Fracking may be critical to increased U.S. oil production, but it is also one of the most controversial, widespread technologies in America. Repeatedly, critics of the practice have warned of environmental troubles and the possibility that the practice can cause earthquakes. However, fracking is critical to the economies of several states, led by North Dakota. Joining other states, California recently got approval to expand fracking in the state.
The Bureau of Land Management California Office underwrote a new study about the impact of fracking in the state. Most of the report supported energy company fracking activity. The study called the “Advanced Well Stimulation Technologies in California: An Independent Review of Scientific and Technical Information” was commissioned by the California Council on Science and Technology.
Among the findings:
Overall, in California, for industry practice of today, the direct environmental impacts of well stimulation practice appear to be relatively limited. If these well stimulation technologies enable a significant increase in production in the future, the primary impacts on California’s environment will likely be caused by the increase in production activities in general. Impacts of increased production will vary depending on whether this production occurs in existing production areas (both rural and urban), or in regions that have not previously been developed for oil and gas production — as well as on the nature of the ecosystems, geology, and groundwater in the vicinity.
Not only were the effects on water limited:
Well stimulation technologies, as currently practiced in California, do not result in a significant increase in seismic hazard. The pressure increases from hydraulic fracturing are too small and too short in duration to be able to produce a felt, let alone damaging, earthquake. In California, only one minor, anomalous earthquake (which occurred in 1991) has been linked to hydraulic fracturing to date. In contrast, disposal of water produced from oil and gas operations into deep injection wells has caused felt seismic events in several states. Expanded oil production for any reason, including expanded use of hydraulic fracturing, would lead to increased volumes of produced water, which, if injected underground could increase seismic hazards.
Based on this research, California will join other states with economies that have substantially benefited from the practice.