Earthquake trends in Oklahoma related to wastewater injection


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❝ According to the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), the number of earthquakes east of the Rocky Mountains has increased dramatically since 2009. More earthquakes in these areas have coincided with the increase in oil and natural gas production from shale formations. Seismic events caused by human activity — also known as induced seismicity — are most often caused by the underground injection of wastewater produced during the oil and natural gas extraction process…

Before 2009, Oklahoma might have experienced one to two low-magnitude earthquakes per year. Since 2014, Oklahoma has experienced one to two low-magnitude earthquakes per day, with a few instances of higher magnitude (between magnitude 5 and 6) earthquakes that caused some damage.

In addition to the increased use of wastewater injection related to oil and natural gas production in the region, the geologic conditions in central Oklahoma are conducive to triggering seismic activity. The rock underlying the formations where disposal water is being injected in the region has existing faults that are susceptible to the changing stresses caused by fluid injection. Without these geologic conditions, induced seismicity would be much less common. For example, induced seismicity in the Bakken region of North Dakota and Montana is relatively rare.

❝ The USGS in 2017 issued an updated seismic hazard forecast for the central and eastern United States. This forecast attempts to estimate the chance of damage caused by earthquakes in the region of interest. The 2017 forecasted seismic rates are still significantly elevated compared with pre-2009 levels but lower than their peak in 2015.

The USGS report indicates that the recent decline may be related to decreased wastewater injection, because production in the region has decreased since the 2014 drop in oil prices. Actions by authorities in various states to regulate wastewater injection practices and restrict injection into the most sensitive areas may also be helping to reduce both the number and intensity of small earthquakes.

Give ’em a chance, folks. My experience with fossil fuel producers in Gulf States and the Permian Basin tell me nothing trumps profits. Not damage to the environment. Not light-to-medium damage to homes and businesses. It will take heavy-duty death and destruction to press these greedy bastards to find healthier ways to fill their pockets.

So, um, how did you celebrate Oilfield Prayer Day?

❝ In an announcement we only wish were part of an SNL cold open, Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin proclaimed Oct. 13 Oilfield Prayer Day. All you need to celebrate is rest, relaxation, and a solemn request to the heavens to make fracking great again.

❝ The official statewide initiative is the brainchild of Fallin and Reverend Tom Beddow, who runs the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma’s Oil Path Chaplains ministry. “We’re asking churches all over Oklahoma to open their doors, put on a pot of coffee, and pray for the oil field,” Beddow told The Oklahoman. While originally calling upon only Christians, Fallin revised the proclamation Monday to beseech oil-enthusiasts of all faiths.

❝ Last month, Oklahoma saw a 5.8 magnitude earthquake — the state’s largest in recorded history — in an area regularly injected with wastewater from oil and gas companies. That type of wastewater disposal has been linked to earthquakes. With that in mind, Oilfield Prayer Day seems a distasteful addition to a week filled with real holidays such as Indigenous People’s Day and Yom Kippur.

Given the dedication to 14th Century ideology practiced by both state and citizens in Oklahoma, none of this surprises me. There is little of our Constitutional separation of church and state at offer in that benighted state.

Quakes from Japan to Ecuador may signal a Mega-Quake coming


Boulder believed carried half-mile inland by prehistoric mega-tsunami

Geological experts from the United States and elsewhere noted Saturday that the earthquakes in Japan and Ecuador occurred along the Ring of Fire, which is a long chain of volcanoes and other tectonically active structures surrounding the Pacific.

This inevitably means that the two powerful earthquakes that rattled both Japan on Friday and Ecuador on Saturday are connected…

According to Roger Bilham, it’s not over yet. He insists the quakes in Ecuador and Japan are only an omen of bigger earthquakes to come. Also, quakes were reported this last week in the Philippines, Vanuatu and Myanmar. All countries hit by the recent quakes are on the Ring of Fire.

Bilham, a seismologist at the University of Colorado, told The Daily Express, “The current conditions might trigger at least four earthquakes greater than 8.0 in magnitude.”…

Bilham referenced the series of powerful earthquakes which struck Asia and South America in the past week and he said these will likely be followed by what he called a “mega” earthquake in the near future. He fell short of predicting when.

