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Opinion: Shake, Rattle & Roll!

Photo Courtesy Webster-Kirkwood Times.

Photo Courtesy Webster-Kirkwood Times.

On the morning of Sept. 2, some Times readers reported that they felt an earthquake. They did, indeed. My sister in Kansas City said almost all of her friends felt it in Cow Town.

St. Louis and KC may be in for more shake, rattle and rolling due to man-made earthquakes. Scientists at a recent Society of Environmental Journalists (SEJ) conference noted that gas drillers in rural Oklahoma are the culprits for the quaking.

By Don Corrigan (Webster-Kirkwood Times)

The quakes are caused by the many injection wells used in the gas recovery process. Injection of drill fluids  and waste water disturbs the bedrock below ground. The Sooner State may soon become the Seismic State.

We’re in for more earthquakes right here and they will get stronger.  A graph of the number of magnitude 2.5+ earthquakes out of Oklahoma resembles the same off-the-charts hockey stick as we’ve seen with CO2 emissions and global warming.

The number of these quakes stay steady at fewer than 100 from 1998 to 2010. But from 2010 to recent times the numbers surge with 2,500 recorded in 2014. They correlate with the hundreds of new drilling sites sunk in the ground during that period.

Scientists at the SEJ meeting in Sacramento, Calif., said the Show-Me-State could get it from both sides when it comes to quaking. That’s because a huge injection well is under way in central Illinois. The idea with  this is to inject millions of tons of carbon waste underground for storage.

University of Illinois scientists say this is perfectly safe. Other experts warn that if the carbon sequestration project suffers a containment breach, – say if an earthquake cracks the geological structure – or a mistake leads to the reservoir being overloaded, the result could be a multi-level disaster.

I always find SEJ’s environmental sessions unique and eye-opening. On Sept. 23, SEJ members flooded the restaurants in Sacramento for dinner sessions on lead contamination, the illegal wildlife trade and outdoor woes from under-funded national parks.

I wanted to attend all 10 dinners, especially the one on needed repairs at national parks like Yellowstone with its famous geysers. But I chose geezers over geysers.

The geezer session consisted of retired journalists, science writers and communicators who talked about the “Third Chapter of Our Lives.”

They are economically secure, independent scholars who plan to continue writing about the environment. Only now, they can write and speak without fear of backlash from media bosses, denialists, corporate heavies or nervous administrators.

“I no longer have to be a flak,” said one science writer. “I can tell it like it is – and make more of a difference.”

I have high hopes for young millennial types coming of age who are more interested in “saving the planet,” than making a million bucks. But I have even higher hopes for these “Third Chapter” geezers who also want to make the world a better place. They may just make their own earthquake.

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One response to “Opinion: Shake, Rattle & Roll!

  1. The quakes in Oklahoma and Kansas are triggered by the injection wells, but the great majority of the largest ones lie along the Nemaha Ridge, which is the underground expression of the Mid-Continental Rift Zone. Coincidentally, but not one-to-one correlated, this runs north to south roughly paralleling the Kansas Flint Hills. A rift zone is a “pull-apart” zone, which sometimes stacks up ridges along the edges– like the Basin and Range structures in Utah and Nevada. In short, the injection wells themselves can cause quakes in stable regions, but they can trigger much larger ones where the rock structures are already unstable.

    In my opinion, anyone trying to sequester CO2 beneath 1000-1800 feet of carbonate rocks, even in saline aquifers, is a few noodles short of a spaghetti, or they were asleep when they should have been learning that H2O + CO2 makes H2CO3 (unstable reaction) or water plus carbon dioxide yields carbonic acid, and carbonic acid dissolves carbonates like limestone and dolostone. Half of the people on a cave tour know that coming in — and that a cave is a hole in the ground. Plus, they will be gassing things that live down there == as we now know, lots of creatures to -5000 ft., even fish, crayfish and salamanders and their relatives.

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