News / Science & Technology

Oklahoma Earthquake Surge Linked to Gas Wastewater Wells

Seismic Surge Linked to Gas Industry Waste Wells in Oklahomai
X
Rosanne Skirble
July 03, 2014 11:47 PM
Earthquakes are shaking the Midwestern state of Oklahoma, more than any other state in the country, even quake-prone California. Before 2009, Oklahoma had about two earthquakes of magnitude 3.0 or greater annually. So far this year, the number has skyrocketed to more than 200. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, a new study finds clues to that increase in underground wells drilled by the gas and oil industry.

Seismic Surge Linked to Gas Industry Waste Wells in Oklahoma

Rosanne Skirble

There's a surge in earthquakes in Oklahoma, and a new study finds injecting wastewater into the ground, a common practice in oil and gas operations, is triggering those quakes.
 
Katie Keranen was at home in 2011 when the 5.6-magnitude earthquake, the biggest ever recorded in Oklahoma, struck.

“It shook my house pretty strongly. I was actually mildly scared," Keranen said. "You could look up and see the top of the roof shaking.”    

The earthquake certainly caught Keranen’s attention. Now a geophysics professor at Cornell University, she led a study to examine the huge expanding swarm of quakes in Oklahoma.

'We wanted to figure out what the root cause was, what was actually causing the entire part of central Oklahoma to light up,” she said.

Keranen suspected that gas and oil wells had something to do with it. Oklahoma has some 4,400 underground disposal wells, where wastewater is injected back deep in the earth after drilling.  Her team calculated how easily the fluid moved through the rocks and the rise in water pressure at 89 well sites.

“Once we had the earthquake locations and the fluid pressure increases in space and time, we were able to correlate those two together and figure out how much fluid pressure went up at each earthquake location from those wells," she said. "And what we were able to find is that the fluid pressure at the earthquakes went up enough to trigger the earthquakes in basically each case.”

Four highly active wells accounted for most of the increased water pressure.  Yet that rise was enough to trigger a front of seismic activity tens of kilometers away.  

Keranen hopes the study results, reported in Science, can help the oil and gas industry decide how to better manage and treat wastewater to mitigate any impact.  
 
"I think that industry can learn basically, what are the largest risks, what are the risk factors for wells for triggering earthquakes, and then design the wells to keep those sub-surface pressures lower to lower that risk of potentially triggering a quake,” she said.

Earthquakes Swarm in Central Oklahoma
Earthquakes Swarm in Central Oklahomai
|| 0:00:00
...
 
🔇
X

The study also highlights the value of monitoring water pressure and seismic activity at injection wells, especially those near major faults.  

The oil and gas industry takes the issue very seriously, and will look at Keranen's findings, says Shawn Bennett, a spokesman for the Independent Petroleum Association of America, which represents oil and natural gas producers.  He says the industry is actively engaged in studying the problem. 

"Currently there are regulators from several states including Ohio, where I am from, who have formed the States Induced Seismicity Work Group in order to address this extremely rare occurrence,” he said. “ The oil and gas industry always looks forward to working with them to ensure that the safe production of our oil and gas resources are done in a proper manner."

Bennett says mechanisms are in place to mitigate earthquake risk at disposal well sites. It's a matter of finding out which approaches work best and then implementing them in a responsible manner.

You May Like

Ukraine Purges Interior Ministry Leadership With Pro-Russian Ties

Interior Minister Avakov says 91 people 'in positions of leadership' have been fired, including 8 generals found to have links to past pro-Moscow governments More

US Airlines Point to Additional Problems of any Ebola Travel Ban

Airline officials note that even under travel ban, they may not be able to determine where passenger set out from, as there are no direct flights from Liberia, Guinea or Sierra Leone More

Nigerian President to Seek Another Term

Goodluck Jonathan has faced intense criticism for failing to stop Boko Haram militants More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Talks to Resume on Winter Gas for Ukrainei
X
Al Pessin
October 25, 2014 4:21 PM
Ukrainian and Russian officials will meet again next week in an effort to settle their dispute over natural gas supplies that threatens to leave Ukraine short of heating fuel for the coming winter. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London the dispute is complex, and has both economic and geopolitical dimensions.
Video

Video Talks to Resume on Winter Gas for Ukraine

Ukrainian and Russian officials will meet again next week in an effort to settle their dispute over natural gas supplies that threatens to leave Ukraine short of heating fuel for the coming winter. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London the dispute is complex, and has both economic and geopolitical dimensions.
Video

Video Smugglers Offer Cheap Passage From Turkey to Syria

Smugglers in Turkey offer a relatively cheap passage across the border into Syria. Ankara has stepped up efforts to stem the flow of foreign fighters who want to join Islamic State militants fighting for control of the Syrian border city of Kobani. But porous borders and border guards who can be bribed make illegal border crossings quite easy. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video China Political Meeting Seeks to Improve Rule of Law

China’s communist leaders will host a top level political meeting this week, called the Fourth Plenum, and for the first time in the party’s history, rule of law will be a key item on the agenda. Analysts and Chinese media reports say the meetings could see the approval of long-awaited measures aimed at giving courts more independence and include steps to enhance an already aggressive and high-reaching anti-corruption drive. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video After Decades of Pressure, Luxembourg Drops Bank Secrecy Rules

European Union finance ministers have reached a breakthrough agreement that will make it more difficult for tax cheats to hide their money. The new legislation, which had been blocked for years by countries with a reputation as tax havens, was approved last week after Luxembourg and Austria agreed to lift their vetoes. But as Mil Arcega reports, it doesn’t mean tax cheats have run out of places to keep their money hidden.
Video

Video Kobani Refugees Welcome, Turkey Criticizes, US Airdrop

Residents of Kobani in northern Syria have welcomed the airdrop of weapons, ammunition and medicine to Kurdish militia who are resisting the seizure of their city by Islamic State militants. The Turkish government, however, has criticized the operation. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from southeastern Turkey, across the border from Kobani.
Video

Video US ‘Death Cafes’ Put Focus on the Finale

In contemporary America, death usually is a topic to be avoided. But the growing “death café” movement encourages people to discuss their fears and desires about their final moments. VOA’s Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Ebola Orphanage Opens in Sierra Leone

Sierra Leone's first Ebola orphanage has opened in the Kailahun district. Hundreds of children orphaned since the beginning of the Ebola outbreak face stigma and rejection with nobody to care for them. Adam Bailes reports for VOA about a new interim care center that's aimed at helping the growing number of children affected by Ebola.

All About America

AppleAndroid