BY GAREN YEGPARIAN
A shiver ran down my spine when I saw the news item “US Geological Survey Completes Armenia Shale Gas Resources Study”.
“Why?” you’re probably almost shouting out loud. “This will give our country more flexibility, make it less reliant on external energy sources, bring down prices, and render the Turco-Azeri blockades less relevant!” you’re exclaiming as you wonder if I’ve taken leave of my sanity.
At least, those are the kinds of seemingly wonderful results we’ll be promised by those who are probably salivating over the prospect of tapping those shale gas deposits.
But getting to those reserves requires a process called hydraulic fracturing, or more commonly, fracking. Water, chemicals , other material is injected deep underground, under very high pressure, into the shale formation to break up the solid rock that is trapping the gas, which is then free to flow up the wells that are drilled into those layers of rock.
According to an obviously pro-fracking, I’d guess fossil fuel industry built, website, “Shale gas is natural gas trapped in hard dense deposits of shale formed from ancient sea basins millions of years ago.”
So far so good. But then, in their “FAQ” section we see:
* “Is the groundwater safe?”
* “Yes, each well has layers of cement and steel casing to prevent groundwater leaks.
* Most wells are monitored with state of the art equipment”; and
* “Does fracking cause earthquakes?”
* “An incredibly small amount of seismic activity accompanies the hydraulic fracturing process; however the low level of seismicity has resulted in no cases of injury or property damage in over one million instances.”
Why, you might wonder, are water and earthquake safety being addressed? It’s because it really is NOT known whether this is safe. The California legislature is, even now, wrestling with whether or not to allow fracking in the state and under what regulations. No one knows what impact messing with these types of geological formations in seismically active areas such as California, or Armenia, will be. And all that “cement and steel casing” is in the well system itself. It’s not clear that once broken up, fluids that had been immobilized by the previously intact shale won’t travel and get mixed up with underground water supplies. Perhaps the most jarring and potent example of this is the flammable water coming out of people’s taps. This happens in farming areas where wells supply the water. After fracking begins in an area, the water coming out of the kitchen taps becomes flammable, at the touch of lit simple match.
On the non-technical front, we should also be concerned that this will be yet another natural resource for some unscrupulous oligarch to exploit and enrich himself with, at our homeland dwelling compatriots’ expense.
So let’s stop this train, dead in its tracks, before it becomes a wreck that wreaks more havoc on the tiny land mass of the Republic of Armenia.