Hydraulic fracturing is a well-stimulation technique used commonly in low-permeability rocks
like tight sandstone, shale, and some coal beds to increase oil and/or gas flow to a well from
petroleum-bearing rock formations. A similar technique is used to create improved permeability
in underground geothermal reservoirs.” -energy.USGS.gov
Before fluid is injected into an oil or gas well, the well has to be positioned and drilled.
Next, they mark where their equipment will go, including shot holes – the holes they drill and
insert explosives into – and geophones, which are essentially sensors that pick up the
vibrations that set off from the explosives, bounce off the subsurface rock and then travel
back toward the surface.
Next comes the drilling. Seitel drills holes 30 feet deep and 3 to 4 inches in diameter. At the
bottom of the hole, they place pentolite, a type of explosive. This is covered in gravel and
drill cuttings from the hole. A 3.3-pound can charge – or explosion – is then set off. The
charge, Gordon said, can be felt anywhere from 3 to 4 miles away.
The vibrations from the charge travel under the surface, hit off the subsurface rock
formations, then come back up to the surface, where they are measured by the geophones that are
set up in a grid around the shot holes. There can be as many as 2,000, 3.5-inch long geophones
set up in an 8-square mile area. The proposed area for the seismic testing in Beaver and
Allegheny is 157 square miles, officials said.
However, sometimes shot holes are not possible, due to location or geography. That’s when the
vibroseis trucks are used to send the vibrations under the ground. These trucks, which weigh
about 48,000 pounds, lower a plate onto the ground and send a vibration into the ground, which
travels under the surface and bounces off the underground rock. It then travels back upwards
and is measured, similar to how the shot holes work.
Seitel then records the vibrations that return to map out the rock layers underneath the
surface, Gordan said. The information is then sold to oil and gas companies looking to extract
natural gas from the Marcellus shale in the area.
Seismic testing, Gordon said, shows where the rock is, how thick it is and where fault lines
are. It does not show where the natural gas is located.” -shalereporter.com
In general seismic testing “disturbances” to the environment are minimal.
This is assuming the seismic testing companies follow protocol, agreed upon procedures, and
inform residents and/or property owners of their activities.
The most common complaints about seismic testing have to do with the vehicles and equipment
which can be cumbersome, noisy, slow traffic, and release diesel emissions into the air.
The bulk of the disturbances created by seismic testing involve the shockwaves (and associated
noise) which create vibrations in the ground. Sometimes they can be felt and heard on the
surface by people living nearby. This can be unsettling if people were not aware that seismic
testing was going to happen. Mostly there have been complaints about windows rattling;
otherwise the disturbance is generally negligible.
There have been some allegations of property damage caused by the vibrations.
I have not been able to locate the verdict or settlement for the following
case so I cannot say whether the allegation was upheld. The company carrying
out seismic testing examined the property and stated the damage was not caused
by the testing. However property owners insist it was.
“[Plaintiffs] reported their claim to defendants who investigated and concluded that the
admittedly obvious cosmetic and structural damage to their 40-year-old home was more likely due
to natural settlement rather than the ‘thumper trucks’”
“Plaintiffs [..] assert that the defendants were negligent, created a nuisance and
trespassed… Defendants were liable for the damage resulting from their failure to adequately
hire, train and supervise the implementation and testing at issue.”
The case was assigned to the 128th Judicial District (Case No. A-070652-C)
[Excerpt from ‘Surface Damage from Niobrara Seismic crew results in Citations‘ by Dusten Bleitzeffer]
On Tuesday, the 5-member Wyoming Oil and Gas Conservation Commission (OGCC) board voted
unanimously to fine Fidelity up to $500 for failure to follow the approved plan of operations.
The board also voted unanimously to fine GeoKinetics $2,000 for each of the 10 ranch properties
damaged for a total of $20,000. Originally, OGCC staff had recommended a $10,000 fine, but OGCC
board member Gov. Matt Mead successfully added an amendment to double the fine, and suspend the
additional $10,000 on the condition that the landowners are satisfied with remediation work.
“I want to make sure the landowners are compensated,” said Mead, whose family owns ranching
operations in southeast Wyoming.
For now, there’s no order to compensate the landowners beyond whatever each might have worked
out in their individual “surface use” agreements with Fidelity. The state holds a $75,000 bond
posted by Fidelity for the project, and GeoKinetics has a $50,000 blanket bond posted with the
state, both of which could be used to cover repairs if the companies do not meet their current
obligations. However, there’s no compensation for taking significant portions of the ranches
out of production as repairs and reclamation take place.
