Fracking is moving closer and closer to urban areas, but before it actually enters towns and cities the fracking industry should take a look at Long Beach, California, and follow the lessons that have been learnt there.
Back in 1930 the Wilmington oil field was discovered under the streets and harbour of Long Beach, and in 1932 production began to extract the estimated seven billion barrels.
By 1936 some serious subsidence was noted around parts of the city due to the extraction of the oil from beneath the surface. By 1951 and 1952 the city was sinking at around 2 feet a year causing massive damage to roads, buildings, and the harbour.
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The uncontrolled extraction of the oil and gas lowered the pressure in the hydrocarbon reservoir by a considerable amount. The sands of the reservoir then lacked the structural strength to support the weight above it, leading to a subsidence bowl with a depth of as much as 29 feet covering more than 20 square miles of the city.
The City of Long Beach Department of Oil Properties described the scene: “the ocean inundated wharves, rail lines and pipelines were warped or sheared, while buildings and streets were cracked and displaced.”
Eventually engineers halted the subsidence by injecting water into the reservoir as extraction occurred in order to maintain the pressure.
Once known as the ‘Sinking City’, Long Beach offers a lesson to all intending on extracting hydrocarbons within built up areas, and acts as a strong warning against carrying out such activities without first knowing the exact consequences that they could incur.
By. James Burgess of Oilprice.com