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Michigan’s 21 Million Gallon Frack Job: A National Record?

Energy
Michigan’s 21 Million Gallon Frack Job: A National Record?

Ban Michigan Fracking

The destruction of the world’s fresh water due to fracking is at the uppermost of our minds, as we live and drink the water in the Great Lakes state. How much water is being used for Michigan’s frack industry is now proven to be obscenely underestimated. Michigan may have set a national record for allowing Encana Oil & Gas USA to frack a natural gas well with more than 21 million gallons of water.

A second nearby well is set to be fracked with more than 16 million gallons, according to a permit granted Encana late last year by Michigan regulators.

These big numbers are a big surprise. Most industry and government claims of water usage go by Marcellus shale figures, but here in Michigan, the frackers are using more water than perhaps anywhere else in the nation.

The truth is now coming out

FracFocus says the first well, State Excelsior 3-25 HD1, was fracked on Oct. 30, and Encana used 21,112,194 gallons of water. Combined with two other horizontal wells on the same pad, FracFocus says more than 42 million gallons went permanently downhole. The Excelsior pad (named after the township) is on Sunset Trail between Kalkaska and Grayling in the Mackinaw State Forest in Kalkaska County.

Some of the 42 million gallons of fresh water being poured into the drilling pit at the State Excelsior frack well can be seen in this video by Respect My Planet:

A permit that was issued Nov. 30, for Encana’s well State Roscommon 1-7 HD1, states the company intends to frack with 400,000 barrels. That equals 16,800,000 gallons.  The company’s application adds that the wellpad is sized to accommodate “up to six or 8 HD’s” (horizontal drills). If there are eight horizontal drills on the pad, the total water usage will be more than 100 million gallons. The pad is in the Roscommon State Forest, south of Houghton Lake.

The per well figures are three and four times what the industry and regulators have been saying. And it cannot be compared to the water used by farmers. Irrigation water returns to the aquifer and the hydrologic cycle. Water used for fracking is lost forever deep in the frack wells and disposal injection wells.

Why is the gas industry allowed to suck up so much water? Industry’s latest answer is that fracking is ok because burning natural gas synthesizes new water in the atmosphere, chemically, where it didn’t exist before. Eventually the new water rains to earth. If enough gas is burned from a well, the water created can actually surpass the amount of water destroyed in the fracking process.

This is a diversionary tactic to try to ignore the fact that millions of gallons of water are being destroyed forever, leaving our landscape full of frack wells and injection wells filled with toxic and carcinogenic frack wastes–water permanently diverted from the Great Lakes and now buried in the ground … in literally bottomless pits.

The industry’s newest gimmick is only telling half the story about the chemistry and, there’s a catch: Little of the rain will fall in Michigan. Atmospheric winds whirl it around the world. It can fall anywhere, usually on places with wet climates or in the oceans. In addition to creating H2O, burning methane creates CO2, a greenhouse gas that accelerates climate change.

Michigan is in a drought. Great Lakes levels are at near-record lows. Water is limited. Gas extracted here—or anywhere—will bring scant amounts of it to rain in our state.

There’s a second catch: Inevitably some wells are duds. Duds don’t produce enough gas to generate enough water to equal the amount lost during fracking.

Exponentially more water threatened by future wells

Encana’s threat to Michigan is profound. Encana has identified 1,700 potential Collingwood well locations in Michigan. Each location may host more than one frack well. Encana holds oil and gas leases on 430,000 net acres in the state. Recent pipeline applications say it anticipates drilling a significant number of wells in Kalkaska and Crawford Counties over the next several years.

It’s painful to do the math on how much water this will destroy. If all 1,700 Encana well locations used 21.1 million gallons of water, 35.8 billion gallons of water would be used for Encana’s wells alone, producing even greater amounts of frack wastes, when adding in the amounts of chemicals, additives and silica sand in the injectate. And if the Roscommon and Excelsior wells are the model for the industry, it is likely there will be more than one frack well on each of the 1,700 frack well locations, more than doubling or tripling the water and wastewater estimates.

Since learning of the high water use figures at the Excelsior and Roscommon wells, Ban Michigan Fracking has asked industry and environmental sources around the country to see if anyone has heard of any larger well anywhere. So far, no larger well has been identified. We will keep readers posted.

