Earthquakes lead to calls for US fracking shutdown

By RTCC staff

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Shale gas has boosted reserves in many countries but raised concerns over future emissions (Source: BHP Biliton)

Five shale gas drill sites have been closed in the US state of Ohio after a magnitude 4.0 earthquake struck over New Year, with calls for a full ban being raised.

Ohio Governor John Kasich, a strong supporter of the gas industry’s activity in the state, closed the wastewater well deemed responsible for the quake.

However, Democratic State Representative Robert Hagan has called for a hiatus on all fracking activity until further investigations “conclude it is safe”.

Fracking involves injecting a mix of water and chemicals at pressure into rocks to release the trapped natural gas. The process has been directly linked to localised tremors.

There are concerns that the recent boom in shale gas production will distract governments from their commitments to decarbonise economies. The financial and political benefits of developing domestic energy supplies is an attractive lure however.

Governor Kasich, who has presided over a reduction in state unemployment largely attributed to the gas industry, has called the New Year quake an isolated incident.

The relatively large magnitude of the quake, which was felt almost 200 miles away in Toronto, has however raised concerns among the public.

In April 2011, two quakes of magnitude 1.4 and 2.3, led to the shutdown of a shale gas test drilling site near Blackpool in the UK. After more than six months of investigation it was agreed that the tremors were a result of the drilling activity.

Shale gas finds have boosted US gas production with more than one third of the country’s natural gas now coming from shale and other “non-conventional sources”.

Environmental groups claim that exploiting shale gas resources would take CO2 levels far beyond those recommended.

Renowned climate scientist James Hansen has warned that “burning all fossil fuels would have a climate impact that literally produces a different planet than the one on which civilization developed”.

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