But he did say that if the mega quakes continue to be delayed, “the strain accumulated during the centuries provokes more catastrophic ‘mega’ earthquakes.”

The U.S. Geological Survey said “’mega’ earthquakes are rare, but not impossible.” The institute added that the Ring of Fire is an area where shifting plates that make up the earth’s crusts meet and is capable of generating a magnitude 10 earthquake, which would be tremendously devastating.

Oral history records – and geologic and archaeological evidence verifies trans-pacific tsunamis from mega events. Enormous tidal waves several stories high that swept across the Pacific affecting coastlines for miles inland. Except that in those prehistoric epochs there weren’t dozens of cities grown and clustered along those coastlines feeding the commerce of North and South America, Asia and the Pacific Islands. And tens of millions of people.

Oklahoma limits oil and gas wells to fight quakes

Facing a six-year barrage of increasingly large earthquakes, Oklahoma regulators are effectively ordering the state’s powerful oil-and-gas industry to substantially cut back the underground disposal of industry wastes that have caused the tremors across the state.

…The state Corporation Commission asked well operators in a Connecticut-size patch of central Oklahoma to reduce by 40 percent the amount of oil and gas wastes they are injecting deep into the earth. The directive covers 411 injection wells in a rough circle that includes Oklahoma City and points northeast…

The directives were phrased as requests, because the Corporation Commission’s legal authority to order cutbacks over such broad areas is unclear. The commission has come close to legal battles over the issue twice this year, and a third challenge would not be a surprise. The commission has pledged to take to court any operator that refuses to carry out the reductions…

The new orders come after three of the largest quakes in the state’s history, 4.7, 4.8 and 5.1-magnitude shocks that rocked a major oil field this year.

In 2010, when the tremors began, Oklahoma recorded three earthquakes at or above a magnitude of 3. Last year, it had 907. So far in 2016, it has had nearly 160.

Although critics contend that earthquakes have caused millions of dollars of damage, Oklahoma’s political leaders have long been reluctant to impose restrictions on an industry that dominates the state’s economy. Until last spring, Gov. Mary Fallin, a Republican, maintained that the cause of the tremors was unclear, and the state Legislature refused to consider legislation addressing the issue

Seismologists have long warned that the rise in the number of earthquakes in Oklahoma could presage a temblor that could cause extensive damage.

Corrupt politics still tend to be described in terms avoiding depicting the crooks and politicians involved as the source of corruption. Somehow, they create a milieu that mysteriously condemns a whole state to environmental disaster, an economic swamp wholly dependent on the profit system of a monoculture. Hogwash.

BTW, here’s another “feel sorry for the bastards who aren’t making millions this week” article from Bloomberg. We’re supposed to feel sorry for politicians who live in one of the posh communities now affected by the quakes. They bought those homes with their share of criminal profits. They condemned the state of Oklahoma to a monocultural economy — part of the swath of oil fiefdoms stretching from Louisiana to New Mexico.

They should be forced to take up pick and shovel and do the grunt work of sealing the wastewater wells. Do a little honest work for a change.

More earthquakes hit Oklahoma — concern rises as wastewater injection continues


Local damage in Edmonds homes over here

A 4.2 magnitude earthquake struck north Oklahoma City early on New Year’s Day, the latest in a series of temblors in the area in recent days that has prompted state regulators to call for more restrictions on oil and gas operators.

No injuries and only minor damage were reported with the quake, which struck at 5.39am on Friday near Edmond, about 16 miles north-east of Oklahoma City…

The city of Edmond reported about 4,400 power outages in the area shortly after the quake, but it was not clear if the two were related and power was restored within a few hours.

The temblor is the latest of at least a dozen since Tuesday, when a 4.3 magnitude earthquake was recorded.

Oklahoma has become one of the most earthquake-prone areas in the world, with the number of quakes magnitude 3.0 or greater skyrocketing from a few dozen in 2012 to more than 800 in 2015.

