Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Okla. 2nd in quakes since 2009; is drilling to blame?

The argument over whether drilling has caused earthquakes in Oklahoma continues, as a state not typically known for seismic activity ranks second in the number of quakes since 2009. The increase in includes a rash of no less than 16 quakes one day in November in the Oklahoma City area.

"Since 2009, nearly one out of every 10 earthquakes in the contiguous United States has been in Oklahoma, according to an EnergyWire analysis of U.S. Geological Survey data," Mike Soraghan reports for the news service. "The analysis looked at onshore quakes of magnitude 3.0 or greater, the strength at which most earthquakes can be felt and reliably recorded." Oklahoma has had 240 quakes since 2009, second to California's 1,486, but well ahead of Nevada, third with 196. (EnergyWire graphic)

"Other states have also seen an increase in earthquakes amid a boom in oil and gas production across the United States," driven by horizontal hydraulic fracrturing of deep, dense shale beds, Soraghan notes. "State officials and researchers have linked injection of drilling waste to quakes in Arkansas, Colorado, Ohio and elsewhere. In Texas, a recent series of quakes northwest of Fort Worth has some local elected officials questioning whether deep injection of drilling waste might be to blame. But for whatever reason, the phenomenon has been particularly acute in Oklahoma."

Residents affected by the quakes aren't holding back when it comes to assessing blame. Jonny Hickman, who lives about 1.5 miles from a well, told Soraghan, "Forty-five years I've lived on this hill. I never felt anything until they started injecting that salt water." Neighbor Tony Bartee, who has a crack in his outside wall, told Soraghan, "You got a lot of big money sitting there,. That fracking is a big deal. If they say for sure that's what's causing it, it's gonna cost those boys a lot of money."

And that, some think, is the problem. Drilling brings in lots of money to the state, and not everyone is quick to point fingers at the practice. Mike Terry, president of the Oklahoma Independent Petroleum Association, told Soraghan, "There are still many unknowns and uncertainties in regards to seismic activity in central Oklahoma. Researchers in Oklahoma, notably Austin Holland with the Oklahoma Geological Survey, have repeatedly said the increase in seismic activity cannot be fully explained by man-made causes." (Read more)

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