“We haven’t been compensated for it. … I sell my grass to other cattlemen and that’s how I make
my living,” Goshen County rancher Darrel Hamilton told WyoFile.
Hamilton and several other ranchers attended the OGCC’s hearing on Tuesday, voicing their
concern that the damages to their property may never be fully repaired.
In several areas GeoKinetics used the wrong type of tires for its vibroseis fleet, leaving ruts
deeper than six inches, and tearing up hillsides and channels.
Lucas Keeler, natural resource technician for the OGCC, testified that at first the seismic
operator downplayed the extent of the damage. “I don’t think the extent of the damages was
quite reported,” Keeler told the commission board.
Repairing the damaged surface may be a challenge, and it’s likely to interfere with ranching
operations. Hamilton said the biggest concern is erosion from the deep rutting. One option is
to haul in topsoil impregnated with seed.
“And hopefully we get the right moisture at the right time to get that to grow,” said Hamilton.
The topsoil amendments must be staked down and fenced off from cattle, which is likely to take
a portion of the ranching operations out of production for 3-5 years, according to Hamilton.
In general, farmers and ranchers in the region — especially those who own mineral rights — have
embraced the recent search for shale oil in hopes of sharing in the revenue. Some of the
landowners who suffered damages in the Rocky Hollow seismic project said they still support the
industry. In a letter to the commission, John Kessler of the Kessler Ranch wrote;
“When we were approached by Fidelity about seismography, we agreed without hesitation. Our
neighbors’ ranch had been surveyed recently, and they were impressed by their efficiency and
lack of impact. We have watched Fidelity build a road and drill two wells in our community. It
is obvious that every consideration has been given to their maintenance and reclamation. That
is what we expect. We also expect fairness and good representation from our oil and gas
However, OGCC staff had been dissatisfied with GeoKinetics’ previous work in Wyoming, including
the “Little Mitchell” project in northeast Wyoming where state inspectors found “numerous
violations of the commissions rules and regulations,” according to state documents. In email
correspondence, OGCC’s Keeler explained to a Fidelity representative why he was recommending a
higher bond ($75,000) for the Rocky Hollow project; “Truth be told, there are two Geokinetic
projects where the work wasn’t satisfactory, and we are having to wait until spring for these
projects to be completed correctly.”
Powder River Basin Resource Council (PRBRC), a landowner advocacy group based in Sheridan, said
the Rocky Hollow case highlights a profound weakness in Wyoming’s split-estate law.
In many instances, the surface estate is separate from the underlying minerals, yet the owner
of the mineral estate has the right to enter the surface to access his minerals. That’s split-
estate. If the surface and mineral estate owners don’t come to an agreement and sign a legally-
binding “surface use” agreement (which typically includes compensation to the surface owner),
then the mineral owner must post a minimum $2,000 bond with the state.
That bond, which resides with the state and not the landowner, is supposed to cover any surface
damages by the oil and gas operation. Landowner advocates such as the PRBRC have argued that
the $2,000 split-estate bond doesn’t come close to covering the potential surface damage of oil
and gas operations, nor does it compel operators to negotiate a surface use agreement in good
The split-estate issue didn’t enter the Rocky Hollow seismic case. However, the extent of the
damage is the same that a split-estate surface owner might face — with only a $2,000 bond
posted with the state.
“The property damages to these landowners from the seismic operations in this case is another
example of what an insult the $2,000 bond is to landowners. That low bond does not begin to
address the damages, the cost of reclamation or act as an incentive for industry to act
responsibly or negotiate in good faith,” said PRBRC organizer Jill Morrison.
The PRBRC published a report on the state’s split-estate act in 2010, criticizing the $2,000
bond. Industry fought against a measure in 2011 to raise the minimum split-estate bond from
$2,000 to $10,000. The Legislative Judiciary Committee is taking up the topic again this summer
during the interim.
“At least, the Wyoming Oil and Gas Commission was on top of the damages in this case but only
because the landowners forced the issue,” said Morrison. “We need to raise the bond for oil and
gas industry for seismic activity and for all oil and gas activity.”
GeoKinetics declined a request by WyoFile to comment on the case. Fidelity didn’t respond to
requests for comment.”
