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Kansas legislature

Kansas Legislature

Panel hears testimony about fracking, Kansas quakes

January 21, 2014, 11:20 a.m. Updated January 21, 2014, 6:06 p.m.

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— Geologists on Tuesday told a Kansas House committee that more seismic monitoring in the state could help determine if hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, is connected to earthquakes.

Rex Buchanan, interim director of the Kansas Geological Survey, testified before the House Energy and Environment Committee that no evidence exists that the fracturing of rocks deep beneath the earth's surface was producing earthquakes that can be felt.

"It is always difficult to know what is a natural and what is a man-made event," Buchanan said.

Kansas has seen an increase in oil and gas exploration in southern counties as new technology allows extraction in difficult geological formations. Hydraulic fracturing involves high-pressure injections of liquid into underground rock to release trapped fossil fuels.

Fracking has been suspected as a cause of increased seismic activity in parts of the U.S. that typically aren't prone to earthquakes.

Legislators heard the testimony for information purposes. There is no pending legislation that would further regulate fracking. A working group of officials with the Kansas Corporation Commission, KGS and the Kansas Department of Health and Environment is developing a draft plan of response to possible causes of increased seismic activity.

The increased oil and gas activities are in a geological region known as the Nemaha Ridge, which runs from Marshall County in north-central Kansas through Cowley County in the south. It is a buried granite ridge associated with the Humboldt Fault Zone. No faults that have produced earthquakes in the state are at the surface.

Buchanan said the largest quake in recorded Kansas history was in 1867 when a 5.5 one near Wamego, which was felt as far away as Dubuque, Iowa.

It is believed that most of the seismic activity related to fracking is caused by the injection of wastewater used in the process that is injected back into rock formations. The waste, primarily saltwater and other chemicals used in the fracking process, causes what is called "induced seismicity" where the liquid causes friction between faults or rock formations to ease and the geology to slip.

Buchanan said most of these earthquakes are small in scale, but without adequate monitoring to assess what is a normal level of seismic activity it is difficult to know how much fracking is contributing to activity.

Kansas has two U.S. Geological Survey monitors, one near Cedar Bluff and a second near Manhattan that's currently inoperable. The Oklahoma Geological Survey operates equipment that can detect activity in southern Kansas on a limited scale.

Rick Miller, a senior KGS scientist and geophysicist, said it would cost about $200,000 to install equipment in southern Kansas and an additional $100,000 in ongoing expenses to monitor and analyze seismic activity to establish baseline data.

Comments

Clark Coan 11 months, 1 week ago

The Koch brothers will see to it that any bill limiting fracking is killed in committee. Oil and gas is their primary business. As libertarians they don't want any regulations affecting businesses nor do they want any taxes whatsoever.

They will also push through the ALEC-sponsored bill to repeal the renewal energy portfolio standard (with help from the Kansas Chamber of Commerce lobbyists). I wonder if this repeal bill will also repeal net metering which allows households to have renewable energy and use the electric utility as the backup.

Scott White 11 months, 1 week ago

Clark, there are separate bills to repeal the Renewable Energy Standard and Net Metering. Bills to repeal Net Metering have been introduced in both chambers: House Bill 2458 and Senate Bill 280. A list of all (or probably most - hard to keep up them all) energy bills can be found at: http://kansasenergy.org/kansas-energy-bills-2013-2014/, which I maintain. - Scott

Bob Zimmerman 11 months, 1 week ago

Kansas culture is based upon "extract and move on" and not stewardship. Just drive around the state and you will see remnants ( a polite word for garbage/pollution) of past mining, farming, and oil drilling all over the place.

This is Kansas, who cares if a your drinking water goes bad or a huge sink hole happens in your back yard? And we can all handle a little higher rates of brain damage and cancer if it means money can be made. Those responsible have moved on, baby!

Mark Rainey 11 months, 1 week ago

"The waste, primarily saltwater and other chemicals used in the fracking process, " The inert ingredients may be a large portion of fluid pumped underground, but industrial waste would be the more onerous minority.

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