Michigan will become a toxic wasteland of frack wastes that will be unrecoverable and unfixable

The burgeoning problem resulting from all this fracking and unconventional shale gas drilling is where to put all the toxic wastes directly made by the process? Already Ohio is the recipient of the Pennsylvania frack industry’s toxic wastewater, in addition to its own, overwhelming the injection wells there. Michigan, with more than 1,000 injection wells, will quickly become a toxic wasteland, taking in frack wastes from Michigan and other locations.

Is this the kind of Michigan where healthy crops can be raised, where industries like wineries and breweries can produce uncontaminated products? Where pure Michigan groundwater can continue to sustain us?

Visit EcoWatch’s FRACKING page for more related news on this topic.

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Sign the petition today, telling President Obama to enact an immediate fracking moratorium:

 

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A net-casting ogre-faced spider. CBG Photography Group, Centre for Biodiversity Genomics / CC BY-SA 3.0

Just in time for Halloween, scientists at Cornell University have published some frightening research, especially if you're an insect!

The ghoulishly named ogre-faced spider can "hear" with its legs and use that ability to catch insects flying behind it, the study published in Current Biology Thursday concluded.

"Spiders are sensitive to airborne sound," Cornell professor emeritus Dr. Charles Walcott, who was not involved with the study, told the Cornell Chronicle. "That's the big message really."

The net-casting, ogre-faced spider (Deinopis spinosa) has a unique hunting strategy, as study coauthor Cornell University postdoctoral researcher Jay Stafstrom explained in a video.

They hunt only at night using a special kind of web: an A-shaped frame made from non-sticky silk that supports a fuzzy rectangle that they hold with their front forelegs and use to trap prey.

They do this in two ways. In a maneuver called a "forward strike," they pounce down on prey moving beneath them on the ground. This is enabled by their large eyes — the biggest of any spider. These eyes give them 2,000 times the night vision that we have, Science explained.

But the spiders can also perform a move called the "backward strike," Stafstrom explained, in which they reach their legs behind them and catch insects flying through the air.

"So here comes a flying bug and somehow the spider gets information on the sound direction and its distance. The spiders time the 200-millisecond leap if the fly is within its capture zone – much like an over-the-shoulder catch. The spider gets its prey. They're accurate," coauthor Ronald Hoy, the D & D Joslovitz Merksamer Professor in the Department of Neurobiology and Behavior in the College of Arts and Sciences, told the Cornell Chronicle.

What the researchers wanted to understand was how the spiders could tell what was moving behind them when they have no ears.

It isn't a question of peripheral vision. In a 2016 study, the same team blindfolded the spiders and sent them out to hunt, Science explained. This prevented the spiders from making their forward strikes, but they were still able to catch prey using the backwards strike. The researchers thought the spiders were "hearing" their prey with the sensors on the tips of their legs. All spiders have these sensors, but scientists had previously thought they were only able to detect vibrations through surfaces, not sounds in the air.

To test how well the ogre-faced spiders could actually hear, the researchers conducted a two-part experiment.

First, they inserted electrodes into removed spider legs and into the brains of intact spiders. They put the spiders and the legs into a vibration-proof booth and played sounds from two meters (approximately 6.5 feet) away. The spiders and the legs responded to sounds from 100 hertz to 10,000 hertz.

Next, they played the five sounds that had triggered the biggest response to 25 spiders in the wild and 51 spiders in the lab. More than half the spiders did the "backward strike" move when they heard sounds that have a lower frequency similar to insect wing beats. When the higher frequency sounds were played, the spiders did not move. This suggests the higher frequencies may mimic the sounds of predators like birds.

University of Cincinnati spider behavioral ecologist George Uetz told Science that the results were a "surprise" that indicated science has much to learn about spiders as a whole. Because all spiders have these receptors on their legs, it is possible that all spiders can hear. This theory was first put forward by Walcott 60 years ago, but was dismissed at the time, according to the Cornell Chronicle. But studies of other spiders have turned up further evidence since. A 2016 study found that a kind of jumping spider can pick up sonic vibrations in the air.

"We don't know diddly about spiders," Uetz told Science. "They are much more complex than people ever thought they were."

Learning more provides scientists with an opportunity to study their sensory abilities in order to improve technology like bio-sensors, directional microphones and visual processing algorithms, Stafstrom told CNN.

Hoy agreed.

"The point is any understudied, underappreciated group has fascinating lives, even a yucky spider, and we can learn something from it," he told CNN.

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