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luni, 21 iulie 2014

Landslides in Colorado – a Consequence of Hydraulic Fracturing


            On May 25, 2014 at 23:43:45 UTC, according to the American Geological Institute website[1]a 2.8 Richter earthquake took place at a location with GPS coordinates 39.165 ° N 107.848 ° W. The earthquake was associated with the landslide that occurred near the town of Collbran, Colorado. The result of the landslide was filmed from a police helicopter and posted on Youtube[2]: 5/27/2014 - Helicopter view of Colorado 4 MILE LONG @ Fracking Operation.

            1. I have attached four pictures (printscreen) with the official information and details about
this earthquake, taken from the above mentioned website. One can observe the position of the epicenter on each picture.

Image 1 - satellite view[3].

Image 2 - location on the USA map[4].

Image 3 - location on the map of the USA with neighboring[5].
 

Image 4 - distances to the neighboring cities[6].
 

            2. In the video on Youtube[2]which lasts 12 minutes and 6 seconds we can observe the landslide, the extent of the incident and many other details that will be discussed in the following pages. I made ​​3 files (printscreen) of this movie on Youtube with a drilling rig damaged by the landslide from different angles, three images with the top of the landslide (which resembles more with a collapse of the ground surface) and 2 pictures of a cluster of trees remaining upright (which strengthens the hypothesis of a collapse at the top).

Image 5 - The platform damaged by the landslide  - 0'13''.
 
Image 6 - The platform damaged by the landslide - 4'56''.

Image 7 - The platform damaged by the landslide -11'51''.

Image 8 - Collapse of the ground surface - the first part of the landslide - 2'51''.

Image 9 - Collapse of the ground surface - the first part of the landslide - 8'15''.

Image 10 - Collapse of the ground surface - the first part of the landslide- 8'37''.

Image 11 - Cluster of trees left upright after the collapse of the ground surface - 2'56''.

Image 12 - Cluster of trees left upright after the collapse of the ground surface - 8'21''.

            3. Using Google Earth and carefully watching the movie on Youtube, I made ​​a profile of the landslide (Figure 13 - color pink). To frame it in the area, I selected a representative perimeter (Figure 14), showing the nearest town, the lake and the Vega dam and area where the landslide occurred. I set the boundaries of the perimeter through GPS coordinates shown in Table 1, with the sides of the rectangle of 26.6 km and 16.6 km and an area of ​​441.56 km2.
            After a thorough observation of the area I  identified 108 drilling rigs listed in Table 2 with GPS coordinates, where we can see the equipment and various activities typical to drilling and high-volume hydraulic fracturing. Thus, there are drilling rigs erected on 50, 78 and 96 platforms, fracturing operations on the platform 57, and the platform 108 (Figure 15) is the one affected by the landslide (which is seen in the film). Figure 16 represents an approximated longitudinal profile of the landslide.

Table 1- with the GPS coordinates for identifying the perimeter chosen for observation and analysis and the platform damaged by the landslide.
Objective
Latitude
Longitude
Height
Upper left corner
39°18'10.00" N
108°0'50.00" W
2,477 m
Bottom left corner
39°9'10.00" N
108°0'50.00" W
2,119 m
Upper right corner
39°18'10.00" N
107°42'20.00" W
2,377 m
Bottom right corner
39°9'10.00" N
107°42'20.00" W
3,043 m
Platform affected by the landslide = 108
39°12'1.95" N
107°51'28.32" W
2,286 m