Many of the earthquakes are occurring in swarms in areas where injection wells pump salty wastewater – a byproduct of oil and gas production – deep into the earth. As a result, state regulators have begun reducing the volume or shutting down disposal wells in response.

…the Edmond area has not previously been associated with the activity.

The Oklahoma Corporation Commission issued a statement on Friday saying its Oil and Gas Division staff would have blah, blah, blah – to say on Monday.

Remember, folks. This is Oklahoma. Politicians oppose pretty much any policies not called for in the Old Testament. My experience in the oil industry suggests a few more buck$ will magically appear in campaign funds, decisions about sanity and safety will be pushed back until a disaster the size of a world-class tornado occurs. Even then, change will be managed county-by-county. Back-slappers with full wallets still rule Oil Country.

Quakes growing in frequency, strength, near world’s biggest oil storage hub

And they’re caused by oil-production wastewater injected back into the ground!

Cushing, OK Google Maps
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A sharp earthquake in central Oklahoma last weekend has raised fresh concern about the security of a vast crude oil storage complex, close to the quake’s center, that sits at the crossroads of the nation’s oil pipeline network.

The magnitude 4.5 quake struck Saturday afternoon about three miles northwest of Cushing, roughly midway between Oklahoma City and Tulsa. The town of about 8,000 people is home to the so-called Cushing Hub, a sprawling tank farm that is among the largest oil storage facilities in the world.

Oil pimps in Cushing say it is the largest.

Scientists reported in a paper published online last month that a large earthquake near the storage hub “could seriously damage storage tanks and pipelines.” Saturday’s quake continues a worrisome pattern of moderate quakes, suggesting that a large earthquake is more than a passing concern, the lead author of that study, Daniel McNamara, said in an interview.

“When we see these fault systems producing multiple magnitude 4s, we start to get concerned that it could knock into higher magnitudes,” he said. “Given the number of magnitude 4s here, it’s a high concern.”

…Major tank ruptures could cause serious environmental damage, raise the risk of fire and other disasters and disrupt the flow of oil to refineries nationwide, said Dr. McNamara, a research geophysicist at the National Earthquake Information Center in Colorado.

The Cushing quake is among the largest of thousands of temblors that have rocked central and northern Oklahoma in the past five years, largely set off by the injection of oil and gas industry wastes deep into the earth. The watery wastes effectively lubricate cracks, allowing rocks under intense pressure to slip past one another, causing quakes.

The tens of millions of barrels of injected wastewater have helped make Oklahoma the second most seismically active state, behind Alaska. Although quakes have damaged or destroyed buildings and roads and, in a few instances, injured people, regulators do not have the authority to seriously curb waste disposal, and politicians in a state dominated by the energy industry have made no move to give it to them.

The state had three earthquakes of magnitude 3 or greater in 2009. Last year, it had 585, and this year’s total exceeds that.

Politicians – and the citizens who elect those politicians – who dedicate their service to lies and those who profit from lies may have lucrative careers for as long as they last. The fools who continue to vote them back into office are leaving their children and grandchildren a heritage of nature thrown directly into imbalance by fossil fuel profiteers.

Sometimes you not only get what you want – you get what you deserve.

Earthquakes force Dutch government to cut gas field production


Let in a little winter air?

The Dutch government has ordered a further tightening of gas production at Groningen, Europe’s largest gas field, in response to a spate of earthquakes that have caused extensive property damage in the Netherlands’ northernmost province.

Output at the field, the world’s 10th largest, will be capped at 30 billion cubic metres (bcm) for the whole of 2015, Economy Minister Henk Kamp told reporters on Tuesday. At the beginning of the year, production of 39.4 bcm was planned.

“The earthquakes are still there, and we will have to reckon with earthquakes in the future,” Kamp later told Reuters. “We can do two things to preserve safety: reduce the production of natural gas and strengthen houses, and we’re doing both.”…

Which tells us something about the size of profits – and how priorities are sorted. Even though Kamp says, “We’ll do whatever is necessary for the safety of the people in Groningen.”

