20.07.2015 Author: Valery Kulikov

Will the “Shale Revolution” Be Brought to an End?

434234234234Recently, a national daily newspaper USA Today published a propaganda article «The newest US export may leave Russia with excess gas», in which the author tries to convince his readers, especially his European ones, that “there’s enough gas getting fracked to shift the balance of power, potentially restoring some U.S. clout over global energy prices with geopolitical impact. American influence likely won’t be huge, but even the ability to nudge natural-gas markets would be a big step away from decades of learned energy helplessness.”

However, in a hurry to fulfill an order of attempting to undermine Russia’s authority by predicting an “erosion of its stealth gas monopoly in Europe “, the author didn’t care enough to get acquainted with a handful of alarming reports that are being published by both American and European media outlets on this issue. In fact he was particularly determined to overlook the fact that this new “revolution” in gas extracting technologies is not just leading nowhere, but may be particularly dangerous for the residents of areas where fracking is being used.

Thus, a group of researchers from the University of Colorado and the United States Geological Survey have come to the conclusion that fracking is the cause of massive earthquakes that have been occurring in the central states of the US.

Direct correspondence between the so-called shale revolution and an ever increasing number of earthquakes is hardly a secret anymore. A new series of large earthquakes in the United States have been reported recently by a number of agencies, including Reuters. Oklahoma is now holding the title of the most seismically active area, while numerous researches claim that residents of this state should be blaming the “shale revolution” for their hardships.

For the past 30 years the average number of 3.0 earthquakes in Oklahoma did not exceed the rate of two per year. In 2014, once fracking was implemented in this state, the number of such earthquakes reached 585 within a year, and should the “shale revolution” be carried on, this state risks facing more than 800 strong earthquakes this year alone.

The head of America’s Oil Champion Continental Resources Harold Glenn Hamm has even agreed to allocate 25 million dollars to the University of Oklahoma to study the cause of the ever increasing number of earthquakes. However, this study too has revealed a close connection between the number of earthquakes and shale industry activities in the area, which resulted in Hamm refusing to donate money for further research, although he has been one of the largest sponsors of the University.

In April 2015 the Oklahoma Geological Survey has taken a clear position by stating that the surge in seismic activity is “most likely” tied to the use of fracking technology. The State Government has even launched a website, providing residents with the necessary data on how the use of such technologies causes earthquakes.

The ever increasing number of such reports can dramatically complicate operations of oil and gas companies worldwide that have been using fracking as a technology of choice. Moreover, the reduction in the number of shale wells in the US along with ever increasing expenses is now aggravated by prospects of a huge number of lawsuits, which even forced Continental Resources to put lawsuits in the list of risks in its latest financial statement.

Similar lawsuits across the United States show that the costs of shale drillers will only be growing exponentially. In these conditions, American politicians underline the fact that should such earthquakes lead to considerable financial damage or human casualties, the political climate in the United States may change overnight.

However, it is not the US media alone who are the only ones to sound the alarm in an attempt to put an end to this “shale revolution”. A regional weekly British tabloid Lancaster Guardian along with the UK portal International Business Times are reporting that New York’s public authorities are strongly recommending the UK to abandon shale drilling altogether, due to numerous threats to people and nature that fracking poses. In particular, environmentalists are sounding an alarm that hundreds of chemical substances that are used along with water and sand for hydraulic fracturing are potentially hazardous. Fracking has already been banned in Scotland, Wales, France, Germany and several US states.

In response to Information Commissioner’s Office’s demand the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs has released a closed report on the impact of shale drilling, which stresses the potential health hazards of the chemicals used in fracking. The Independent has already published a damning report by the British charity fund «CHEM Trust» on the impact of such chemicals on humans and wildlife.

The report «CHEM Trust» stresses the fact that there’s over a hundred potentially hazardous chemicals that are used by oil and gas companies for hydraulic fracturing. In particular, the report states, that they may be the direct cause of leukemia and loss of fertility in men. The fund “is particularly concerned about the use of hormone-depleting substances.”

Many chemicals used in shale drilling, remain a mystery. In the United States over 300 products that are used for fracking are reported to have at least one secret chemical.

That’s why the future of “shale gas” is very doubtful, and for sure it is nowhere near the cheerful bravado presented to its readers by the USA Today.

Valery Kulikov, political analyst, exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook”.