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The ground is shaking near Cushing, Okla., home to the largest commercial crude oil storage center in North America.

This little patch of prairie in northwestern Oklahoma is one of the most important places in the U.S. energy market.

Oklahoma is on track to have a record year of earthquakes — more than 5,000 have already been recorded. And those quakes appear to endanger the very industry that created them.

Mike Moeller, senior director of mid-continent assets for Enbridge Energy.
Joe Wertz / StateImpact Oklahoma

Oklahoma’s boom in man-made earthquakes has become a national security threat. It’s easy to understand why.

The ground is shaking near Cushing, Oklahoma, home to the largest commercial crude oil storage center in North America, where big money is made storing and moving crude. The massive oil hub is connected to dozens of pipelines and lined with hundreds of airplane hangar-sized tanks currently holding an estimated 54 million barrels of oil.

A Rosneft oil rig drilling near Ugut, Russia.
Tatiana Bulyonkova / Flickr (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

The year-long drop in crude oil prices has caused economic anxiety across the globe, especially in so-called “petrostates” that rely heavily on oil and natural gas to drive their economies.

Workers in an oil field near Seminole, Okla., in 1939.
Russell Lee / Library of Congress

An upsurge of earthquakes linked to the oil and gas industry continues to rattle Oklahoma, but new research suggests most of the significant earthquakes recorded in the state over the last century also were likely triggered by drilling activity.

Public Service Co. of Oklahoma's coal and natural gas-fired Northeastern generating station in Oologah, Okla.
@ Tom Nickell / Flickr

The Obama Administration recently announced stricter limits on ground-level ozone, a smog-causing pollutant closely monitored by environmentalists and the fossil fuel industry.

Oklahoma oil and gas regulators in August 2015 ordered oil and gas companies to sharply limit waste fluid injection at disposal wells, including this one, Equal Energy's Goodnight SWDW No. 5 in Logan County.
Joe Wertz / StateImpact Oklahoma

Marjo Operating Co. Inc. is the first oil and gas operator to challenge regulatory actions issued by state regulators attempting to curb an ongoing surge of earthquakes linked to the industry.

The Chisholm View wind farm near Hunter, Okla.
Joe Wertz / StateImpact Oklahoma

U.S. Sen. James Lankford is introducing a bill to remove an expired wind energy incentive from the federal tax code.

The federal Production Tax Credit for wind energy expired in December 2014, but since it’s part of the tax code, lawmakers can extend it by bundling it with legislation to extend other tax credits and incentives. That has happened as recently as July, when a Senate committee voted to extend the PTC as part of a $95 billion bundle of incentives.

Chesapeake Energy employees leave buildings after layoffs were reported Sept. 29, 2015.
Brent Fuchs / Journal Record

Updated at 3:22 p.m.

Chesapeake Energy Corporation laid off nearly 15 percent of its total workforce on Tuesday at a time when oil prices remain low.

The Oklahoman newspaper reports that Chesapeake laid off 740 total workers, including 562 in Oklahoma City. Employees will get between 13 and 52 weeks of pay and will continue to receive health insurance and job placement help.

A group of state energy officials, researchers and industry experts issued a report Monday offering guidance on how to handle earthquakes triggered by oil and gas activity.

Gary Matli, a field inspector supervisor for the Oklahoma Corporation Commission, checks on a Craig Elder Oil and Gas disposal well located east of Guthrie, Okla.
Joe Wertz / StateImpact Oklahoma

While the research connecting Oklahoma’s earthquake surge to oil and gas activity is built on algorithms, statistical analysis and computer models of fluid flow and seismic energy, monitoring compliance with regulatory actions designed to stop the shaking relies on muddy, manual fieldwork.


The oil boom that burst forth in western North Dakota seven years ago had both positive and negative effects on the region. While the increase in wealth and new opportunities for young people were welcomed, they brought along with them increased crime and congestion.

But this fall, the town of Alexander, N.D., is celebrating one unexpected upside of the oil boom: the Alexander Comets.

The Comets are a six-man football team (the school is still too small for an 11-man team). This is the students' first season playing, and the town's first season in 28 years.

Pope Francis during a 2014 visit to the European Parliament in Strasbourg.
European Parliament / Flickr

In a 184-page encyclical assigning moral responsibility to the fight against climate change, Pope Francis in June urged the world to phase out its addiction to fossil fuels.

Gov. Mary Fallin speaking at the 2013 Governor's Energy Conference in Tulsa, Okla.
Joe Wertz / StateImpact Oklahoma

Executives of oil and coal companies pushed Gov. Mary Fallin to “pay more attention” to their industries in public remarks, according to state emails obtained by Greenwire.

The emails, obtained through the Oklahoma Open Records Act, detail internal discussions as Fallin’s prepared for the 2013 Governor’s Energy Conference, Manuel Quiñones and Mike Soraghan report.

A map from the Corporation Commission details the quake-related disposal well actions issued on Sept. 18, 2015.
Oklahoma Corporation Commission

State oil and gas authorities on Friday limited activity at five disposal wells after a string of earthquakes recorded near the city of Cushing.

A wave of small quakes has struck near the city in recent days. On Friday morning, a magnitude 3.8 to 4.1-magnitude temblor was recorded. No damage has been reported.

pumping gas
futureatlas.com / Flickr Creative Commons

Gasoline prices across parts of Arkansas and Oklahoma are at some of their lowest levels in more than a decade, aiding consumers but worrying segments of the economy that rely on oil prices being high.

The Oklahoman reported Thursday that prices could fall to around $1.70 for a gallon of regular gasoline in Oklahoma by the end of the year, and the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette said nationwide prices could reach an average of $2.03 per gallon in December.

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