Oklahoma: 100 years of waste water earthquakes

In Oklahoma, since 2009 there has been a sharp increase in earthquakes brought about by the  use of waste water injection wells used by fracking companies as they conduct High Volume Hydraulic Fracturing (HVHF), other wise known as Unconventional Shale Gas Extraction (USGE), or fracking.

However, the US Geological Survey decided to investigate historical earthquake data for the state of Oklahoma and found that there have been induced (man-made) earthquakes that were caused by the process of waste water well injection practices dating back to the 1920’s

This is not to say that Unconventional Shale Gas Extraction was responsible for these historical earthquakes, for that particular process of shale gas extraction did not exist back then.

However, waste water injection wells are used in the current USGE process to store waste water from fracking underground. Waste water injection wells have been found to create earthquakes today. It has now been found that they have done so since the 1920’s.

A deep water injection well, which can be used for fracking waste water, or municipal waste water.
A deep water injection well.

The new study shows that: “it is possible that earthquakes were induced by oil production activities in Oklahoma as early as the 1920s, and several lines of evidence support our conclusion that much of the earthquake activity in the 1950s and 1980–1990s was induced.”

The study also states that earthquake activity since 2009 is: “not consistent with the level of natural rate fluctuations seen in the past.”

The study shows that earthquakes from the 1950’s correlated with oil and gas permits granted at the time, and near the location.

Key findings of the report include:

  • seismicity rates since 2009 surpass previously observed rates throughout the twentieth century.
  • Several lines of evidence suggest that most of the significant earthquakes in Oklahoma during the twentieth century were likely induced by oil production activities, as they exhibit statistically significant temporal and spatial correspondence with disposal wells, and intensity measurements for the 1952 El Reno earthquake and possibly the 1956 Tulsa County earthquake follow the pattern observed in other induced earthquakes.
  • There is evidence for a low level of tectonic seismicity in southeastern Oklahoma associated with the Ouachita structural belt. The 22 October 1882 Choctaw Nation earthquake, for which we estimate Mw 4.8, occurred in this zone.

As we discussed before, Unconventional Shale Gas Extraction has been officially linked with man made earthquakes due to the use of waste water injection wells.

Oklahoma geological survey confirm position on earthquake swarms related to UGEE

On february 17th 2014, the Oklahoma Geological Survey (OGS), which conducts research and education on the states geology and mineral resources, have released a position statement on the subject of earthquakes swarms in the state of Oklahoma as a result of Unconventional Gas Extraction and Exploration (UGEE) practices.

In the position statement, the OGS confirms recent data found on the subject and outlines future monitoring programs that look to understand better anthropogenic seismicity in the state over the future.

OKLAHOMA

In regards to current data, the statement confirms:
– Since earthquake monitoring began in Oklahoma 40 years ago, there were on average
50 earthquakes per year.
– Since the arrival of unconventional shale gas extraction in 2009-2014, earthquake activity
for the five year period is 40x stronger than previous 30 years combined.
– Seismicity of recent ‘felt’ earthquakes is greater now than over the last 100 years.
– Seismic activity, both historical and recent occur cross major geological paleo-structures.

In relation to the link between UGEE and earthquakes:
– Acknowledgement that scientists confirm that earthquakes are related to subfurface withdrawl and the waste management practice of fluid injection wells.
– Despite the fact that shallow saltwater injection wells are used in Oklahoma, the earthquakes experienced are located far deeper underground.
– There may be a correlation in time and space between earthquakes and fracking wastewater injection wells located within 8km from one another.

To read the position statement in full, including information on future plans for study and research, click here.

To read recent, scientific peer reviewed studies relating earthquake swarms to fracking waste water fluid injection wells, click here.