In February, output was cut to 16.5 bcm for the first half of the year after the Dutch Safety Board said gas companies and state regulators had failed to take the threat of earthquakes seriously enough.

In the second half of the year, output will be capped at 13.5 bcm, with stored gas tapped if necessary to make up for any shortfall…

Analyst Oliver Sanderson of Thomson Reuters Point Carbon said reaction to the planned reduction had been relatively muted because it was announced in June, during the summer…

“Last time there was a cold winter, two years ago, Groningen was producing at around 54 bcm,” he said…”Where is Europe going to get 25 bcm?”

He said that with Groningen producing at 30 bcm in a cold winter, the shortfall in Western Europe would have to be met mostly with Russian gas, supplemented with some Norwegian gas and liquefied natural gas imported by tanker.

Try selling that in Brussels,” he said, referring to the political sensitivity of European governments increasing, rather than lessening, their reliance on Russian energy.

Sometimes, circumstances make it a little easier to understand some nations keeping commercial and trade policies separate from the latest political conflicts.

We don’t know enough about quake, tsunami hazards, along Southern California

While their attention may be inland on the San Andreas Fault, residents of coastal Southern California could be surprised by very large earthquakes – and even tsunamis – from several major faults that lie offshore…

The latest research into the little known, fault-riddled, undersea landscape off of Southern California and northern Baja California has revealed more worrisome details about a tectonic train wreck in the Earth’s crust with the potential for magnitude 7.9 to 8.0 earthquakes. The new study supports the likelihood that these vertical fault zones have displaced the seafloor in the past, which means they could send out tsunami-generating pulses towards the nearby coastal mega-city of Los Angeles and neighboring San Diego.

“We’re dealing with continental collision,” said geologist Mark Legg of Legg Geophysical in Huntington Beach, California, regarding the cause of the offshore danger. “That’s fundamental. That’s why we have this mess of a complicated logjam…”

The logjam Legg referred to is composed of blocks of the Earth’s crust caught in the ongoing tectonic battle between the North American tectonic plate and the Pacific plate…The mostly underwater part of this region is called the California Continental Borderland, and includes the Channel Islands.

…What they were searching for are signs, like those seen along the San Andreas, that indicate how much the faults have slipped over time and whether some of that slippage caused some of the seafloor to thrust upwards.

What they found along the Santa Cruz-Catalina Ridge Fault are ridges, valleys and other clear signs that the fragmented, blocky crust has been lifted upward, while also slipping sideways like the plates along the San Andreas Fault do. Further out to sea, the Ferrelo Fault zone showed thrust faulting – which is an upwards movement of one side of the fault. The vertical movement means that blocks of crust are being compressed as well as sliding horizontally relative to each other-what Legg describes as “transpression…”

As Southern California’s pile-up continues, the plate movements that build up seismic stress on the San Andreas are also putting stress on the long Santa Cruz-Catalina Ridge and Ferrelo Faults. And there is no reason to believe that those faults and others in the Borderlands can’t rupture in the same manner as the San Andreas, said Legg…

NOAA was working on complete high-resolution bathymetry of the U.S. Exclusive Economic Zone – the waters within 200 miles of shore – until the budget was cut, said Legg. That left out Southern California and left researchers like himself using whatever bits and pieces of smaller surveys to assemble a picture of what’s going on in the Borderland, he explained.

“We’ve got high resolution maps of the surface of Mars,” Legg said, “yet we still don’t have decent bathymetry for our own backyard.”

Just in case our readers in the Southland didn’t have enough to worry about. 🙂

RTFA for the scary details.

Oil baron wants Oklahoma University to stop studying quakes, fire scientists

harold hamm

Oil tycoon Harold Hamm told a University of Oklahoma dean last year that he wanted certain scientists there dismissed who were studying links between oil and gas activity and the state’s nearly 400-fold increase in earthquakes, according to the dean’s e-mail recounting the conversation.

