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earthquakes

U.S. Geological Survey

Previously unmapped faults in Oklahoma could be contributing to an intense uptick in earthquakes triggered by oil-field wastewater disposal, a new study suggests.

Joe Wertz / StateImpact Oklahoma

A district court judge has approved class-action status for a lawsuit accusing an Tulsa oil company of being responsible for damage caused by earthquakes.

Oklahoma Corporation Commission

Oklahoma oil and gas regulators are expanding rules designed to reduce earthquake activity triggered by fracking. Updated guidelines released Tuesday by the Oklahoma Corporation Commission put new requirements on companies operating in two of the state’s most booming oil fields.

Joe Wertz / StateImpact Oklahoma

Oklahoma experienced a dramatic drop in earthquakes in 2017 — a decline likely due, in part, to regulations limiting activity at oil-field disposal wells, scientists and experts say. New research suggests those regulations might be reducing some quakes more than others.

It’s been two years since state oil and gas regulators adopted a broad regional plan that limits the amount of wastewater pumped into disposal wells in quake-prone areas. The good news: It appears to be working. After peaking in 2015, earthquakes became a lot less frequent.

Joe Wertz / StateImpact Oklahoma

The first lawsuit filed against Oklahoma oil companies over earthquakes is now settled.

Sandra Ladra was injured by rocks that shook loose from her fireplace during the 5.7-magnitude temblor that struck near the city of Prague in 2011. The quake is one of the strongest ever recorded in Oklahoma and was the first one scientists linked to wastewater disposal wells used by the oil and gas industry.

New Research Questions Forecasted Earthquake Slowdown

Aug 18, 2017
An oil well near a neighborhood in Yukon, Okla.
Becky McCray / Flickr Creative Commons

A new research paper suggests Oklahoma’s earthquake hazard might not taper off as quickly or as significantly as scientists previously predicted.

The energy industry practice of pumping toxic waste-fluid byproducts of oil and gas production into underground disposal wells is thought to be fueling Oklahoma’s earthquake surge. This activity peaked in 2015 and slowed due to regulations and low oil prices.

Electricians complete last-minute work at Newfield's Barton Water Recycling Facility near Calumet, Oklahoma.
Joe Wertz / StateImpact Oklahoma

A key part in solving the state’s earthquake crisis is the long-term management of an enormous amount of oil-field wastewater likely triggering the shaking. The energy industry is working to solve this billion-barrel-a-year problem, and one promising alternative to risky disposal wells is reusing wastewater instead of pumping it underground.

An earthquake of preliminary magnitude 4.2 hit central Oklahoma on Wednesday night, the U.S. Geological Survey said, the sixth earthquake to affect the area in just over 24 hours.

Four hours later, a less intense earthquake of a preliminary magnitude 3.5 struck the area in the early hours of Thursday.

Researchers Nate Stevens and Hannah Rabinowitz calibrate a seismometer near Pawnee, Oklahoma.
Joe Wertz / StateImpact Oklahoma

The strongest earthquake ever recorded in Oklahoma may have been triggered by oil and gas activity that started and stopped years before the shaking, newly published research suggests.

Joe Wertz / StateImpact Oklahoma

The most practical alternative to earthquake-triggering oilfield disposal wells is for energy companies to reuse the wastewater instead of injecting it underground, leaders of a research group working on behalf of the state said Wednesday.

Avoiding Injection

Crude prices are on the rise, drilling activity is ramping up, and Oklahoma’s oil and gas regulator wants to limit the volume of wastewater energy companies pump into underground disposal wells, an activity scientists say is fueling the state’s earthquake boom.

 

The Oklahoma Corporation Commission on Friday detailed the new restrictions, which add to those already in place in a 15,000 square-mile region that covers parts of central and northwestern Oklahoma.

Earthquake damage in downtown Cushing after a 5.0 magnitude temblor struck the city November 6, 2016
Joe Wertz / StateImpact Oklahoma

Attorneys are asking a district court judge to approve a class-action lawsuit against oil and gas companies after a 5.0-magnitude earthquake rattled near the town of Cushing in November. 

Though the rate of earthquakes “has declined from its peak,” the 5.8-magnitude earthquake near Pawnee has made 2016 the most seismically active year on record “as measured by seismic energy release,” Oklahoma Geological Survey Director Jeremy Boak tells the Enid News‘ Sally Asher.

Charles Lord, senior hydrologist with the Oklahoma Corporation Commission, explains the modified and expanded emergency orders issued Sept. 12 to oil companies in response to  the 5.8-magnitude earthquake over the Labor Day weekend.
Joe Wertz / StateImpact Oklahoma

Federal and state regulators on Monday expanded and modified emergency orders limiting oil and gas activity at wells near a fault line that produced Oklahoma’s strongest earthquake on record.

Regulators are targeting 67 disposal wells in two counties near the damaging 5.8-magnitude earthquake that rocked the state over the Labor Day weekend.

A team of earthquake scientists deploys 12" sensors in a field near Pawnee after Saturday's 5.6 magnitude earthquake.
StateImpactOK / Instagram

More than a dozen wastewater disposal wells in the Osage Nation have been shut down after Saturday’s earthquake – one of the strongest in Oklahoma history.

Trucks lined up at a disposal well in northwestern Oklahoma.
Joe Wertz / StateImpact Oklahoma

Oklahoma is still experiencing an unusually large amount of shaking, but the rate of earthquakes recorded in 2016 is down from last year.

The slowdown is likely due to reductions in the amount of waste-fluid the oil industry is pumping into disposal wells, which are thought to be causing most of the shaking.

Joe Wertz / StateImpact Oklahoma

Insurance companies moved to limit their exposure as Oklahoma’s earthquake rate exploded, according to an investigation by Reuters.

Examining thousands of pages of documents from the Oklahoma Insurance Commission, reporter Luc Cohen found the efforts by nearly a dozen insurance companies “often occurred at the expense of homeowners”:

Shaken residents line up inside Edmond's Waterloo Baptist Church to voice concerns and ask representatives from the Corporation Commission and the state Geological Survey questions about recent earthquakes.
Joe Wertz / StateImpact Oklahoma

Federal researchers feared Oklahomans were getting inaccurate information and inadequate warnings from state government scientists and officials tasked with studying and responding to a surge of earthquakes linked to oil and gas activity, a StateImpact investigation has found.

'ALARM BELLS'

A flowchart from ODOT's new manual on inspecting bridges after earthquakes.
Oklahoma Department of Transportation

The Oklahoma Department of Transportation has changed its post-earthquake bridge-inspection plan after a year-long study showed no structural damage from seismic activity.

Under the new plan, which went into effect April 1, ODOT will only inspect bridges after magnitude 4.7 or greater quakes. Regions where bridge inspections are required will expand as earthquake intensity increases:

Structural engineers have condemned a workshop used by monks at St. Gregory's University in Shawnee, Okla.
Joe Wertz / StateImpact Oklahoma

The U.S. Geological Survey on Monday released new maps and models showing Oklahoma has the highest risk for potential shaking from human-triggered earthquakes.

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