Wastewater Disposal from Fracking Approved

Concern over water quality grows after state OK’s pumping oil waste back into ground

From Sacramento Bee 2/6/15

Ellen Knickmeyer from the Associated Press wrote an article for syndication that featured 2,553 fracking wastewater wells in California and the fact that 46% of them (1,172) were permitted or began injection in the previous four years under Gov. Jerry Brown despite warnings from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency since 2011 that pointed out inadequate protection for aquifers from oilfield pollution.  The approval of underground fracking wastewater disposal is not popular.Source of fracking wastewater

CaliforniaGeo response—

Knickmeyer’s article also stated that hydraulic fracturing usually creates 13 gallons of post-process wastewater for every gallon of petroleum produced.  This represents the chemically-laced liquid that is reinfected into deep aquifers near the well site.  The process is widely known to consume between two and six millions of gallons per well, and this is the reinfected waste product featured in the article.

While many defenders of oil exploration and fracking point to greater U.S. dependence on foreign imports as justification for local extraction, the truth is different.  In 2011, the largest U.S. export offshore was refined petroleum products.  This signals that petroleum is not entirely sought for U.S. consumption or energy security—it is routinely exported elsewhere, helping to keep U.S. supplies tight, resulting in holding up prices.

This results in the fossil business model acting just like any other for-profit business, except that in this case, U.S. citizens pay the social and health related costs of this business and the environment pays for damages—medium, long-term, or permanent.

Lightly or unregulated consumption of fracking supply water from an arid region of a drought-prone state makes little sense, particularly when California is headed to more electric transportation and the production of Hydrogen from renewable electricity that can replace fossil fuels in power plants.  And (of course) methane use in buildings for heat and hot water, and for industrial processes requiring it can both be supplied by geothermal heat pumps which concentrate thermal energy from and to the earth without carbon.  In California they will function on increasingly renewable electricity (33% by 2020 and 50% by 2030).  

—Bill Martin