Fracking! It’s in the news all the time. The controversy never seems to dim.
There are a lot of false fears about fracking ... but three very real ones. The first is that when the frack fluid gushes back out of the ground it is a lot nastier than when it went in and the “flowback” needs to be disposed of somehow. The second is that it uses a lot of water. The third is earthquakes. (I doubt this is a surprise to most readers, but you never know.)
In fact, the earthquake problem is really a subset of the flowback disposal problem. Fracking production wells does not (we think) trigger earthquakes. But pumping the flowback back underground into abandoned old wells does lubricate the rocks and cause them to slip. The result is myriad small quakes. (Although a Richter 3 tremor can knock down poorly-built brickwork.)
And now Texas and New Mexico are starting to deal with the last two issues. The Texas Railroad Commission just ruled that disposal well operators must go back 100 years through U.S. Geological Survey data within a 5½-mile radius. If geologists judge that the well caused a quake, the TRC will shut it down.
Meanwhile, New Mexico is looking to imitate Texas in encouraging the reuse of flowback in new fracking operations, thus saving on the amount of freshwater needed. (“Encourage” may be too strong a word; Texas simply allowed companies to reuse frack fluid without a permit if they own a lease.)
So, not terrible news from Texas.