be one of the main causes of the quakes,” Reuters reported.
The Oklahoma Corporation Commission (OCC) regulates all oil and gas activities in the state, and had a strong and vocal response to last weeks unprecedented episode.
Matt Skinner, a spokesman for the OCC told Reuters, “There’s been a huge increase. That’s a game-changer,” insinuating that OCC may need to implement even more rules in an effort to deescalate the frequency and force of the tremors — an shaky situation that has many residents in Oklahoma downright concerned.
Homes have been rattled and damaged to the tune of tens of thousands of dollars, and worrying regulators is the stark fact that some of last weeks quakes stretched beyond rural oilfield areas and shook homes and businesses along fault-lines in metropolitan, and heavily populated Oklahoma City.
Oklahoma's Manmade, Industry-Created, Seismic Debacle
To be clear, the activity of fracking, or basically blowing up rocks underground to release oil and gas, in and of itself can and does cause earthquakes. However, it is the underground injection of fracking flow-back water, or wastewater that is blamed for most of the simply massive increase in earthquakes in Oklahoma.
When briny, chemically-loaded fracking flow-back water is pumped back underground it has a tendency to perniciously pressurize the geological formations, causing things to slip, shift or give way. In Oklahoma, the problem has become chronic.
Decades upon decades of exploitation have left Oklahoma’s oilfields saturated with water, and the sheer volume of wastewater injection wells is making it very difficult for experts and regulators to zero out culprit wells that might be upsetting faults.
In a section titled, "Water-Logged Oil Fields" Reuters reporter Yeganeh Torbati, in her article on the subject, wrote:
To be sure, Oklahoma faces a different set of challenges from other states. It is crisscrossed with fault lines, many of which were unmapped before the quakes began to get notice.Oklahoma is home to a staggering 3,200 saltwater injection wells — many of which are in areas where the water-to-oil ratio is very poor. Unlike situations in Kansas and other states where particular injection wells have been definitively linked to seismic events, in Oklahoma, the situation is complex, and regulators have had limited, if any success pinning specific wells to corresponding seismic events.
Some of Oklahoma’s most active oil fields are also its most water-logged, such as the Mississippi Lime formation, where drillers recover, on average, more than seven barrels of water for every barrel of oil, according to a study by Kyle Murray, a hydrogeologist at the Oklahoma Geological Survey.
To add fuel to the water-logged fracking fire, “waterflooding“, is yet another “secondary recovery technique” rarely discussed in the media, wherein millions upon millions of gallons of water are pumped underground to re-pressurize entire oilfields that have been deflated to a point of low productivity. Waterfloods have been deployed widely in Oklahoma and are also surely contributing to underground formational movements.
With the escalating and chronic situation in Oklahoma’s watery oilfields, and the strong words coming from OCC regarding last week’s epic series of seismic events, onlookers are wondering what the agency’s next move will be toward cracking down on industry-caused quakes — and if legislation will soon be necessary to get regulators regulating, in a scene that is now reaching crisis levels for citizens and the oil industry alike.
In Landmark Admission, State of Oklahoma Acknowledges Fracking the Culprit
Just two months back, on April 21, 2015, “after years of official skepticism,” the Sooner State finally accepted that “billions of barrels of wastewater from oil and gas wells,” were officially to blame for the marked and massive increase in seismic activity, reported the New York Times.