Table 2 - with the GPS coordinates for identifying the platforms in the analyzed perimeter.
Objective
Latitude
Longitude
Height
Platform 1
39°16'45.23" N
107°57'9.19" W
2,102 m
Platform 2
39°15'26.27'' N
107°57'33.19'' W
1,943 m
Platform 3
39°15'37.88'' N
107°57'47.77'' W
1,963 m
Platform 4
39°12'15.29'' N
107°55'51.47'' W
2,035 m
Platform 5
39°11'43.26'' N
107°55'5.63'' W
2,079 m
Platform 6
39°11'32.37'' N
107°54'39.16'' W
2,101 m
Platform 7
39°11'26.04'' N
107°54'11.96'' W
2,143 m
Platform 8
39°11'28.98'' N
107°55'49.36'' W
2,080 m
Platform 9
39°11'15.09'' N
107°55'40.36'' W
2,102 m
Platform 10
39°11'58.22'' N
107°54'32.23'' W
2,114 m
Platform 11
39°12'8.19'' N
107°54'45.41'' W
2,086 m
Platform 12
39°12'21.95'' N
107°55'2.58'' W
2,68 m
Platform 13
39°12'22.44'' N
107°54'27.76'' W
2,109 m
Platform 14
39°12'28.01'' N
107°53'40.90'' W
2,176 m
Platform 15
39°12'37.64'' N
107°53'55.62'' W
2,159 m
Platform 16
39°13'14.54'' N
107°53'25.45'' W
2,120 m
Platform 17
39°13'56.13'' N
107°53'14.90'' W
2,069 m
Platform 18
39°14'9.69'' N
107°54'33.69'' W
2,058 m
Platform 19
39°14'30.07'' N
107°54'58.69'' W
2,088 m
Platform 20
39°15'34.29'' N
107°56'6.46'' W
1,943 m
Platform 21
39°15'55.42'' N
107°53'59.64'' W
2,035 m
Platform 22
39°16'19.34'' N
107°53'16.77'' W
2,071 m
Platform 23
39°16'33.18'' N
107°53'0.71'' W
2,101 m
Platform 24
39°18'10.15'' N
107°51'4.16'' W
2,339 m
Platform 25
39°17'42.12'' N
107°50'41.70'' W
2,334 m
Platform 26
39°17'21.28'' N
107°50'46.75'' W
2,257 m
Platform 27
39°17'14.09'' N
107°51'8.55'' W
2,314 m
Platform 28
39°16'53.16'' N
107°51'13.66'' W
2,224 m
Platform 29
39°16'11.56'' N
107°52'40.76'' W
2,103 m
Platform 30
39°16'22.94'' N
107°51'20.18'' W
2,157 m
Platform 31
39°16'51.53'' N
107°50'46.40'' W
2,211 m
Platform 32
39°16'53.50'' N
107°50'46.31'' W
2,219 m
Platform 33
39°16'54.88'' N
107°50'42.07'' W
2,223 m
Platform 34
39°17'36.25'' N
107°50'13.19'' W
2,352 m
Platform 35
39°17'14.24'' N
107°50'3.64'' W
2,316 m
Platform 36
39°17'22.59'' N
107°49'44.16'' W
2,376 m
Platform 37
39°16'29.65'' N
107°50'46.66'' W
2,220 m
Platform 38
39°16'25.84'' N
107°50'5.67'' W
2,218 m
Platform 39
39°15'49.82'' N
107°50'56.00'' W
2,201 m
Platform 40
39°15'27.62'' N
107°52'11.99'' W
2,133 m
Platform 41
39°15'11.01'' N
107°58'1.90'' W
1,932 m
Platform 42
39°12'31.52'' N
108°0'14.26'' W
1,873 m
Platform 43
39°10'43.52'' N
107°58'5.93'' W
2,146 m
Platform 44
39°11'2.84'' N
107°58'6.19'' W
2,111 m
Platform 45
39°13'23.99'' N
107°59'10.51'' W
1,873 m
Platform 46
39°13'28.77'' N
107°58'37.63'' W
1,887 m
Platform 47
39°12'50.64'' N
107°58'33.09'' W
1,937 m
Platform 48
39°11'4.75'' N
107°53'13.70'' W
2,256 m
Platform 49
39°12'39.62'' N
107°52'26.13'' W
2,195 m
Platform 50 - drilling rig
39°12'16.67'' N
107°51'46.10'' W
2,241 m
Platform 51
39°13'51.90'' N
107°50'23.76'' W
2,354 m
Platform 52
39°14'31.22'' N
107°50'43.79'' W
2,286 m
Platform 53
39°15'53.37'' N
107°49'55.34'' W
2,177 m
Platform 54
39°16'29.90'' N
