People send me stuff.
This morning my inbox had a forwarded Twitter item about a Tammy post where supposedly none of what McIntyre discovered about the dating problems in Marcott et al hockey stick “matter”, because “Tamino” has proven otherwise, even though Marcott’s PhD thesis with the same proxy data (but not arbitrarily re-dated) does not show the 20th century uptick. But, all Tamino did is throw some artificially generated spikes into the mix, run a process where he doesn’t show the code/work, and say “trust me”. It is amusing. We’ll save that for a future examination, as I’d like to see what Mr. McIntyre has to say.
In the meantime, Josh has a cartoon about a previous episode from Tammyworld:
Tamino’s recent posts on Marcott et al bear an uncanny similarity to Steve McIntyre’s work at Climate Audit. Dave Burton noticed and commented:
Grant, I find it just plain bizarre that you wrote all this and never even mentioned Steve McIntyre, who first figured out what Marcott had done wrong, and whose excellent work is the whole reason you wrote this.
This cartoon imagines Tamino, aka statistician and folk singer Grant Foster, putting things right. Do suggest some more songs that Tamino might like to try. I am sure he will be very grateful.
After getting the email this morning, I decided to look around Tammyworld a bit. What was even more amusing was his post about hydraulic fracturing aka “fracking” and earthquakes, where he tries to show a correlation between recent hockey stick style upticks in low magnitude earthquakes in Oklahoma. Of course as anyone who follows the energy debate knows, “fracking” is the recently “discovered” evil incarnate process, even though it has been in use since 1949, and prior to that they used nitroglycerine to do the same job of enhancing well production by fracturing rock nearby the well casing.
There’s another Josh cartoon in this one, read on.
Tamino leads with:
Mother Jones reports on recent earthquakes in regions not accustomed to much seismic activity, Oklahoma, Arkansas, and Ohio. Much of their story consists of anecdotal evidence, particularly the strongest earthquake in Oklahoma history at magnitude 5.6 in November 2011, which happened along a fault which a Univ. of Oklahoma geophysics professor referred to as “a dead fault that nobody ever worried about.” Since this quake “injured two people, destroyed 14 homes, toppled headstones, closed schools, and was felt in 17 states,” people are starting to worry.
I’ve highlighted the stick Tamino focused on.
He plots the Oklahoma data and gosh it sure looks like another recent man-made event doesn’t it?
So far, the fossil-fuel industry has denied any connection between recent earthquake activity and oil/gas production. The U.S. Geological Survey disagrees. Who you gonna believe?
At first I thought maybe he had a valid point, because the data presented sure looks convincing, and I started looking for data about the number of new wells drilled in Oklahoma to see if it supported his claim, but midway through the search process I started laughing, when I realized Tamino’s vision is just another case of this:
Thanks to Josh for allowing the borrowing and amending of his original cartoon for our entertainment today.
You see, I thought I’d have to do some data wrangling and plotting to see if Tamino’s point was really valid or not. But then, I realized that much like Mann’s hockey stick, and the Yamal incident, where some data that might not support the premise was excluded, so it was with the case with Tamino’s fracktastic analysis.
Some background. Some claim that this paper…
Examination of Possibly Induced Seismicity from Hydraulic Fracturing in the Eola Field, Garvin County, Oklahoma Oklahoma Geological Survey / by Austin Holland
[From the Report]
Our analysis showed that shortly after hydraulic fracturing began small earthquakes started occurring, and more than 50 were identified, of which 43 were large enough to be located. Most of these earthquakes occurred within a 24 hour period after hydraulic fracturing operations had ceased. There have been previous cases where seismologists have suggested a link between hydraulic fracturing and earthquakes, but data was limited, so drawing a definitive conclusion was not possible for these cases.
…”proves” that there is a link between fracturing and Earthquakes. Maybe there is, but I thought to myself, “the past, like the blade of the infamous hockey stick is flat, if fracking has been around since 1949, why isn’t there more spikes in earlier data in Tamino’s plot”? Surely, there must have been some fracking going on in oil-rich Oklahoma before 2009 when the uptick started.
The USGS report on the Nov 6th 2011 quake in Oklahoma states:
The magnitude 4.7 and 5.6 earthquakes that occurred on November 5, 2011, were situated in a region located about 50 km east of Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. Earthquakes are not unusual in Oklahoma, but they often are too small to be felt. From 1972-2008 about 2-6 earthquakes a year were recorded by the USGS National Earthquake Information Center; these earthquakes were scattered broadly across the east-central part of the state. In 2008 the rate of earthquakes began to rise, with over a dozen earthquakes occurring in the region east- northeast of Oklahoma City and southwest of Tulsa, Oklahoma. In 2009 the rate of seismicity continued to climb, with nearly 50 earthquakes recorded–many big enough to be felt. In 2010 this activity continued. The magnitude 4.7 and 5.6 earthquakes of November 5, 2011, are the largest events recorded during this period of increased seismicity. Additionally, the M5.6 quake is the largest quake to hit Oklahoma in modern times.
