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

Republican Majority in Congress Off to Rough Start

Standoff over Homeland Security funding exposes philosophical, tactical problems within party More

Pakistan Blocks Baloch Activist from US Trip

Human Rights Commission of Pakistan slams Islamabad officials for stopping people from leaving country to attend human rights conference More

Video Muslims Long Thrived in North Carolina Before Students Killed

Idyll shattered February 10, when three Muslim university students living in Chapel Hill were gunned down by a neighbor 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.
Sierra Leone Ebola Orphans Face Another Crisisi
X
March 06, 2015 12:28 AM
There's growing concern about the future of an orphanage run by a British charity in Sierra Leone, after a staff member and his wife died this week from Ebola. The Saint George Foundation Orphanage in Freetown is now in quarantine, with more than 20 children and seven staff in lock-down. The BBC has agreed to share Ebola-related material with Voice of America because of the difficulties faced by media organizations reporting the crisis. Clive Myrie reports from Sierra Leone.
Video

Video Sierra Leone Ebola Orphans Face Another Crisis

There's growing concern about the future of an orphanage run by a British charity in Sierra Leone, after a staff member and his wife died this week from Ebola. The Saint George Foundation Orphanage in Freetown is now in quarantine, with more than 20 children and seven staff in lock-down. The BBC has agreed to share Ebola-related material with Voice of America because of the difficulties faced by media organizations reporting the crisis. Clive Myrie reports from Sierra Leone.
Video

Video Growing Concerns Over Whether Myanmar’s Next Elections Will Be Fair

Myanmar has scheduled national elections for November that are also expected to include a landmark referendum on the country's constitution. But there are growing concerns over whether the government is taking the necessary steps to prepare for a free and fair vote. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman was recently in Myanmar and files this report from our Southeast Asia bureau in Bangkok.
Video

Video Nigeria’s Ogonis Divided Over Resuming Oil Production

More than two decades ago, Nigeria’s Ogoni people forced Shell oil company to cease drilling on their land, saying it was polluting the environment. Now, some Ogonis say it’s time for the oil to flow once again. Chris Stein reports from Kegbara Dere, Nigeria.
Video

Video Winter Weather Strikes Eastern US...Again!

A new wintry blast has hit more than 20 states in the U.S. Midwest and Mid-Atlantic region, adding more snow to the piles from previous storms. Tired of shoveling snow, breaking the ice and dealing with accidents, flight delays and property damage, most Americans hope this is the last bout of cold for the season. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Muslims Long Thrived in N Carolina Before Slaying of 3 Students

The killings of three Muslim students in North Carolina early last month came as Muslims across the United States have felt under siege, partly as a result of terrorist attacks being committed internationally in the name of their faith. But Muslims have long thrived in university cities in this part of the American South. VOA's Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Fuel Shortages in Nigeria Threaten Election Campaigns

Nigeria is suffering a gas shortage as the falling oil price has affected the country’s ability to import and distribute refined fuels. Coming just weeks before scheduled March 28 elections, the shortage could have a big impact on the campaign, as Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA.
Video

Video Report: Human Rights in Annexed Crimea Deteriorating

A new report by Freedom House and the Atlantic Council of the United States says the human rights situation in Crimea has deteriorated since the peninsula was annexed by Russia in March of last year. The report says the new authorities in Crimea are discriminating against minorities, suppressing freedom of expression, and forcing residents to assume Russian citizenship or leave. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video 50 Years Later African-Americans See New Voting Rights Battles Ahead

Thousands of people will gather to mark the 50th anniversary of a historic civil rights march on March 7th in Selma, Alabama. In 1965, dozens of people were seriously injured during the event known as “Bloody Sunday,” after police attacked African-American demonstrators demanding voting rights. VOA’s Chris Simkins introduces us to some civil rights pioneers who are still fighting for voting rights in Alabama more than 50 years later.
Video

Video Craft Brewers Taking Hold in US Beer Market

Since the 1950’s, the U.S. beer industry has been dominated by a handful of huge breweries. But in recent years, the rapid rise of small craft breweries has changed the American market and, arguably, the way people drink beer. VOA’s Jeff Custer reports.
Video

Video Video Claims to Show Shia Forces in Iraq Executing Sunni Boy

A graphic mobile phone video is spreading on the Internet, claiming to show Iraqi forces or Shia militia executing a handcuffed Sunni boy. Experts have yet to verify the video, but already Islamic State followers are publicizing it across social media, playing on deep-rooted sectarian fears. VOA’s Jeff Seldin reports.
Video

Video Ukrainian Authorities Struggle to Secure a Divided Mariupol

Since last month's cease-fire went into effect, shelling around the port city of Mariupol has decreased, but it is thought pro-Russian separatists remain poised to attack. For the city’s authorities, a major challenge is gaining the trust of residents, while at the same time rooting out informants who are passing sensitive information to the rebels. Patrick Wells reports for VOA.
Video

Video Myanmar's Traditional Fashion Choices Endure

The sartorial choices of Myanmar’s men and women quickly catch the eye of any visitor to the tropical Southeast Asian country. But at a time when Myanmar’s political and economic opening is bringing affordable western fashions to the masses, will the country’s unique fashion trends endure? VOA Correspondent Steve Herman in Yangon explores that question.

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More