107°49'4.23'' W
2,191 m
Platform 55
39°16'33.99'' N
107°49'25.73'' W
2,188 m
Platform 56
39°16'46.00'' N
107°49'2.29'' W
2,266 m
Platform 57 - fracking operations
39°15'28.14'' N
107°48'50.86'' W
2,239 m
Platform 58
39°16'7.96'' N
107°49'28.13'' W
2,144 m
Platform 59
39°14'54.06'' N
107°48'31.58'' W
2,333 m
Platform 60
39°13'5.60'' N
107°46'39.78'' W
2,454 m
Platform 61
39°12'24.74'' N
107°46'2.46'' W
2,497 m
Platform 62
39°12'4.56'' N
107°45'12.20'' W
2,530 m
Platform 63
39°12'20.01'' N
107°45'17.80'' W
2,521 m
Platform 64
39°13'3.59'' N
107°45'57.99'' W
2,484 m
Platform 65
39°13'18.99'' N
107°45'55.88'' W
2,484 m
Platform 66
39°13'46.24'' N
107°45'0.28'' W
2,406 m
Platform 67
39°13'53.76'' N
107°45'38.92'' W
2,489 m
Platform 68
39°14'1.58'' N
107°45'55.74'' W
2,503 m
Platform 69
39°13'50.47'' N
107°44'24.31'' W
2,467 m
Platform 70
39°14'9.21'' N
107°44'54.91'' W
2,360 m
Platform 71
39°14'21.59'' N
107°44'28.37'' W
2,422 m
Platform 72
39°14'37.40'' N
107°45'17.33'' W
2,419 m
Platform 73
39°14'31.08'' N
107°44'4.25'' W
2,360 m
Platform 74
39°14'47.30'' N
107°44'36.73'' W
2,326 m
Platform 75
39°14'49.97'' N
107°44'51.85'' W
2,312 m
Platform 76
39°14'50.49'' N
107°44'59.77'' W
2,336 m
Platform 77
39°15'37.92'' N
107°45'55.87'' W
2,328 m
Platform 78 - drilling rig
39°15'37.48'' N
107°45'30.69'' W
2,289 m
Platform 79
39°15'35.48'' N
107°44'59.42'' W
2,343 m
Platform 80
39°15'30.63'' N
107°44'20.49'' W
2,282 m
Platform 81
39°15'27.01'' N
107°43'45.35'' W
2,324 m
Platform 82
39°15'59.26'' N
107°43'36.00'' W
2,330 m
Platform 83
39°12'35.90'' N
107°46'18.46'' W
2,485 m
Platform 84
39°15'50.17'' N
107°44'40.73'' W
2,285 m
Platform 85
39°15'56.81'' N
107°44'52.31'' W
2,267 m
Platform 86
39°15'54.84'' N
107°45'0.88'' W
2,278 m
Platform 87
39°16'17.72'' N
107°45'14.26'' W
2,251 m
Platform 88
39°16'25.26'' N
107°44'37.08'' W
2,246 m
Platform 89
39°16'30.99'' N
107°44'37.54'' W
2,224 m
Platform 90
39°16'54.83'' N
107°44'2.05'' W
2,264 m
Platform 91
39°16'51.79'' N
107°42'56.06'' W
2,255 m
Platform 92
39°17'9.45'' N
107°42'56.59'' W
2,311 m
Platform 93
39°17'17.16'' N
107°42'36.50'' W
2,333 m
Platform 94
39°17'28.67'' N
107°43'37.87'' W
2,291 m
Platform 95
39°17'26.35'' N
107°43'25.09'' W
2,259 m
Platform 96 - drilling rig
39°17'43.55'' N
107°43'9.27'' W
2,301 m
Platform 97
39°17'46.82'' N
107°43'37.54'' W
2,313 m
Platform 98
39°18'6.21'' N
107°43'19.26'' W
2,348 m
Platform 99
39°17'0.65'' N
107°45'24.67'' W
2,338 m
Platform 100
39°16'47.64'' N
107°46'1.45'' W
2,275 m
Platform 101
39°16'21.26'' N
107°46'0.38'' W
2,239 m
Platform 102
39°16'20.25'' N
107°46'4.85'' W
2,235 m
Platform 103
39°16'52.70'' N
107°46'24.41'' W
2,284 m
Platform 104
39°16'33.55'' N
107°46'55.92'' W
2,218 m
Platform 105
39°17'45.97'' N
107°49'39.43'' W
2,358 m
Platform 106
39°18'13.89'' N
107°50'33.71'' W
2,421 m
Platform 107
39°14'0.20'' N
107°57'14.10'' W
1,858 m
Platform 108 - affected by the landslide
39°12'1.95" N
107°51'28.32" W
2,286 m