There have been dozens of aftershocks recorded following the shallow November 5, 2011 magnitude 5.6 earthquake and its magnitude 4.7 foreshock that occurred on the same day. These aftershocks will continue for weeks and potentially months but will likely decrease in frequency. This is not an unusual amount of aftershock activity for a magnitude 4.7 to 5.6 earthquake sequence. There is always a small possibility of an earthquake of larger magnitude following any earthquake, but the occurrence of the magnitude 5.6 earthquake, and the increase in activity in recent years does not necessarily indicate that a larger more damaging earthquake will occur.
The word “fracking” or any reference to injection wells or drilling as a possible cause or enhancer is completely absent from the USGS report. Even Scientific American doesn’t buy the hype saying:
Did Fracking Cause Oklahoma’s Largest Recorded Earthquake?
Probably not, as the gas drilling practice tends to be associated with minor quakes, not big ones, seismologists say
It seems simply like just another few and far between earthquake event in the Midwest, like the New Madrid Earthquake, which had it occurred today, some activist would most certainly try to find a fracking connection.
Back to Oklahoma. I mused that Oklahoma really wasn’t in “boom” mode recently (compared to its past drilling history), so why the recent uptick in seismic activity? Was it natural, or enhanced by fracking? And then it hit me; I was looking at the wrong state.
Where is the biggest “boom” in fracking enhanced oil production occurring? North Dakota and Montana’s Bakken formation seen in the map at right.
To reach the Bakken formation, a 360-million-year-old shale bed two miles underground that geologists say holds a 15,000 square-mile region of oil, companies must use a drilling method known as hydraulic fracturing, or fracking. With fracking, water is pumped down a well with sand and chemicals to crack rock and release oil. Officials estimate the field could be productive for as long as 25 years.
New rock fracturing technology available starting in 2008 has caused a recent boom in Bakken production. By the end of 2010 oil production rates had reached 458,000 barrels (72,800 m3) per day outstripping the capacity to ship oil out of the Bakken. The production technology gain has led a veteran industry insider to declare that the USGS estimates are too low.
It stands to reason that with this much fracking going on in the biggest oil boom region in the USA in a short and recent time span, surely there must be some seismic effects as a result of it. Surely there must be a cluster of small quakes around the Bakken region?
Locations of earthquakes with magnitude 3 or greater
I have to wonder why Tamino didn’t plot the USA with magnitude 1 or greater quakes, since that dataset is what he focused his main analysis on? Just looking at magnitude 3 and greater, there isn’t much of a signal in Oklahoma anyway, and the nearby New Madrid fault seems to have more.
So, what does the USGS earthquake data that Tammy plotted say about eastern Montana and North Dakota where the big fracking boom is happening (highlighted in yellow)?
The earthquake data for the Bakken region is as flat as the plains of North Dakota itself.
So on the question of “does fracking causes earthquakes”, “Who you gonna believe?”.
I think I’ll pass on Tamino’s visions.
UPDATE: Tamino has responded,
He shows that a Scientific American article suggested that fracking was probably not the cause of Oklahoma’s biggest quake on record. And by God, if fracking isn’t wreaking seismic hell in Nebraska then Anthony Watts won’t accept that there’s any evidence of its having an impact anywhere.
He predictably ignores the issue I point out with Bakken and lack of earthquakes there. but doubles down on Oklahoma, and then despite the act that his previous post title says:
Does Fracking Cause Earthquakes?
…he goes to plan B “look a squirrel!” and goes to the wastewater injection well argument.
Anthony Watts pushes the idea that there’s no relationship between fracking and increased earthquake activity, he won’t even consider an indirect relationship due to the wastewater injection which fracking requires. Both the U.S. Geological Survey and the National Research Council disagree. Who you gonna believe?
I’ll believe the data, and the data says there are NOT swarms of Earthquakes in the Bakken formation, but there are some in Oklahoma. This difference is an issue, and he’s offered no explanation for this conundrum.
Does fracking and its byproduct wastewater cause some earthquakes? Maybe – but correlation is not causation, much like the correlation lie activist Josh Fox made in Gasland about flammable gas in well water, which turned out to be there long before fracking. It may simply be that some areas are more sensitive than others, or some processes are better than others, but it certainly doesn’t suggest that all fracking and its byproduct wastewater injection causes earthquakes as activists would like you to believe. It has only been recently an issue since global warming “concerns” have turned it into a potential tool to shut down energy production.
