Hydraulic fracturing probably causing earthquakes near Galati Romania unconnected to Chevron fracking near Vaslui

Buried among my last report on anti-fracking protests in Romania I’d reported on another village, Izvoarele, near Galati Romania, where fracking had already occurred in secret.  According to a report on the anti-fracking protesters website, Frack Off Romania, the only reason the fracking was discovered was because of a series of shallow depth earthquakes in the Izvoarele area.  It’s claimed that the fracking was done in secret, and there are a stack of official denials that fracking had happened there.  It was supposedly the earthquakes that tipped people off to fracking, however several hours of searching, reading dozens of Romanian news reports, and I wasn’t able to find a rock-solid news report absolutely tying Fracking to these earthquakes.


An earthquake of magnitude 3.0 occurred in Galati. The quake occurred just 5km deep, early October 2013, StirilProTV.ro

The Romanian word for Earthquake is “Cutremur”, by the way.

The following is a long list of references to news reports and at the bottom is screen captures from a Romanian Government website showing the list of earthquakes.  One thing to draw from this is that opinions are all over the map as to the cause of the earthquakes.

All the government officials say the earthquakes are due to heavy rains that lubricated underground faults somehow.  However, the former director of the INFP, a Government agency in charge of earthquake monitoring, said the earthquakes were due to oil company activities and Fracking.  Several others joined him in this opinion.

A report on the Financiarul website (link below) has some data that correlates the idea that oil company activities could be the cause, even if it’s not technically hydraulic fracturing.  First, the Galaţi County Council President Nicolae Bacalbaşa said on the Antena3 TV station that the local oil company is using salt water injection, but then he later retracted that statement.  Second, that oil company had been granted permission to expand drilling and to use some technology similar to hydraulic fracturing.

Another angle to the story is seismic activity near Vrancae, a very active location in the Carpathian mountains that has been the epicenter of devastating earthquakes in Romania’s past.  A magnitude 5.5 earthquake occurred in Vrancae during the Galati earthquake swarm.  But the two places are far enough that most sources deny a connection between the two.

Another angle is poisoned water in the vicinity, with tests showing hydrogen sulfide in water wells.  Where did that come from?  Fracking?  A quick google search for “hydrogen sulfide fracking” turned up dozens of reports connecting the two, with a Huffington Post article from 2011 talking about a clear connection between Hydrogen Sulfide and Fracking operations in Colorado.

I wasn’t able to find a clearly documented connection between Fracking and the Galati earthquakes.  The evidence strongly suggests there is a connection, but several hours of reading Romanian news reports later I haven’t found one.

A post on the Frack Off Romania blog from Jan 4, 2014, states flatly that fracking was done in secret near Galati.  It does not cite a source for this claim, other than a video interview with a resident of Izvoarele describing conditions that match fracking earthquakes.  But, as I just said, I wasn’t able to find an unequivocal connection.

News reports  (very long – my apologies)

Recent land phenomena in Romanian county of Galati intrigue specialists: earthquakes or land slides? – Oct 1, 2013, Romanian-Insider – Notes that 11 small earthquakes were registered in Galati County, but specialists are unsure whether these were earthquakes or something else.  Specialists from the Institute of Earth Physics installed measuring equipment in the Slobozia Conachi – Izvoarele area, with data due in two weeks (mid-October).   Inhabitants are describing the land moving up and down, accompanied by noise, and that it happens several times a day.  Earthquakes as high as 3.6 Richtor’s have been recorded.

Mysterious earthquake swarm damages many villages in Galati, Eastern Romania – Oct 6, 2013, Earthquake-Report – Says the earthquakes have a lot of shaking intensity, have damaged a lot of buildings, and shows pictures of the damage.  There’s a sound like boiling water coming from the ground, and smell like sulfur in the water.

The same site has a few reports of other earthquakes in Romania, all of which are a couple hundred kilometers away in the Carpathian Mountains.  Being mountains, that region is geologically active.  One of the earthquakes was a deep 5.5 magnitude quake near Vrancea, and that location had been the site of a major 7.2 magnitude quake in 1977 that killed lots of people and damaged lots of buildings in Bucharest.  Vrancea is far enough from Galati that Earthquake-Report feels there is no connection.

The quakes reported by Earthquake-Report are typically over 100 km deep, but you see from the image above that the depth was about 5km.

