Friday, June 27, 2014

Oklahoma residents demand state do something to stop earthquakes linked to injection wells

Hundreds of Edmond, Okla., residents crowded a meeting hall Thursday to demand officials take action to stop the state's surge in earthquakes that many have inked to injection wells. But state officials said there isn't enough evidence to link hydraulic fracturing to quakes, and because of the state's limited history of seismic activity, they lack the resources needed to diagnose the cause of the earthquakes, Jay Marks reports for The Oklahoman. (Oklahoman photo by Sarah Phipps: Edmond residents line up to ask questions Thursday at a town meeting.)

Oklahoma recently surpassed California in most earthquakes in the lower 48 states. From 1978 to 2008, before the oil and gas boom hit Oklahoma, the state averaged two earthquakes per year. But from October 2013 to early May of this year, Oklahoma had 189 earthquakes of magnitude 3.0 or higher.

Six earthquakes of magnitude 2.5 or higher occurred in Oklahoma on Thursday, Mike Lee reports for EnergyWire. Despite the rash of earthquakes since the fracking boom began, Matt Skinner, a spokesman for the state Corporation Commission, told Lee, "We're not about to take a legally operating business and put them out of business without all the data that we need under our law."

But "the U.S. Geological Survey and the Oklahoma Geological Survey said May 5 that injection wells used to get rid of oil and gas wastewater are a 'likely contributing factor' to the swarm of earthquakes in the state. They also warned that the possibility of a damaging magnitude-5.5 or greater earthquake has gone up significantly," Lee writes. Numerous other studies have also linked injection wells to quakes. In April, Ohio officials said fracking was the probable cause of a series of quakes in one county.

At Thursday's meeting "Oklahoma Geological Survey seismologist Austin Holland said there is no way to know what has caused the unprecedented increase in earthquakes in Oklahoma," Marks writes. "Holland said stopping the use of injection wells, which pump water deep underground, would not be recommended from a scientific standpoint because that would rob researchers of valuation data that could help them figure out how to prevent earthquakes." (Read more)

The state is taking some measures to try to curb the problem, Lee writes. "New rules on injection wells, approved by Republican Gov. Mary Fallin last week, will require operators to perform more frequent mechanical integrity tests of disposal wells and keep daily records of the amount of fluids they inject and the pressures they use." (Read more)

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