Marita: It isn’t fracking

Marita tells us there is a whole lot of shakin’ going on, but not from frackin’.

Greetings!

A year-and-a-half ago I was on the Off the Grid program with Jesse Ventura. He asked me about the earthquakes caused by fracking. Ever since then, I’ve kept an eye out for news stories on the topic. Last week, the Wall Street Journal published this one: Earthquake Shakes Cushing Oklahoma. It piqued my interest.

I looked up more on the increasing earthquakes in Oklahoma and was surprised to learn that Oklahoma now has more earthquakes than California. Further research netted me a priceless clip on the topic from Rachel Maddow (be sure to check it out) that gave me the fuel I needed to write this week’s column: Shaking out the lies surrounding earthquakes and hydraulic fracturing (attached and pasted-in-below). Information on last week’s “Great ShakeOut” provided me with a fun opening that also connected the Taylor Swift quote at the closing. For my readers who are in the industry, you’ll find Shaking out the lies surrounding earthquakes and hydraulic fracturing is full of links to important information that will enhance your knowledge. For my general public readers, you’ll learn why the anti-fossil-fuel crowd wants to claim that hydraulic fracturing causes earthquakes—which it doesn’t.

I think I’ve provided a factual and fun piece on a technical topic. I hope you like it!

Please post, pass on, and/or personal enjoy Shaking out the lies surrounding earthquakes and hydraulic fracturing.

Marita Noon

Executive Director, Energy Makes America Great, inc.

PO Box 52103, Albuquerque, NM 87181

505.239.8998

Marita Noon 2015 Turquiose

 

 

Shaking out the lies surrounding earthquakes and hydraulic fracturing

The Great ShakeOut, the annual “PrepareAthon” that advocates earthquake readiness, took place across the globe on October 15, at 10:15 AM—10/15 @10:15. Unless you have a child in a participating school, the “Ready Campaign” may have passed without your awareness. I grew up in Southern California, where earthquakes were so routine, we paid them no mind; we didn’t have earthquake drills.

But that was then. Now, the Great ShakeOut is a global campaign. Now, Oklahoma has more earthquakes than California—and students in Oklahoma participated on 10/15 at 10:15. As if choreographed, Oklahomans had a reminder 4.5 earthquake just days before the drill.

The anti-fossil crowd has declared the cause. Headlines claim: “Confirmed: Oklahoma Earthquakes Caused By Fracking” and “New study links Oklahoma earthquakes to fracking.”

MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow gleefully teased the earthquakes in Oklahoma as “the story that might keep you up at night.” On her October 16 show, she stated that Oklahoma’s earthquakes are: “The terrible and unintended consequence of the way we get oil and gas out of the ground. …from fracking operations.” Yet, when her guest, Jeremy Boak, Oklahoma Geological Survey Director, corrected her, “it’s not actually frackwater,” she didn’t change her tune.

Despite the fact that the science doesn’t support the thesis, opponents of oil-and-gas extraction, like Maddow, have long claimed that the process of hydraulic fracturing is the cause of the earthquakes. Earthworks calls them “frackquakes” because the quakes, the organization says, are “fracking triggered earthquakes.”

The anti-crowd doesn’t want to hear otherwise. If you were to fully read the two previously mentioned news reports (linked above) that declare “fracking” as the culprit, you’d see that the actual text, and the study they reference, doesn’t say what the headlines insinuate. The 2014 study they cite, blames the earthquakes “on the injection of wastewater from oil and gas operations”—which as Boak told Maddow is not “actually frackwater.” Even the Washington Post announced: “Fracking is not the cause of quakes. The real problem is wastewater.”

But the ruse goes on. CNN meteorologist Chad Myers announced: “The fracturing fluid seems to be lubricating existing faults that have not moved in recent years. The fracturing process is not creating new faults, but are exposing faults that already exist.”

Earthworks believes that states like Oklahoma are not doing enough to solve the problem. Its website says: “Despite the increasingly apparent threat posed by fracking-related earthquakes, many states are ignoring the issue.”

In fact, many scientific studies have been, and are being, done—as once the cause is determined, a remedy can be found. These studies, as the Washington Post reported, have concluded that “wastewater” is the problem.