Hamm, the billionaire founder and chief executive officer of Oklahoma City-based Continental Resources, is a major donor to the university, which is the home of the Oklahoma Geological Survey. He has vigorously disputed the notion that he tried to pressure the survey’s scientists…Hamm was quoted as saying…”I don’t try to push anybody around.”…

Yet an e-mail obtained from the university by Bloomberg News…says Hamm used a blunt approach during a 90-minute meeting last year with the dean whose department includes the geological survey.

“Mr. Hamm is very upset at some of the earthquake reporting to the point that he would like to see select OGS staff dismissed,” wrote Larry Grillot, the dean of the university’s Mewbourne College of Earth and Energy, in a July 16, 2014, e-mail to colleagues at the university. Hamm also expressed an interest in joining a search committee charged with finding a new director for the geological survey, according to Grillot’s e-mail. And, the dean wrote, Hamm indicated that he would be “visiting with Governor [Mary] Fallin on the topic of moving the OGS out of the University of Oklahoma.”

Kristin Thomas, a spokeswoman for Continental, says the company has no comment.

Hamm’s meeting with Grillot resulted in no apparent changes at the university. Reached by telephone, Grillot confirmed his discussion with Hamm. He says…he never discussed Hamm’s displeasure with OGS staffers…”I didn’t want it to impact their day-to-day work,” he says. “Foremost for us is academic freedom.” Grillot adds that Hamm was not added to the search committee for the new OGS director…

Hamm has been a generous donor to the University of Oklahoma, including a 2011 gift of $20 million for a diabetes research center named after the oilman. University President David Boren, a former U.S. senator, sits on the board of directors of Hamm’s Continental Resources…

Scientists overwhelmingly attribute the sharp rise in earthquakes across swaths of the central U.S. to the oil and gas industry, primarily the deep underground disposal of vast amounts of wastewater, which is produced with oil and gas. The injected water can alter underground pore pressures and cause faults to slip…

In Oklahoma, where the number of earthquakes of a magnitude 3.0 or greater increased from an average of 1.6 a year before 2009 to 585 last year, researchers at the OGS have been slower than many others to draw a link between the industry and the earthquakes.

Nice to see that academic freedom is still respected in Oklahoma.

Is everyone confident things will remain this way? Hardly.

Increase in quakes from fossil fuel boom prompts new USGS hazard maps


Drilling in Weld County, Colorado

Earthquakes of magnitude 3 or greater are 100 times more likely now than in 2008 in regions of Colorado and seven states that are hotbeds for oil and gas drilling, federal geologists said Wednesday.

This has prompted the government to prepare new seismic-risk maps for construction, insurance and public safety.

The question of who bears the costs of possible damage and quake-resistant construction has yet to be decided. But a U.S. Geological Survey team, based in Colorado, also has started a series of meetings with engineers and designers…

“If you live in one of these areas of induced seismicity, you should educate yourself and those around you for protective actions you can take,” Mark Petersen, chief of the agency’s National Seismic Hazard Modeling Project said…

While most industry-induced quakes result from disposal of wastewater, the scientists said they’ve documented quakes caused by hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, the process used to stimulate release of oil and gas from deep shale rock formations.

USGS scientist Bill Ellsworth said quakes linked to fracking are short-lived…

USGS researchers are investigating whether industry-triggered quakes could spur bigger earthquakes along natural geological fault lines.

There’s no evidence that industry could cause quakes up to magnitude 7, the level associated with catastrophic natural quakes. “But we cannot rule that out,” USGS scientist Justin Rubinstein said…

Insurance companies see quakes in Colorado as an emerging risk. There’s no claims history, said Carole Walker, director of the Rocky Mountain Insurance Industry Association.

“We hope people will purchase insurance if there’s an increased risk. If insurance isn’t purchased, you don’t have the coverage for it and it can become a litigation issue,” Walker said. “A business or homeowner could sue for damages, and they would have to prove the causation of the risk.”

While the insurance industry statement sounds like a copout turned into a sales pitch, they have the bucks to carry forward a lawsuit against oil and gas drillers. Even if they charge penurious rates – and I have no idea what earthquake insurance in the Rocky Mountains would cost – they will be likely to attempt to recoup their expenses by suing whoever is handy.

And that establishes the baseline for future suits.