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Oklahoma Suffering From Huge Increase in Earthquakes Near Drilling

Oklahoma is dealing with a significant increase in earthquakes near drilling sites, suggesting a link between hydraulic fracturing and seismic activity. Oklahoma has already experienced as many earthquakes this year to date than all of last year combined. There have been 109 earthquakes with a magnitude 3 or higher through April 6, the total number of earthquakes for all of 2013.

The incidents pose a conundrum for regulators in a state that has fully embraced oil and gas drilling. “We certainly likely have cases of earthquakes being caused by different oil and gas activity,” Austin Holland, a seismologist with the Oklahoma Geological Survey, said in an interview with Bloomberg. “Evaluating those carefully can take significant amounts of time, especially when we’re swamped.” The state ordered the closure of two injection wells in Love County last year after several earthquakes occurred in the area.

Related Article: Oklahoma Scientist to Test if Fracking Causes Earthquakes

Evidence of a link between earthquakes and fracking have cropped up in other places around the country before. Research on earthquakes in Ohio in particular has indicated a correlation. The research suggests that seismic activity is not necessarily linked to the fracking job, but to the injection wells where producers dispose of wastewater. In fact, research from the U.S. Geological Survey shows that fracking wastewater may have contributed to a six fold increase in earthquakes in the U.S. between 2000 and 2011.

The Oklahoma Oil and Gas Association denies the link, and says the jury is still out. “We’re trying to make sure we understand what data the state needs in order to start making some determinations on cause and effect” said Chad Warmington, the trade association’s President. “We don’t want anybody to jump to conclusions.” The group doesn’t want Oklahoma regulators to halt drilling operations.  

By Charles Kennedy of Oilprice.com

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  • richard w. goodwin on April 10 2014 said:
    Recycling frac waters would not only save operators money and secure ‘fast track’ permits, but reuse would avoid deep well injection – removing a high potential contributing factor to localized earthquakes.
    I refer to “Induced Seismicity Potential in Energy Technologies” National Research Council 2012. Per ‘Executive Summary’:
    “the process of hydraulic fracturing a well as presently implemented for shale gas recovery does not pose a high risk for inducing felt seismic events
    Injection for disposal of waste water derived from energy technologies into the subsurface does pose some risk for induced seismicity, but very few evetns have been documented over the past several decades relative to the large number of disposal wells in operation”
    My work, economically justifying recycle of treated frac or production waters would eliminate use of disposal wells.
    This section has been extracted from my publicly available comments accepted and posted by [4/5/14] USAEPA Scientific Advisory Board [SAB] Hydraulic Fracturing Research Advisory Panel’s November 20, 2013 teleconference website for the panel’s consideration. This website is http://yosemite.epa.gov/sab/sabproduct.nsf/a84bfee16cc358ad85256ccd006b0b4b/bcdc0be7c8d18b1685257ba30071a755!OpenDocument&Date=2013-11-20
    I have been working with USEPA’s SAB since 2013.
    Richard W. Goodwin West Palm Beach FL 4/10/14
  • liz on April 10 2014 said:
    The OK Corp Commission is proposing a change in rules to make sure that the volume and pressure of water injection wells is recorded on a daily basis and available to the Commission as requested. The current rules have an annual reporting requirement. Per newspaper reports, most companies are recording the info on a daily basis anyway, so they don't have a problem with the change. The rule change has to go through the Legis. and be signed by the Gov.

    On the other hand, there is a fault line (Nemaha) running from KS through OK and a lot of the current quakes are in this area. There is also increased activity in SE Missouri, so it may just be time for a major quake in the area.
  • M.A. BRIGGS on April 10 2014 said:
    I have been exploring in Oklahoma since 1960 and almost all the wells were "fracked". Don't you think that the "seismic" activity you referenced would be associated with those wells also. Me thinks you are specializing in BS, not fracking.................
  • V Appalachia on April 10 2014 said:
    Would be great to ask this question of the State and US Geological Survey:

    How will investigators determine if the seismic activity is caused by UTI waste disposal wells or by tracking itself in a state in which both activities are taking place?

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