If you don’t know what it is or how it is being disposed of, “wastewater” sounds scary. It is often called “toxic”—although it is naturally occurring. This wastewater, according to a study from Stanford researchers, is “brackish water that naturally coexists with oil and gas within the Earth.” As a part of the drilling and extraction process, the “produced water” is extracted from the oil and/or gas and is typically reinjected into deeper disposal wells. In Oklahoma, these wells are in the Arbuckle formation, a 7,000-foot-deep sedimentary formation under Oklahoma.

“Industry has been disposing wastewater into the Arbuckle for 60 years without seismicity,” Kim Hatfield told me. He is the chairman of the Induced Seismicity Working Group—which includes members from a variety of entities including the Oklahoma Geological Survey, Oklahoma Corporation Commission, Oklahoma Department of Energy and Environment, and Oklahoma Independent Petroleum Association. Hatfield continued: “So, we know some level of disposal is safe. We need to figure out the exact mechanism by which this wastewater injection is triggering these seismic events and modify our procedures to prevent them.”

Addressing water quality, Hatfield explained that in the area of the seismicity, ten barrels of produced water—which contains five times more salt than ocean water—is generated for each barrel of oil.

The Stanford study, done by Stanford Professor Mark Zoback and doctoral student Rall Walsh, found that “the primary source of the quake-triggering wastewater is not so-called ‘flowback water’ generated after hydraulic fracturing operations.” Zoback, the Benjamin M. Page Professor in the School of Earth, Energy & Environmental Sciences, states: “What we’ve learned in this study is that the fluid injection responsible for most of the recent quakes in Oklahoma is due to production and subsequent injection of massive amounts of wastewater, and is unrelated to hydraulic fracturing”—which is contradictory to the premise on which the study was launched.

Explaining the study, Walsh said: “it began with an examination of microseismicity—intentionally caused small quakes like those resulting from hydraulic fracturing,” which he referred to as their “jumping off point.” When I asked Walsh if he was surprised to find that fracking wasn’t the cause of the earthquakes, he told me: “We were familiar with the few cases where hydraulic fracturing was known, or suspected to be associated with moderate sized earthquakes. In the areas of Oklahoma where the earthquakes first started (just outside of Oklahoma City) we knew that the extraction process was predominantly dewatering, not hydraulic fracturing, which led us to suspect that produced water would be the source of the issue, even before we did the volume calculations to show it.”

Science writer Ker Than reports: “Because the pair were also able to review data about the total amount of wastewater injected at wells, as well as the total amount of hydraulic fracturing happening in each study area, they were able to conclude that the bulk of the injected water was produced water generated using conventional oil extraction techniques, not during hydraulic fracturing.” Additionally, Boak told me: “Less than five percent is actually frackwater.”

“So what?” you might ask. The distinction is important as there is an aggressive effort from the anti-fossil-fuel movement to regulate and restrict—even ban—hydraulic fracturing. The more scare tactics they can use, the more successful their efforts. They are unimpeded by truth. Remember the disproven claims about fracking causing tap water to catch on fire and those about fracking contaminating drinking water?

Now, you can add “Oklahoma earthquakes caused by fracking” to the list of untruths propagated by the anti-fossil-fuel crowd. The true headline should read: “Oklahoma earthquakes not caused by fracking.” But, that conflicts with their goal of ending all fossil-fuel use. More than ninety percent of the new oil-and-gas wells drilled in America use hydraulic fracturing. Therefore, if they can ban fracking, they end America’s new era of energy abundance and the jobs and economic stimulus it provides. Groups like Earthworks seem to hate the modern world.

Here some advice from singer Taylor Swift might be warranted. Instead of “getting down and out about the liars and the dirty, dirty cheats of the world,” after all, she says: “And the haters gonna hate, hate, hate,” her solution is: “I’m just gonna shake, shake, shake. Shake it off.”

The author of Energy Freedom, Marita Noon serves as the executive director for Energy Makes America Great Inc. and the companion educational organization, the Citizens’ Alliance for Responsible Energy (CARE). She hosts a weekly radio program: America’s Voice for Energy—which expands on the content of her weekly column. Follow her @EnergyRabbit.

