Fracking and Earthquakes: A Connection

The 5.6 magnitude earthquake that struck northern Oklahoma on 09/03/16 has again drawn attention to the connection between earthquakes and oil production by way of fracking.

To be specific, waste-water injection by oil producers is a prime suspect in the cause of the numerous earthquakes that Oklahoma has experienced during the last 10 years.

Such waste water is a byproduct of the fracking process. Oil producers in Oklahoma routinely dispose of the waste water by injecting it back into the ground.

From National Geographic: “The fracking process, in which water, chemicals and sand are used to crack through rock to reach oil and gas deposits, results in large amounts of wastewater that has a high salt content and contains a variety of contaminants. Some of the wastewater is treated for reuse, while the rest is injected into deep disposal wells that are drilled thousands of feet into the ground. The EPA estimates that there are 144,000 such wells receiving more than 2 billion gallons (7.6 billion liters) of fluid per day.”

This means of disposal has been linked to Oklahoma’s earthquakes. However, Oklahoma’s political leaders have been reluctant to even acknowledge such a link.

After the recent earthquake struck, Oklahoma’s junior senator James Lankford visited the town of Pawnee, the earthquake’s epicenter. Talking to reporters, Lankford denied any knowledge of the aforementioned link.

From KOTV in Tulsa: “U.S. Sen. James Lankford applauded the local response, but did not make a connection between the wells there and the earthquakes. “We’re in an historic fault line,” Lankford said while visiting the town. “We know that in Oklahoma, but it’s also not been active in a long time, so they’re trying to determine is this a cycle? Are some of these related to the injection wells and some of them are not? Are all of them related? No one has any idea.””

No one has any idea? Where has Lankford been during the last ten years, living under a rock?

A 02/18/16 Time article states, “Spent drilling water injected back into the ground for storage at high pressure, some scientists believe, may be forcing fault lines under pressure to shift. Katie Keranen, a geophysics professor at Cornell, says “the evidence is strong” that the earthquakes are caused by fracking and wastewater disposal, both of which have become more frequent amid today’s boom in oil and gas drilling.”

A 03/10/2015 CBS News story states, “A paper in Science last year concluded that four of the highest-volume disposal wells in Oklahoma are likely behind 20 percent of hundreds of quakes since 2008 east of the Rocky Mountains. And a 2013 study in the journal Geology concluded that a 2011 earthquake in the tiny remote town of Prague – a 5.6 magnitude temblor that was the largest in Oklahoma’s history – was due to the injection of wastewater underground.”

The U.S. Geological Survey reports, “Fracking causes extremely small earthquakes, but they are almost always too small to be a safety concern. In addition to natural gas, fracking fluids and salt water trapped in the same formation as the gas are returned to the surface. These wastewaters are frequently disposed of by injection into deep wells. The injection of wastewater and salt water into the subsurface can cause earthquakes that are large enough to be felt and may cause damage.”

So, yes, there is a connection between the injection of fracking waste-water and the earthquakes that have been striking Oklahoma, and Oklahoma state officials know it.

From KOTV in Tulsa (09/03/16): “The Oklahoma Corporation Commission has directed dozens of wastewater disposal wells within an approximate 725-square-mile radius of the epicenter the Oklahoma earthquake to shut down. The commission said about 37 wells are included in the directive, which was issued following the 5.6-magnitude earthquake that struck Saturday morning about nine miles northwest of Pawnee in north, central Oklahoma. . . Commission spokesman Matt Skinner said the wells were directed to shut down due to scientific links that the increase to the underground disposal of wastewater from oil and gas production induces earthquakes.”

1906 San Francisco Earthquake

1906 San Francisco Earthquake

Disclosure: This post’s author lives in Oklahoma approximately 62 miles from the epicenter of the 09/03/16 Oklahoma earthquake.

Weekend Caption Contest™ Winners September 2, 2016
Star Spangled Nonsense