An earthquake with a magnitude of 5.0 on the Richter scale shook Cushing, Oklahoma, the home of U.S. crude oil reserves at 7:44 pm last night. Initial reports said there was no damage, but later media reported there were buildings damaged in a nearby prairie town.
It also emerged that four buildings in Cushing had been damaged, including the City Hall.
CBS quoted the Oklahoma Corporation Commission as saying the pipeline network around the Cushing storage complex was under assessment following the quake, and that for now there were no reports of pipeline damage.
Oklahoma has been hit by 19 earthquakes over the past week, the US Geological Survey said, including one with a magnitude of 4.5 that struck the northern part of the state last week. The strongest quake in the state was registered in early September: it has a magnitude of 5.8.
ABC points out that there were 1,010 earthquakes recorded by the USGS across the Midwest in 2015, all of them with a magnitude of 3 or above. That’s a threefold increase from the 318 quakes recorded for 2009. For now, measures employed include the Oklahoma Commission telling oil-well operators in the area to reduce the amount of wastewater they pump into the ground, or stop it temporarily altogether.
This surge in seismic activity has been repeatedly linked to fracking, and more in specific the wastewater disposal after fracturing the rock. Wastewater and chemicals – from conventional and fracking wells alike – are stored in underground reservoirs and, according to scientific data, can trigger earthquakes. The USGS itself stresses that wastewater disposal is behind most of the increased seismic activity—not the process of fracking itself.
Oklahoma has been dubbed by media as the new earthquake capital of the country, because prior to 2009, the state had fairly negligible seismic activity. Then the shale boom started quickening its pace, and today, the state is being shaken by an average of two quakes a day.
By Irina Slav for Oilprice.com
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Irina is a writer for the U.S.-based Divergente LLC consulting firm with over a decade of experience writing on the oil and gas industry.