Marita Noon: About elections and petro prices

Marita Noon

Commentary by Marita Noon

Executive Director, Energy Makes America Great Inc.

 

The oil price election connection

After years of rising gasoline prices, people are puzzled by the recent drop that has a gallon of gas at levels not seen in nearly four years. Typically in times of Middle East unrest, prices at the pump spike, yet, despite the violence in Iraq and Syria, gallon of gas is now at a national average of $3.

The public hopes it will last. The oil industry can’t afford continued price suppression.

I believe the price will tick up in the days ahead (post-election)—which will make it economic for producers to continue to develop—but the increases will not be so dramatic as to take away the economic stimulus the low prices provide.

Experts call the low cost the “equivalent to a tax cut averaging almost $600 for every household in the U.S.” while it boosts our gross domestic product by 0.4 percent. Consumers surely welcome the reprieve. But why now and why won’t it last?

As gasoline prices have made headlines, several narratives are repeated. Generally the explanations revolve around two basic truths—but, as we’ll explore, there is more.

The reasons offered for the drop in prices at the pump (which reflects the price of a barrel of oil) are 1) increased North American oil production and, 2) sluggish economic growth in Europe and Asia—which together result in a surplus, or a global glut, of oil.

American Abundance

Following a multi-decade decline, U.S. oil output now stands at a 28-year high—up 80 percent since 2008. Thanks to the combined technologies of hydraulic fracturing and horizontal drilling, the U.S. equaled Saudi Arabia’s production over the summer and experts predict the U.S. to become the world’s top producer by 2015. CNN Money reports: “The U.S. isn’t addicted to foreign oil anymore. The shale gas boom in the U.S. is a game changer for oil prices.” Our country’s oil imports have fallen from 60 percent of consumption to less than 30 percent. The data proves out what any beginning economics student knows: more supply + less demand = lower prices.

ISIS Influence

The U.S. has changed global oil markets, but so has ISIS. Several months ago, when ISIS first emerged as a threat to Iraq’s oil production, oil prices experienced the usual uptick. However, when the Iraqis and Kurds thwarted its southern movement and it did not take over Basra’s oil fields, prices eased.

In this new war, different from the days of Al-Qaeda, rather than blowing up oil fields to hurt Western economies, ISIS captures oil-producing regions in Syria and Iraq and uses the bounty for its own benefit.

ISIS has become a real player in the global oil markets. The territory controlled by ISIS has a pre-war capacity of 350,000 barrels per day (bpd). Estimates vary, but it is widely believed that ISIS produces 50-80,000 bpd—most of which the terror group on the black market at prices assumed to be $25-60 per barrel. ISIS reportedly funds its activities with oil revenues as low as $1 million a month to as high as $3 million a day—with $2 million a day being the most frequently cited (likely paid in cash or bartered goods). Production and revenues could easily increase if it were not for the militant’s limited technical prowess in working in the oil fields. To overcome the lack, ISIS is advertising for experienced engineers to run its oil operations (apparently the we’ll-kill-your-family-if-don’t-work approach hasn’t been successful).

ISIS doesn’t abide by any international agreements or price regulations. This is a “black market.” There are no tangible income or production numbers. We don’t definitively know all of ISIS’ customers.

The region’s long-established smuggling routes make it easy for the oil to be trafficked out of the territory. Once in the hands of middlemen, “no big traders, no serious companies are going to fool around with that oil,” says Matthew M. Reed, vice-president of Foreign Reports, a Washington-based consulting firm that analyzes oil and politics in the Middle East. He continues: “That oil is essentially radioactive at this point. No one wants to touch it.”

But, someone buys it—to the tune of millions of dollars a day. Who would buy the “radioactive” oil?

Some of ISIS’ heavily discounted oil reportedly ends up in Pakistan. A CNN article titled: “How Iraq’s black market in oil funds ISIS” states: “ISIS controls smuggling routes and the crude is transported by tankers to Jordan via Anbar province, to Iran via Kurdistan, to Turkey via Mosul, to Syria’s local market and to the Kurdistan region of Iraq, where most of it gets refined locally.” As Reed pointed out, legitimate traders won’t deal in it, so it likely goes to nations that care little about the rule of law—perhaps, North Korea and China. The outlets that are soaking up the discounted oil, are not buying the full-price oil, which leaves millions of dollars, 50-80,000 barrels, a day of full-price oil, on the table, looking for a buyer.