[Excerpt from ‘Seismic surveying rattles Colorado homeowners‘ by Bruce Finley]
The Crumbleys allege that seismic vibrations caused the structural damage in their house and
barn and triggered the collapse of their well — which six days later gave no water.
“I thought we were having an earthquake,” Crumbley said. “If we don’t have water, we don’t have
a home. And we don’t have $20,000 for a new well.”
When their insurer told them to find out the insurer of Houston-based Geokinetics, the project
manager refused to provide information.
Geokinetics’ manager could not be reached.
Anadarko spokesman John Christiansen said the company has determined that the thumper truck did
not cause the damage.
“No one knows the cause of what happened there,” Christiansen said. “When you shoot seismic,
the energy goes downward. It does not go outward to a large extent.”
If the company found itself responsible, Christiansen said, “Anadarko is self-insured” and
would cover its contractor Geokinetics.
Over the past three years, Anadarko surveyed 675 square miles north of Denver. Seismic
contractors this year will cover another 70 square miles near Johnstown and a smaller area near
The contract technicians who monitor the intensity of vibrations have been “consistently busy”
between Brighton and Greeley, said Cody Fletcher, operations manager for Urban Seismics, which
The man videotaped in the Crumbleys’ yard worked for Urban Seismics and, the company
acknowledged, failed to knock on their door before the thumper trucks rolled by.
There are about 50,000 oil and gas wells statewide, and the number is increasing by about 50
“Around Colorado, the population is growing. It’s almost impossible to find something that is
truly remote to research,” Fletcher said. Now the areas near homes “are where they need to
The COGCC regulators — charged by lawmakers with primary oversight of the oil and gas industry
— require companies to give written advance notification to the state and also local officials.
Seismic companies must make a good faith effort to reach all landowners before conducting
seismic surveys near homes. But Colorado has no rules for when and how seismic surveys can be
done. Remedies for damages are left to courts.
“We have the notice requirement,” COGCC director Matt Lepore said in a recent interview. “We
don’t have a whole lot else. It’s something we have to look at.”
State records show that since 2000, residents have filed 16 formal complaints about seismic
surveys. Geokinetics recently was fined $10,000 for failing to give advance notice before a
In Aurora, conflicts with residents flared earlier this year after Geokinetics conducted
surveys. Residents complained to crews about sensors on their lawns. City council members
reported that Geokinetics reps “told our citizens to ‘not touch the equipment or we will call
the police,'” according to a letter Aurora officials sent to the company.
Geokinetics later informed the city “tens of thousands of dollars” of equipment was stolen or
destroyed, Aurora planning manager Jim Sayre said.
Seismic sensors and cables were strung across the Murphy Creek neighborhood in southeast Aurora
around Christmas Eve. Thumper trucks rolled through in January, said resident Kim Smith, an
intensive-care nurse and mother of three.
Smith’s husband “thought it was a helicopter landing outside,” she said. “We got no notice of
Smith called her homeowner association and got no explanation. She called Aurora officials.
“The city said they don’t have any regulation for that.”
Since then, the city has set a new policy. “We hope to improve over our experience in January,”
Sayre wrote in a Feb. 14 letter to Geokinetics.
Companies now must obtain city permits and provide written notice to city officials and
residents before beginning seismic surveying.
Colorado regulators are taking a look at the damage to the Crumbleys’ home.
“We investigate all complaints and conduct on-site visits when it makes sense, such as if
someone has complained about physical damage or impacts,” state spokesman Todd Hartman said.
On Wednesday morning, COGCC environmental supervisor Steve Lindblom and a contractor
photographed cracks in walls and drew water samples. The samples will be sent to a lab for
The Crumbleys’ well originally was 60 feet deep. A well-service company found it collapsed and
now is 48 feet deep and must be replaced. The pump could not be retrieved from under sediment.
A new pump was installed to restore water service for now.
“Once I get the (water test) results back, I’ll send you a letter,” Lindblom told Mieko
But water contamination wasn’t the issue.
Hartman said state officials now are “making arrangements with engineers with the right
expertise to review the information on the water well.””