Image 13 - The landslide (Google Earth).

Image 14 - The analyzed perimeter (Google Earth).

Image 15 - The drilling platform damaged by the landslide (Google Earth).

Image 16 - The longitudinal profile of the landslide (Google Earth).

            4.a. After consulting several articles [7][8]it emerged that in the Colorado Plateau, which includes the area covered above (Figure 14), the exploration and exploitation of shale gas and hydraulic fracturing operations began from as early as 1974-1979, along with studies on the possibility of CO2 injection into depleted and abandoned wells.

            4.b. By analyzing images taken from a helicopter, we can observe that there is no presence of water across the landslide. This is reinforced by the dust that is seen on vegetation surrounding the affected area. Also, at the top you can see a cluster of trees which are upright, which is impossible in the case of landslides. This leads me to conclude that, at least at the top, there was a collapse of the soil, the ground’s surface, and not a landslide, a phenomenon caused by a possible release of CO2 from underground (possible cracks in geological layers). This assumption can also be explained by the appearance of a funnel present at the top of the affected area (Figure 8, 9 and 17). There is the possibility that the phenomenon of collapse and that sliding to occur simultaneously at the bottom of the valley after the onset of the initial collapse.

Image 17 - an emphasis on the funnel contour.

            4.c. Snow depth does not give indications of high hydrological levels. I do not have data on rainfall and the hydrology of the area.
            4.d. The high density of drilling platforms in the analyzed perimeter gives rise to suspicions regarding the natural character of this phenomenon. It should be noted that the images provided by Google Earth are dated August 9, 2011, with the possibility that by the time of the phenomenon presented in the study, the reality on the ground might have withstood many changes. Also, I do not know the depths of each driling platform, the number of vertical wells, inclined and horizontal drilling made ​​for each platform, the types and number of fractures applied to each drilling, comprehensive data about the geology of this area.
            4.e. Details of topographic features (length and width of the area affected, the slope, the difference in level between extremities, the volume of material dislocated by the collapse and landslide) and geological features will be officially known after the field research and surveys conducted by experts from the American Geological Institute.

            4.f. There is a possibility of evacuating the local population[9] from Collbran because of the danger of a new landslide, which could occur in the context of heavy rainfall.

            4.g. If we move the selected perimeter to the NNE by 20-30 km we can observe that the density of drilling platforms increases at least 5 times.

            4.h. The seismic effects correlated with fracking are known. The earthquake in Oklahoma[10] is the most representative case, giving rise to real concern among the scientific community and the Media[11][12][13][14]. However, this earthquake was only the one with the highest intensity(5.6 on the Richter scale), of a series of hundreds of earthquakes which have been recorded in the last few years. And this flurry of earthquakes is recorded in many parts of the world wherever there is intensive and extensive exploitation of oil and gas. A similar case was recorded in our country in Izvoarele, Galati County, Romania. In Groningen, the Netherlands, where the exploitation operations started is 1959, the contraction effect by about 35 centimeters is associated with the exploitation[15] (sinking or settling could be complementary terms). The same phenomenon occurs in Romania, in Suplacu de Barcau, and the compaction[16] is approximately 24 centimeters.

            4.i.  A lesser known and insufficiently studied and documented aspect is the procedure of boosting depleted oil wells with CO2 storage while its storage in former oil fields. There is research[17which state that caution is required when approaching this technique, as the results in case of accidental release huge amount of CO2 are well known. They are notorious for accidents caused by limnic eruptions[18] in the case of the Monoun lakes[19] August 15, 1984 and Nyos[20] of August 21, 1986 in Cameroon and the possibility of repeating this phenomenon in the case of Lake Kivu[21] located on the border between the Republic People of Congo and Rwanda.
            In Romania the Service for Geological Storage of Carbon Dioxide was founded by GEO. 64/2011, amended by Law 114/2013, which is expected to "lead to the development of technical knowledge on the full range of these technologies (capture, transport and storage of CO2)'' [22] in Demonstration Program - Gettica Project.
            It remains to be seen whether after research and studies conducted by American geologists about this landslide in Colorado the injection of CO2 into the ground will be incriminated along side to hydraulic fracturing and.

            4.j. The news about the landslide in Colorado was reported also by large television channels in the USA, with CNN[23], NBS[24], ABC News[25] and FOX News[26] just as some examples. To these we can add Reuters[27], YAHOO[28], National Geographic[29] and Forbes[30], The New York Times[31],  USA TODAY[32], The Guardian[33] and many others.

            4.k. Though only 3 people were reported missing[34] (Clancy Nichols - 51 years old, his son Danny Nichols 24 years old and Wes Hawkins - 46 years old) due to the landslide, a reocurrence of this phenomenon should worry us greatly, especially due to the imposibility to predict such a phenomenon and given the extended areas where drilling, fracking activities and waste injection in the ground have been done.

            4.l.We most also take into account the occurrence of earthquakes in areas where such phenomenon were not familiar at all for local populations[35] as well as the intensified seismic activity in areas where hydraulic fracturing is being done and where the practice of injecting waste water into abandoned or depleted wells is common, the most powerful being that recorded in Oklahoma[36], on November 6 2011.

          4.m. By using Google Map[37], [38] [one can check each platform in Table 2, as some have a variety of equipments or others are decommissioned, but, most importantly, the on platforms 50, 78 and 96 (Figure 18) are drilling rigs are operational and on platform 57 (Figure 19) we can observe fracturing activitities due to the presence of the fracturing fluid injection pumps.

Image 18 - Drilling rig on platform 96

Image 19 Activities specific to fracking on platform 57

          5. Final Conclusions.
            5.1.Activities associated to fracking and CO2 injections can generate phenomena difficult to foresee on medium and long term.
            5.2.This incident has anthropic causes.

          Bibliography

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