Dr. Ray Beiersdorfer, professor of geology at Youngstown State University, gave these remarks on the geology of the man-made earthquakes experienced in this area and the possible impact of having five injection wells built in Brookfield at a Nov. 30 town meeting sponsored by Frackfree America National Coalition and local residents who oppose the wells.
“Before the fracking came, we had about 120 earthquakes in the whole state of Ohio since Revolutionary Way time, and they were mostly out of western Ohio. Some were by the Ohio River, some up by Cleveland. Many of those had been induced by a Class 1 injection well that had caused movement on two faults up there.
“Since then, now, there’s a dozen places that have had earthquakes due to the fracking or to the injection wells. The first ones that we knew about were in Youngstown. We had 566 earthquakes due to that Northstar 1 well there. We started getting them right after they started injecting. We had eight and a half months of the ODNR denying that there was any connection. My 80-year-old neighbor saw the connection, my freshmen students at YSU saw the connection; yet, the state regulators were denying that there was any connection there. Finally, the data got so strong that people from Columbia University came and they documented the earthquakes were happening right below the well and that well got shut down and then the next day we got the 4.0. I’m sure some of you might have felt that; New Year’s Eve 2011.
“We then had the earthquakes in Poland, which got international fame because that was supposedly the first time fracking earthquakes had actually happened in the United States. They’d been in British Columbia and England, but they hadn’t happened in the U.S. Turned out, that wasn’t true. In Harrison County in October of 2013 — this was March 2014 when we got them in Poland, Ohio – there had been over 400 earthquakes there. But they hadn’t been big enough to get on the regional USGS network, and ODNR, who deployed portable seismonitors, kept it a secret from the public. It wasn’t until it came out after a paper had got published in the literature that we even found out about those, so they kept it a secret.
“After the Poland earthquakes, they made a big point of that they’re having new rules that keep us safe, that they’re going to regulate and control these things and any fracking within three miles of a known fault was going to have all these new special permit conditions. Sure enough, that December – this was April of ’14 – that December they gave permits for a well within a mile of a known fault. No special permit conditions. I was checking on this and I found in writing from the head of oil and gas that they have admitted they were not following their own rules. They said, ‘Well, the wells weren’t drilled. We permitted them, we didn’t follow our own rules, but they weren’t drilled, so don’t worry about it.’ Like, ‘Trust us.’
“Now, I’m really looking at them and paying close attention to what’s happening with that. Now, there’s a dozen places, 10 of which are due to the fracking, two to the injection wells, Niles and Youngstown. Niles, 108 earthquakes on two faults less than three miles from the Meander Reservoir dam. Counting two up in Ashtabula, that would be 14 earthquake faults that had no action on them until we’ve had the fracking or the injection. They’re not just random. I have a geologic model for that.
“What we’re looking at is a series of east-west, very vertical faults. You may have heard of the San Andreas in California, that’s where rocks down by Los Angeles are moving horizontally up to where San Francisco is. That’s what we’re actually seeing, and they’re all trending east-west. They all happen to be in this one orientation where the fault is east-west. They’re about 9,000 feet below the surface in ancient oceanic crust below the ocean’s sediments that they’re going after with the shale and fracking. They’re down there, nobody knew they were down there. They’re very difficult to find because they’re vertical faults in this ancient hard rock you’re not going to see with normal seismic reflection. Hard to know about it. We’re only finding out about it when they inject the fluid and they start causing the earthquakes. It’s more like air hockey than it is a greasy lubricant. So, what’s happening is, they’re pumping the fluids down, that’s raising the fluid pressure and reducing the friction on the fault and the faults are sliding. Pretty much, they’re all that way, these east-west faults where it’s happening. We don’t know about it until they actually do this science experiment and you guys could perhaps be the victims of one if we don’t stop this. That’s what’s going on.
“Where in the world do we find a bunch of these east-west, what we call strike-slip, faults in the world? You look and one of the places is the middle of the ocean. The whole ocean is filled with what are called fracture zones. They start at the mid-ocean ridges and then they stretch out. That’s my model that we’re looking at, billion-year-old oceanic fracture zones that nobody knew was there and it just happened since they started injecting, we started getting the earthquakes.
“If you’re interested in earthquakes and you have either an iPad or an iPhone, there’s an app called QuakeFeed, and I have it on my iPad. I get alerts whenever there’s an earthquake and there was one yesterday on one of these fracture zones between Brazil and Africa. That measured 6.7 on one of these fracture zones. They are that big. We had a 5.0 in Pennsylvania in Greenville in September of 1998.
“I want to keep that in mind because the work that the USGS is doing, mostly with Oklahoma, but then they’re adding data from other places, like in Colorado and in, actually, Youngstown from our injection well. They’ve looked at the cumulative volume of the injection. And, they’re actually taking each place that they’re looking at the cumulative volume of injection within a 10-kilometer radius, a six-mile radius they’re putting together. Then they’re plotting that in terms of the cumulative seismic energy. When you plot them on that graph that’s getting passed around, there is a relationship. It makes sense. The more stuff they inject underground, the more chance there’s going to be for an earthquake and it’s going to be a bigger earthquake
“I took what they (Highland Field Services LLC) are proposing (in Brookfield). They’re proposing each well 10,000 barrels a day. A barrel is 42 gallons. I looked at that over a year, and then I put it into the formula that the U.S. Geological Survey has found from their studies and … what happens is, if you look at the bare minimum, if you look at one well for one year, you wind up getting enough energy, if released in one earthquake, a magnitude of 5.0. They’re proposing five wells, so I looked at one well for five years and then I looked at five wells for five years. The other range on there is, if they do all five wells for five years, there’d be enough energy built up and, if it was expressed in one earthquake, to be a magnitude 5.9. These are damaging quakes. These are the sizes of quakes that make chickens fall down. This could possibly be a real threat. There are 14 places where we know these faults are, and now they want to crap shoot. They’re may be one underneath here in Brookfield, may be not. I personally don’t think, and I don’t think any of you want to be part of, some bizarre science experiment done by the company in order to do this.”