George Purcaru about earthquakes in Galati: ‘It’s an earthquake in an earthquake bigger ” – Oct 1, 2013, 9am News – quotes some scientists, including the Director General of the National Institute for Earth Physics (INFP), Constantin Ionescu, as saying earthquake swarms are not abnormal for the region. The area has a fault line, called St. George (Sfantul Gheorghe), and had seen earthquake swarms in 2005, 2011 and 2012.  The earthquake swarm in October may be aftershocks of a previous larger one.

EARTHQUAKES IN CHAIN ​​Galati. Director INFP: I installed seismic stations in the area – Sept 30, 2013, realitatea.net – This is the source for what the 9amNews article said about previous earthquake swarms in that area, and the Sfantul Gheorghe fault line.  This says between Sept. 23-30 there were 37 earthquakes near Galati, 9 of which were over 2.5 Richtor.   Another report from the same date on hotnews.ro gives some more details, but Google Chrome didn’t manage to translate it for me.

The seismologist, George Purcaru, is famous for having predicted the large earthquake a couple decades ago, and is predicting another large earthquake centered at Vrancea.  There are several reports about this, this one on evz.ro appears to be the best.  As noted earlier, earthquakes at Vrancea appear to be unrelated to Galati earthquakes.

A report on gandul.info dated Nov 2, 2013, also goes in-depth into Purcaru’s warnings, and at the end discusses the earthquakes at Galati.  They claim scientists determined water infiltration into faults caused the earthquakes, meaning they were naturally occurring.

An Oct 2 report on what looks like a blog site repeats the claim that these earthquakes were due to heavy rains immediately previous.  However it has this to say from Marmureanu, who is the former director of the INFP (the bad translation is Chrome’s fault):

“The area is probably used extract oil and salt water under pressure to increase oil production. When you enter the water, producing some breaks, which trigger earthquakes,” thinks Marmureanu. It argues that these earthquakes, even if repeated, will not exceed four degrees on the Richter scale and are not dangerous to the public, will only create trouble.
The translation isn’t very good, but it appears he’s talking about injection of something underground to produce breaks to produce oil.  Fracking in other words.

The document reveals the cause of 87 earthquakes in Galati, presented at Daily summary – Oct 3, 2013, Antenna3 – Covers a report released by the INFP saying the cause was reactivation of old seismic faults that had not been active for years.  The report includes several videos.

Galati: 263 earthquakes in the last period – Oct. 13, 2013, Romania Liberia – Says the earthquakes numbered 263 by mid-October.  The new director of the INFP, Mircae Radulian, said the earthquakes had nothing to do with “oil fields” and also ruled out correlation with the earthquakes in Vrancae.

Other earthquakes in Galati. Earthquake swarm scares and seismologists – Oct 5, 2013, realitatea.net – Very interesting article going into good depth.  Talks about 3 earthquakes in Galati that immediately followed the 5.5 earthquake in Vrancae.  What was that about no connection between the two?  Dr. Adelina Moldovan Iren is quoted saying there’s no connection to oil company activities, but does say it’s known there are connection between fracking operations and earthquakes.  She had attended a conference in Vienna earlier this year where such connections were discussed.  She said she looked for articles saying fracking had started in Romania, learned that the projects near Vaslui hadn’t started yet (this was back in October when the protests in Pungesti had barely started; the Fracking there still hasn’t started), and in any case she feels that fracking in Pungesti wouldn’t affect earthquakes near Galati because those places are too far apart.

Specialist unconventional technologies: Earthquakes in Galati, a phenomenon produced by man. There are drilling illicit activities – Oct 3, 2013, b1.ro – Quotes “Specialist unconventional technologies Emil Streinu” saying that the earthquakes are the result of illegal fracking in the region as far north as Vaslui.  It appears he did some kind of study, but I am hampered by a poor translation by Chrome.  The article does refer to another article on b1.ro discussing a swarm of earthquakes in Spain, in an area that is seismologically quiet, that followed fracking activities.

Specialists solves mystery earthquake earthquakes Galaţi County. Read what the experts say Marmureanu and Purcaru – Oct 1, 2013, Viata Libera – It’s really a presentation of dueling opinions.  Dr. Purcaru is quoted saying these were due to heavy rains.  Marmureanu, former director of the INFP, is quoted saying it has to do with Fracking, but the quotation is identical to the one above.

