Oklahoma Earthquakes & Fracking. Are They Related?
Oklahoma has now surpassed California in the number of earthquakes felt this year!
Is the steep increase in Oklahoma earthquakes related to fracking? Or is it merely a coincidence?
Here’s what makes all this seismic activity a bit suspicious: From two to six normally recorded per year during 1972-2008 and in 2010, 1,047 tremors were recorded with 103 powerful enough to be felt.
Oklahoma was ranked 17th in earthquake frequency in 2003, but now, the magnitude 3.0 or stronger quakes they used to experience only twice per year have hit over 253 times already in 2014, more than once per day. Geologists are warning that a big one (bigger than the 5.6 quake in 2011) is on the way.
The debate about whether all these Oklahoma earthquakes have anything to do with fracking isn’t new. National Geographic’s Joe Eaton wrote this back in March of 2013:
Advanced methods of oil and gas drilling create massive amounts of toxic wastewater. For example, hydraulic fracturing, also known as fracking, uses high-pressure water to unlock natural gas from shale formations. Drillers also use water to force oil from wells that cannot be captured through traditional methods, part of a practice known as “enhanced oil recovery.“
The use of such methods has exploded in the United States in recent years, contributing to the domestic boom in shale gas and oil production. Much of the wastewater that emerges as a byproduct is pumped into wells beneath the earth‘s surface for disposal.
Although the controversial practice of fracking has been directly linked to at least two seismic events (small tremors in Garvin County, Oklahoma and Lancashire, England), the wastewater injection that follows fracking is much more likely to set the earth shaking. That‘s because injection wells receive far more water than fracking sites, said Katie Keranen, lead author of the Geology study. And unlike at fracking sites, the water is not removed. As pressure builds in these disposal wells, it pushes up against geological faults, sometimes causing them to rupture, setting off an earthquake.
What about earthquakes in other fracking states?
The number of earthquakes and amount of fracking has grown in the U.S. and researchers are connecting the two events. There were more than 100 recorded quakes of magnitude 3.0 or stronger each year between 2010 and 2013, compared to an average of 21 per year over the preceding three decades. Fracking states like Kansas and Ohio (and Oklahoma), where seismic activity had been infrequent, have seen a sudden increase. Hmmmm…
What we can do..
Help protect our national wildlife refuges lands from fracking by signing this Care2 petition.