Oklahoma Study Finds Link Between Wastewater Injection And Earthquakes

Deep_injection_wellWe recently discussed how Oklahoma Senator Jim Inhofe, who chairs the Environment and Public Works Committee, mocked the overwhelming consensus of scientists around the world on global warming. There have been similar denials of the link between earthquakes and the highly profitable practice of injecting wastewater into the ground from oil and gas production. Now, Oklahoma geologists have found strong evidence of the long-suggested link between waste injection and the massive increase in earthquakes in the state.

Farmers in states like Nebraska have been protesting state boards that continue this disposal technique, as we discussed in this story out of Kansas. These boards are often criticized as stacked with pro-industry members who refuse to consider the rising objections over contamination and earthquakes.

Oklahoma is recording 2-1/2 earthquakes daily of a magnitude 3 or greater, a seismicity rate 600 times greater than observed before 2008. Average people have to pay for the damage and injuries as these companies dump and move on in a highly profitable enterprise.

Despite the past denials, the increase has been astonishing in a relatively short time. In 2014, the state recorded 585 quakes of magnitude 3 or greater. In 2013, the number was 109 in 2013. Prior to 2008, Oklahoma averaged less than two a year.

The injection practice is in a part a result of the controversial system of hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking,” which generates huge amounts of wastewater. However, most of the waste is coming from other industry sources.

Despite the conclusions of the study, the industry remains opposed to any action at this time. Oklahoma Oil & Gas Association (OKOGA) President Chad Warmington issued a statement stating, “There may be a link between earthquakes and disposal wells, but we… still don’t know enough about how wastewater injection impacts Oklahoma’s underground faults.” In other worlds, it is nothing to get all shook up over.

Source: Yahoo

56 thoughts on “Oklahoma Study Finds Link Between Wastewater Injection And Earthquakes”

  1. Average of 2.5 earthquakes of magnitude 3. 0 or higher occurs every day in Oklahoma says this writer . Really? Do you believe his earthquake stats?

  2. Aside from the earthquake issue, one should ask how much water America really wants to use for oil extraction. Fresh water is not an infinite resource. Secondly we should ask how much waste water we want to pump into the ground. Is that something we do for years with no ill effects?

  3. OTOH, maybe tornadoes are alive. . .just not in the sense we are used to:

    In more technical terms, living systems are autocatakinetic systems while artifactual systems are not. The class of autocatakinetic systems includes more than just living systems, and this immediately suggests a connection between living and non-living things that will be more apparent later on. Dust devils, hurricanes, and tornadoes, for example, are all examples of autocatakinetic flow structures whose identities are constituted in just this way by the incessant flux of matter and energy pulled in from, and then excreted or expelled back into, their environments in a more degraded or dissipated form (see Figure 2). An autocatakinetic system is defined as one that maintains its “self” as an entity constituted by, and empirically traceable to, a set of nonlinear (circularly causal) relations through the dissipation or breakdown of field (environmental) potentials (or resources) in the continuous coordinated motion of its components (from auto- “self” + cata- “down” + kinetic, “of the motion of material bodies and the forces and energy associated therewith” from kinein, “to cause to move”)(Swenson, 1991a).


    Figure 2. A tornado is an example of an autocatakinetic system, a dynamically ordered flow structure whose identity, in contrast to a machine, or artifact, is constituted not by a set of particular components typically occupying fixed positions with respect to each other, but by the ordered relations maintained by the incessant flow of its components. The dynamical order that defines the persistence of an autocatakinetic system as an object at the macro level, is maintained through constant change at the micro level. This incessant flux of components can be thought of as a generalized metabolism by which the system maintains itself by pulling environmental potentials (or resources) into its autocatakinesis, which it returns in a more dissipated form. All living things from bacteria to human cultural systems as well as the planetary system as a whole, which maintains a constant level of oxygen, for example, by this same generalized process, are all members of the class of autocatakinetic systems. Photo courtesy of the National Severe Storms Laboratory.


    Squeeky Fromm
    Girl Reporter

  4. Tornadoes are caused by god who is pissed at all this mess his
    ‘created/chosen’ ones are making. Beware the rock people and Russell Crowe.