Laboratory analysis confirmed: water wells is not potable sources – Oct 2, 2013, Adverul – Says that analysis of water from wells near Galati show the water is not potable, that it contains hydrogen sulfide and has a bad smell.  Officials are distributing bottled mineral water to residents.

37 earthquakes in a week in Galati. The causes are still unknown – zf.ro –  An interview with Duţu George, president of the National Agency for Mineral Resources (NAMR), who says it’s absurd to link hydraulic fracturing to the earthquakes.  According to NAMR, the existing operating licenses in the Galati region are for conventional oil wells that have been operating for over 50 years.  The closest such operations are 2 kilometers away.  Concerning the operations by Chevron near Vaslui (Pungesti) these details are given:

licenses granted by the Romanian Government under which Chevron Romania Exploration and Production carry out their activities, the company will conduct exploration activities in the area only EV-2, Vaslui area and perimeters EX-17, EX-18 and EX -19 in Southern Dobrogea. OEN under permits granted by the Environmental Protection Agency finds (LEPA) for blocks 17 and 18, Chevron Romania Exploration and Production will perform a series of 2D geophysical studies to understand more about the geology of the area. Oen Vaslui Chevron plans to drill exploration wells similar to other existing conventional probes in Romania. Chevron intends to conduct exploration activities exclusively in Vaslui and Constanta in 2013, Chevron officials said.
EARTHQUAKES COVERED BY LIES – Oct. 1, 2013, Nazul TV – An expose on a TV show where some experts say the government is lying about the earthquake cause being heavy rains.  For example the area has had heavy floods before without triggering an earthquake swarm.

Romanian Earthquakes caused by shale drilling start? – Oct 7, 203, Financiarul – Asks the question because lots of people are asking this question.  Cites plenty of studies showing a connection between fracking and shallow earthquakes, and that fracking favors slip faults.  On October 3, Galaţi County Council President Nicolae Bacalbaşa said on Antena3 (Romanian TV) that it’s known that oil mining operations in the area use salt water injection to increase production.  The article says that Bacalbaşa then had to backtrack his statements and issue a denial.  Hurm.

The article also includes this map showing the regions where oil exploration is allowed, and the companies in charge of each region.  The company near Galati is OMV PETROM, while Chevron has the regions marked with “8” which is an area bordering Moldova, and then the area around Constanta.

It also notes that in July 2012 OMV PETROM was given permission to expand oil drilling in two areas using technology that’s similar to hydraulic fracturing.

Earthquakes in Galati, earthquakes in Valencia and in Germany. Similarities, differences and lessons: Who wants shale gas and you think a sustainable energy policy? – Oct. 14, 2013, Transildania – Blog post asking why the reaction in Romania to the earthquakes is so different than in Spain, Germany and Switzerland.  In Spain there was an earthquake swarm off the coast of Valencia that was immediately identified as being connected to a natural gas storage thing in an underground reservoir offshore.  Everyone recognized the connection immediately, and ceased the natural gas storage activity.  Same story in Germany and Switzerland.

That blog post referred to a Digi24 news report quoting another Galati County official, Cornel Hamza, Vice Galaţi County Council, repeating the claim from Bacalbaşa mentioned earlier.  PETROM is quoted with a denial saying their activities are 2 kilometers away, and within the law.

Earthquake Records
The Romanian Wikipedia has a good page on these earthquakes that have a list of the earthquakes over magnitude 2.5, as well as links to articles: http://ro.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cutremurele_din_jude%C8%9Bul_Gala%C8%9Bi_din_2013

The following are a series of screen captures from the INFP cutremur archive (earthquake record) showing earthquakes near Galati.  They begin in mid-September and continue into November.  They’re all shallow depth, and you notice plenty of other earthquakes at the same time in other regions that are over 100km deep.



About David Herron

David Herron is a writer and software engineer living in Silicon Valley. He primarily writes about electric vehicles, clean energy systems, climate change, peak oil and related issues. When not writing he indulges in software projects and is sometimes employed as a software engineer. David has written for sites like PlugInCars and TorqueNews, and worked for companies like Sun Microsystems and Yahoo.
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About David Herron

David Herron is a writer and software engineer living in Silicon Valley. He primarily writes about electric vehicles, clean energy systems, climate change, peak oil and related issues. When not writing he indulges in software projects and is sometimes employed as a software engineer. David has written for sites like PlugInCars and TorqueNews, and worked for companies like Sun Microsystems and Yahoo.

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