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Magnitude-5 Quake Shakes Oil Territory In Cushing, Oklahoma

Oil storage tanks

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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  • DJH on November 07 2016 said:
    Seismologists haven't used the Richter scale in decades. The quake was 5.0 on the Moment-Magnitude Scale.
  • Bud on November 07 2016 said:
    Regulations require oil tanks to be able to withstand an earthquake hundreds of times more powerful than the largest to ever strike OK, and they are built on bases that allow for the immediate acceleration that comes from such a quake. Wind kills more people everly year in OK and wind is the real concern from a damage perspective to cushing. Am wondering whether the Russian infrastructure is built to the same standards?
  • Bud on November 07 2016 said:
    You need to straighten out some facts: First, Cushing is not the U.S. Strategic reserve. The reserve is much larger and is largely in natural underground caverns in La and TX.

    Second, fracking fluid is largely being recycled for reuse in new wells. The issue with disposal is produced water, or brine, which continues to come up with the oil months and years after the well is completed. This brine has been down there for 10s of millions of years and because it is salty they re inject it back down specific disposal wells.

    This is an issue with all oil wells, whether cracked or not, in certain fields that produce a lot of brine. East and north OK tend to be wet while the fields in central and west OK produce less water.

    This is an issue of geology, not technology, I.e. Fracking. They know how to slow this down, they just are not going to trample property rights in OK when the damage is minimal.

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