Dead birds, fish and rattling ground; could they be caused by hydraulic fracturing? The number of earthquakes that have shaken Guy, Arkansas has risen from an estimated 179 quakes per year to over 600 in 2010, according to the Arkansas Geographical Survey (AGS). Nearly 500 earthquakes hit Guy in the last four months. The state of Arkansas registered only 38 quakes in 2009.
Theorists believe that there is a correlation between the spike in earthquakes and the New Year’s Eve raining of dead birds and the incidence of deceased fish in the Arkansas River. They also believe that hydraulic fracturing is quite possibly the culprit in all three phenomenon. Fracturing or fracking causes earthquakes and releases toxins into the environment. Fracking is a global practice. Could it be that the other wildlife floundering around the world is somehow connected?
Taking a look at the massive fish kill in Arkansas, the Roseville Township where the first reports originated, lies near gas pipelines. Any leak in the lines could result in the death of the fish. There are at least 50 gas wells (disposal wells where drilling waste products are injected at high pressures) in the small area. Is it possible that these gas wells leaked, causing a caustic reaction and the death of the fish? The gas wells are documented in the Arkansas Geological Survey, “Fayetteville Shale Gas Play West Map”, last updated on March 2, 2010.
According to the Arkansas Geological Survey, natural gas resources are categorized into two main types on the basis of producing rock characters: conventional natural gas and unconventional natural gas. Natural gas is produced by a well drilled into a geologic formation where the reservoir and fluid characteristics permit the natural gas to readily flow to the wellbore. Unconventional natural gas does not exist in this environment. The gas takes on another formation or is present in a peculiar formation that makes extraction quite different. The major unconventional gas resources in the US include tight gas, shale and coalbed methane (CBM). Shale gas and Coalbed methane are found in Arkansas.
The Arkansas River Valley region of Western Arkansas contains extremely high thermal dry gas which is produced in the conventional sandstone reservoirs in the area. Unconventional gas has been extracted from the Arkansas River Valley region since 2007. CDX Gas LLC, a Texas based energy company is currently the only producer of this resource and has drilled approximately 37 Z-pinnate horizontal wells and 15 vertical wells in Sebastian Country, Arkansas.
As of September 17, 2007, approximately 436 shale producing wells have been drilled and operated after being located to Arkansas. “As of February 19, 2008 there are 561 producing gas wells; however, many additional wells have been drilled and completed and operators await construction of gas gathering systems before these wells begin production. Southwestern Energy reports that average completed well costs for horizontal wells with multistage slick water fracture completions is approximately $2.9 Million. The average horizontal lateral length for Southwestern wells drilled in 2007 is 3,120 feet and average time to drill to total depth is 15 days. Estimated ultimate recoveries (EUR) for horizontal wells with laterals greater than 3,000 feet range from 2.0 to 2.5 Bcf per well.” Per the AGS.
Could it be the increased need and development of unconventional gas in the Arkansas River Valley and the use of fracturing has caused more earthquakes in the area? Could it be that the gas wells contained in the area have polluted the river leading to the deaths of the fish? Could toxins have been released from the earthquakes, contaminating the air and killing the birds of Arkansas on New Year’s Eve?
According to a report by the EPA, it is not being considered. The study entitled, “Evaluation of Impacts to Underground Sources of Drinking Water by Hydraulic Fracturing of Coalbed Methane Reservoirs Study” (2004), offers insight into these allegations. The extensive report addresses the concerns of citizens in Arkansas, Alabama, Colorado and other areas where Hydraulic Fracturing has been utilized. In the report, the EPA denies any such contamination but indicated there was no need to take samples and upgrade the complaints. See “U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, “Evaluation of Impacts to Underground Sources of Drinking Water by Hydraulic Fracturing of Coalbed Methane Reservoirs Study,” June 2004.” The report was compiled in answer to questions from citizens that felt their water resources were compromised by fracturing. The detailed report stated that there was no need to elevate the investigation or collect samples from all of the areas issued in the complaint.
Is this a cover up? Is it denial? Fracturing is unregulated and utilized globally. Is it possible that the turtle doves in Italy, the fish in Chesapeake Bay, the birds of New Zealand and Switzerland succumbed due to the use of fracturing? Until in-depth analysis of the dead wildlife is conducted, the world will not know. This piece was compiled due to the need to understand what has happened in the last two weeks. The information is readily available in the AGS, EPA and Trefis Team.