So if there some small magnitude 1-3 earthquakes in Oklahoma, are they big enough to worry about, much like the small earthquakes around mining operations known for decades? Probably not. I sure don’t, only the activists seem to get upset about this.
Since Tamino cited an event in the UK, (although Wales was claimed) it is instructive to have a look at what they say on page 40 of The Royal Society report (h/t Miguelito): Shale gas extraction in the UK: a review of hydraulic fracturing June 2012 (PDF)
5.3 Seismicity induced by hydraulic fracturing
There are two types of seismicity associated with hydraulic fracturing. Microseismic events are a routine feature of hydraulic fracturing and are due to the propagation of engineered fractures (see Chapter 4). Larger seismic events are generally rare but can be induced by hydraulic fracturing in the presence of a pre-stressed fault. The energy released during hydraulic fracturing is less than the energy released by the collapse of open voids in rock formations, as occurs during coal mining. The intensity of seismicity induced by hydraulic fracturing is likely to be smaller due to the greater depth at which shale gas is extracted compared to the shallower depth of coal mining. Magnitude 3 ML may be a realistic upper limit for seismicity induced by hydraulic fracturing (Green et al 2012). If a seismic event of magnitude 3 ML occurs at depths of 2-3km, structural damage at the surface is unlikely.
On 1st April 2011, the Blackpool area experienced a seismic event of magnitude 2.3 ML shortly after Cuadrilla’s Preese Hall well in the Bowland Shale was hydraulically fractured. Another seismic event of magnitude 1.5 ML occurred on 27th May 2011
following renewed hydraulic fracturing of the same well.
Analysis of the seismic data suggests that the two events were due to the reactivation of a pre-stressed fault. In abscence of further data it is difficult to determine whether the fault was directly intersected by the well, or whether hydraulic fracturing led to pressure changes that induced a distant fault to slip.
Note this: “Magnitude 3 ML may be a realistic upper limit for seismicity induced by hydraulic fracturing (Green et al 2012).” That supports what has been said about the November 5th, 2011 magnitude 5.6 earthquake it Oklahoma – it doesn’t seem likely that it was connected to fracking, though many people (Tamino included) want it to be, because then it becomes a political tool if they can prove it.
So has this event in Blackpool stopped anything in the UK? No, the UK Shale Gas Boom is going ahead, because rational people realize that the risks are small and the benefits far outweigh those risks:
Earlier this month the UK gave the go-ahead to hydraulic fracturing, under tight regulatory conditions, a year after the practice was suspended when an exploration company triggered two small earth tremors in Lancashire.
But Tamino hates fracking, hates “deniers”, and generally is just an unpleasant bloke about anything that has to do with talking point issues pushed by the left. I find him and his irrational hatred of anything associated with oil extraction wholly amusing, and it’s the best free Saturday entertainment you could ask for.
So who you gonna believe? Well I believe fracking, like any process, has some risks, and the benefits far outweigh the highly publicized events used as political tools. I also believe I’ll go fill up my gas tank and turn on my natural gas powered fireplace. – Anthony
UPDATE2 4/7/13: From a guest post last year by David Middleton:
Frohlich, 2012 found no correlation between fracking and earthquakes… NONE, NADA, ZIP, ZERO-POINT-ZERO…
Most earthquakes identified in the study ranged in magnitude from 1.5 to 2.5, meaning they posed no danger to the public.
“I didn’t find any higher risks from disposal of hydraulic fracturing fluids than was thought before,” says Frohlich.”My study found more small quakes, nearly all less than magnitude 3.0, but just more of the smaller ones than were previously known. The risk is all from big quakes, which don’t seem to occur here.”
All the wells nearest to the eight earthquake groups reported high injection rates (maximum monthly injection rates exceeding 150,000 barrels of water). Yet in many other areas where wells had similarly high injection rates, there were no earthquakes. Frohlich tried to address those differences.
Texas map showing the Barnett Shale (gray) and rectangle indicating region mapped in figure 2. Credit: Cliff Frohlich/U. of Texas at Austin.
“It might be that an injection can only trigger an earthquake if injected fluids reach and relieve friction on a nearby fault that is already ready to slip,” says Frohlich. “That just isn’t the situation in many places.”
Hydraulic fracturing is an industrial process in which water and various chemicals are pumped deep underground in order to fracture rock, allowing oil or gas to more easily flow to a well. As petroleum is produced at the surface, most hydraulic fracturing fluids return to the surface too. Frohlich is careful to point out that he did not evaluate the possible correlation of earthquakes with the actual hydraulic fracturing process, but rather the effects of disposing of fracturing fluids and other wastes in these injection wells.
And finally, as I have previously posted, the induced seismicity from fracking and most injection operations is almost entirely nonpalpable.