[Excerpt from ‘NB residents turn to Mi’kmaq as environmental concerns bubble to surface in wake of shale gas
exploration‘ by Jorge Barrera]
“Environmental concerns are beginning to bubble to the surface in the wake of SWN Resources
Canada’s shale gas exploration work and some New Brunswickers are turning to the Mi’kmaq for
One couple, living on the outskirts of Moncton, saw the sudden appearance of coliform bacteria
in their well water after SWN’s thumper trucks rumbled across their front door. Near
Rogersville, a senior citizen, in his 70s, discovered water bubbling up through a seismic
testing shot-hole in the bush behind his property.
Both reached out to the Mi’kmaq battling it out on the highway with SWN.
Roger Pierskalla, who lives with his wife along Hwy 126 near Moncton, said a company hired by
SWN to conduct the well water tests after the thumper trucks rolled by phoned to tell them they
should immediately boil their water before drinking and contact the regional health inspector’s
Tests results showed his well water had three units of total coliform forming colonies per 100
ml, far above the Canadian Drinking Water Guidelines’ maximum acceptable standard of zero.
While coliform bacteria may not pose an immediate threat, it can indicate the presence of other
dangerous microorganisms. The drinking water guidelines are set by a federal-provincial-
“I was upset, this is our lifeline, you can’t live without water. In one form or another, you
need water,” said Pierskalla, 68.
Then he received a letter from Stantec.
“Based on this detection, we recommend you boil your drinking/cooking water or sued bottled
water until the issue had been addressed,” said the letter, dated July 25.
Pierskalla’s water was tested twice, once in April 2012 and in the same month the following
year. The tests were both conducted by Fredericton-based Stantec, which had been hired by SWN
to conduct the sampling. In both those tests, Pierskalla’s well water came back with zero total
coliform forming colonies.
When Stantec tested the well water again on July 23, 2013, after thumper trucks had rolled
across Peirskalla’s front door, the results showed the presence of the bacteria. He was forced
to shock chlorinate his well. He also called the regional provincial health department’s
regional health protection office, which did not call back to follow up.
“That never went anywhere after that. Nobody came out to check anything or do anything since,”
Pierskalla’s wife recently got in touch with people in Elsipogtog saying she had proof that the
thumper trucks had ruined their water.
“They are part of our land here, they look after our land,” said Pierskalla, who traces his
ancestry to Wabanaki Confederacy chiefs. “We have proof that these things do create changes in
our water, we have it here…this their testing and this is their results.”
About 80 km north up and off Hwy 126 near Rogersville, a 75-year-old man was recently walking
through the bush behind his property when he noticed a swamp had sprung up from nowhere. He
noticed that the water was bubbling up from a hole in the ground beneath a tree tacked with a
metal plate indicating it was one of SWN’s exploration lines.
The hole, called a shot-hole, was drilled by SWN contractor Geokinetics as part of seismic
exploration work using explosives. The company drills holes then fills them with explosives.
Data is then gathered off the detonation.
The man, who did not want to be identified, reached out to his friends who knew people in the
Mi’kmaq-led anti-fracking camp. Samples have since been taken to a lab for testing.
APTN National News visited the site and water was clearly bubbling to the surface, creating a
mini-swamp which had an oily sheen in some.
According to Maxime Daigle, a former oil and gas worker with experience across Western Canada
and the U.S., the drill likely punctured through into an aquifer and the company failed to
properly seal it.
“It’s disrupting the aquifer flows that people are depending on to get their water supplies for
their house,” said Daigle, wearing rubber boots and standing ankle-deep in the water and muck.
He said the aquifer was now at risk of contamination.
“You pump down the bentonite and hope for the best and as you can see it’s not working,” said
Daigle, who has been deeply involved with the Mi’kmaq in opposing shale gas exploration.
Bentonite is a type of clay used to seal shot-holes.”
WHAT IS SEISMIC TESTING
http://www.marcellus-shale.us/seismic_testing.htm (info and photos)
http://youtu.be/_2dA6hXF-zQ (seismic exploration video)
ENVIRONMENTAL ASSESSMENT by US Bureau of Land Management
SEISMIC SURVEYING ON LAND
http://www.searchanddiscovery.com/index.html (case histories for geoscientists)
http://www.slideshare.net/MarcellusDN/seismic-considerations-guide (guide for landowners)
http://www.terrexseismic.com/terrex-seismic/equipment/vibroseis-trucks.aspx (Terrex Group)
http://youtu.be/4El6U0XTNS0 (WesternGeco Vibroseis)
OIL & GAS EXPLORATION GAME
http://youtu.be/sfWKztzNAzg (learn how geoscientists explore for oil & gas)
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