So, U.S. oil and ISIS oil continue to put a lot of supply into the market, keeping the price low. Unless coalition forces successfully bomb the oil fields in ISIS control, the black market oil supply will grow. If Republicans, who support developing our resources, take control of the U.S. Senate, our production could well increase. Both will help keep supply high, and prices low.

Saudi Strategy

The last piece in the low-priced oil puzzle is Saudi Arabia. BusinessWeek states: “With the U.S. on track to become the world’s largest oil producer by next year, it’s become popular in Washington and on Wall Street to call America the new Saudi Arabia. Yet the real Saudi Arabia hasn’t relinquished its role as the producer with the most influence over oil prices.”

The Saudi kingdom reportedly needs oil at $83.60 a barrel to balance its national budget. Yet, in September, with prices already down, due to a global oil glut, the Saudis boosted production. Then, in October, it lowered prices by increasing the discount offered to its Asian customers. Oil prices have reached the lowest level in nearly four years. Despite calls for price hikes from other OPEC nations, primarily Venezuela (which recently announced food rationing), the Saudi policy will not likely change before the November 27 OPEC meeting.

Saudi Arabia’s price war has surprised the markets and made watchers wonder what they are up to. With its government 85 percent dependent on its oil revenues, the Saudis need to protect their turf as the dominant force in oil.

Some say the move “is the result of a deliberate strategy by the Gulf nation to test the mettle of rival producers from Russia, to fellow OPEC member Iran and US shale producers.” Most experts agree that keeping prices low hurts higher-cost production such as that from U.S. shale oil and Canadian tar sands. Higher prices encourage more discovery and development. A report from Aljazeerah claims: “OPEC leader Saudi Arabia hopes to claw share from U.S. producers.”

The Financial Times reports: “The lower prices also appear to be designed to put a brake on the shale oil boom, which has been the most significant upheaval in global energy for a decade.”

Two years ago, Saudi Arabia did much the same thing—increasing production and dropping oil/gasoline prices. At that time, the U.S. faced an important presidential election where one candidate loudly supported America’s new energy abundance and the other’s energy agenda was all about “green.” Had gasoline still cost in the range of $4.00 on November 6, 2012, the party in power would have suffered; the public would have been screaming: “Drill, baby, drill.” The Saudis came in and with their unique ability to throttle production up or down, took some heat off of the Obama Administration.

Now, in the midst of another election cycle—one that is very important to the future of oil production in America, the Saudis, once again, appear to be orchestrating geopolitical outcomes. OPEC’s oil output is close to a two-year high—despite production drops in Angola and Nigeria. Saudi Arabia has made up the difference.

Some observers say the Saudis’ increased production in a time of global over-supply “is not about a political attack on the U.S.” Others see it, as “more nuanced.” Yet, last week a Saudi industry official, discussing the production/export data leaks acknowledged: “Sorry, it is politics.”

It seems clear that OPEC does not want U.S. production to increase, and Saudi Arabia is in a position to try influence American politics. Lower prices favor the party in power. A shift in control of the Senate would mean a change in America’s energy policy—one that favors our homegrown energy resources; one that Saudi Arabia doesn’t want.

However, it appears, regardless of possible Saudi meddling, the Senate leadership will shift. Once American voters make that decision on November 4, the OPEC leader will no longer have the incentive to inflict short-term pain on its own economic climate for long-term gain. Saudi Arabia will likely dial back production and the intentionally low price will stabilize—but not so much that it hurts the benefit to the American economy that abundant energy provides.

The American consumers win; American energy producers win. America wins.

(A version of this content was originally published on Breitbart.com)

The author of Energy Freedom, Marita Noon serves as the executive director for Energy Makes America Great Inc. and the companion educational organization, the Citizens’ Alliance for Responsible Energy (CARE). She hosts a weekly radio program: America’s Voice for Energy—which expands on the content of her weekly column.