  5. Soon we’ll be told the tornadoes in Oklahoma and Texas are also caused by fracking.

  6. SWM “FEEELS” like the quakes are caused by fracking. She doesn’t want facts, she wants fracking to cease because of her “FEEELINGS.” This is the problem we logical, fact based, people have. We KNOW liberals have produced propaganda documentaries[Gasland 1 and 2] on fracking that were LIES. I mean whopper lies. So, for someone of that ilk to tell us that earthquakes are caused by fracking causes my professionally honed BS meter to start beeping loudly. I’ll wait for proof. I do not live my life based upon FEEEELINGS. I don’t ignore my emotions, I simply refuse to let them dictate how I live my life. Fracking has caused the evangelical environmentalists to have panic attacks. It makes the LIE that we only have a few decades of supplies left even a bigger lie now. With cheap oil we are becoming more independent from tyrants, in the Middle East, South America and the US. The US tyrants being led by Fat Al Gore, a known liar.

  7. So, you have one argument for paying more for gas and using the difference to avoid environmental hazards and cleaning up the mess. And, you have the other argument which combines freedoms, pollution, cheap gas, and a bunch of other stuff.

  8. Does anyone have any information on what is contained in these “toxic chemicals” that the oligarch killers of the environment are injecting into our water supply? Are we talking chlorine? Uranium? Syrian chemical weapons?

  9. But, but, but I thought man could not have an influence on the earth. If man cannot influence the climate, then how can he influence earthquakes??? It doesn’t make any sense!!!

    As the west bakes and is becoming freshwater starved, fracking and waste water pumping into supposed impervious rock continues…. until it doesn’t. As freshwater becomes more valuable, the frackers dump radioactive waste into rivers, they influence groundwater levels by the high use of water for fracking. Yet we turn a blind eye because it’ a little easier on the wallet currently. .

    It’s remarkable that scientific study and conclusion takes a back seat to slanted opinion.

  10. Steve H – at the very least, if this is causal, that would affect the location of fracking operations, i.e. distance from structures and cities, proximity to fault lines. My concern is that if they inject toxic chemicals during the process of fracking, then earthquakes could create cracks that allow those chemicals to dissipate wider than originally thought.

    As I’ve said before, I am NOT read up on fracking, so these are just concerns. I agree that we need thorough studies and information in order to make an informed conclusion and policy decisions.

    I’m all for developing myriad energy sources to reduce the flow of funds to terrorists, and have more energy development happen under our own stricter environmental standards, rather than the “not in my backyard” philosophy. I want all the information, with the politics and emotion excised.

  11. Since I live on a well, I am familiar with people in my area being unable to use their wells because of arsenic contamination from mining over a hundred years ago. Many toxins do not degrade into harmless byproducts, even over long periods of time. That’s been my worry about fracking. Full disclosure, I have not reviewed any of the studies on fracking groundwater contamination, so these are concerns, not conclusions. Add to that minor earthquakes, and the scope for contamination widens.

    I’ll have to take a look at any studies that come out.

  12. Anyone document the number of people killed or the millions of dollars of damage caused by either the rampaging wave of earthquakes in Oklahoma or in areas west of Ft Worth?

  13. Sounds very concerning. What is nice here is that earthquake data, including frequency and epicenter location in comparison with fracking operations is non politicized data anyone can confirm. It’s this kind of data analysis that can help us make an informed conclusion. I’m sure we’ll see further reports soon.

    My biggest concern I’ve raised before about fracking has been anytime anyone injects toxic chemicals into the ground is bad. Contamination of our fresh and marine water is a topic dear to my heart. I also acknowledge that there was serious, deliberate wrongdoing in the Gasland documentaries. Eroding the public trust to get what you want in the short term does no one any favors.

  14. http://fortune.com/2014/05/31/fracking-hangover/

    “And finally there are the earthquakes—dozens of small localized rattlers that have frightened residents. Experts have linked them to disposal wells used to inject liquid fracking wastes deep underground. Although energy companies and state officials say there’s no firm proof of what causes the quakes, a string of temblors at Dallas-Forth Worth Airport lasting through 2009 ended after two disposal wells were shut down. An ongoing string of quakes near disposal wells northwest of Fort Worth remains under study.” “

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