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Ora è ufficiale: il fracking provoca i terremoti

Non lo dicono i complottisti, ma l’agenzia scientifica del Governo degli Stati Uniti per il monitoraggio dei terremoti. Il riversamento sotterraneo delle acque reflue generate durante l’estrazione di petrolio e gas ha reso alcune zone del Texas e dell’Oklahoma pericolose come la California

da MIT Technology Review, di David Talbot

(David McNew/Getty Images)

(David McNew/Getty Images)

Secondo la nuova previsione annuale sul rischio di terremoti, pubblicata martedì dal Geological Survey degli Stati Uniti, alcune parti del Texas e dell’Oklahoma correrebbero ora lo stesso pericolo delle aree maggiormente colpite da terremoti in California – e si precisa che l’aumento è dovuto al riversamento sotterraneo delle acque reflue generate durante l’estrazione di petrolio e gas naturale.

Quello delle acque reflue è un problema su due fronti. Stando allo Usgs, l’incremento del rischio sismico in aree solitamente non soggette a terremoti metterebbe in pericolo la vita di sette milioni di persone. Queste scosse sismiche sono solitamente piccole ma, finora, i terremoti causati dall’uomo sono arrivati a toccare magnitudo 5.6.

Fonte: http://www.usgs.gov/

Fonte: http://www.usgs.gov/

L’acqua stessa presenta un problema. L’estrazione di petrolio e gas attraverso il processo conosciuto come fratturazione idraulica, o fracking, comporta il pompaggio ad alta pressione di grandi quantità di acqua nel sottosuolo per frantumare la roccia. Riaffiorando, l’acqua trasporta con sé le sostanze chimiche utilizzate nel processo, assieme ai sali e ai metalli pesanti rimossi dalle rocce (oltre al fracking, anche le convenzionali operazioni di estrazione del petrolio fanno riaffiorare acqua sporca). La maggior parte di quest’acqua viene pompata nuovamente nel sottosuolo, ma potrebbe presto non essere più necessario.

Alternative emergenti per il trattamento delle acque reflue, come la desalinizzazione via membrane e il trattamento con ozono, potrebbero rendere quest’acqua nuovamente utilizzabile. Oltretutto, i ricercatori stanno lavorando a un processo di desalinizzazione su larga scala che utilizza relativamente poca energia.

Fonte: http://www.usgs.gov/

Fonte: http://www.usgs.gov/

Questi processi sono più cari rispetto al trasferimento e al pompaggio delle acque reflue in un pozzo di smaltimento, ma i costi non sono tanto elevati se consideriamo gli effetti collaterali dovuti all’inquinamento e ai terremoti – oltre che alla raccolta e all’utilizzo di acqua pulita.

Nel frattempo, il rischio di terremoti causati dall’uomo continua ad aumentare. Specialmente nell’area di Dallas-Fort Worth, lo USGS dice che il rischio di terremoti è aumentato drammaticamente dal 2014, e sostiene che un terremoto in quella regione potrebbe provocare fino a 9,5 miliardi di dollari di danni.

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