disposal wells

“Welcome to Quakelahoma,” writes VICE’s Matt Smith, “where in less than a decade the state has gone from having about two noticeable earthquakes a year to about two a day.”

USGS

A boom of earthquakes linked to oil and gas production “has and will continue to have sharp economic consequences” in Oklahoma and other states experiencing man-made seismicity, Standard and Poor’s Rating Services analysts write in a recent report.

Joe Wertz / StateImpact Oklahoma

In the five years since earthquakes first began blitzing Oklahoma, state officials have been hesitant to agree with scientists who blamed the oil and gas industry.

While the shaking doesn’t appear to be slowing, the regulatory response is now quickly ramping up.

When Gov. Mary Fallin talked about the earthquakes a year ago at the 2014 state energy conference, she was circumspect and noncommittal.

“Many have been quick out in the public sector, or even in the private sector, to draw conclusions about its cause,” she said in remarks opening the Oklahoma City event last year

As scientific evidence has mounted, however, the doubt has eroded. Speaking at the state Capitol last week, Fallin publicly agreed with what researchers have said for years.

Joe Wertz / StateImpact Oklahoma

Oklahoma oil and gas authorities on Monday ordered the operators of 23 disposal wells in two counties to reduce the amount of wastewater pumped underground.

Joe Wertz / StateImpact Oklahoma

After a swarm of earthquakes recorded near the town of Crescent, which peaked with a 4.5-magnitude temblor on Monday, state regulators asked a pair of oil companies to limit activity at three nearby disposal wells.

Monday’s quake caused light damage. Multiple people reported feeling it in Arkansas, more than 400 miles away

Oklahoma oil and gas authorities are expanding regulations on disposal wells in earthquake-prone regions of the state. The orders, known as directives, were issued this week and broaden restrictions issued nearly four months ago.

Joe Wertz / StateImpact Oklahoma

The rate of earthquakes in Oklahoma appears to be accelerating, and the state is responding.

Lawmakers have scheduled capitol hearings and oil and gas regulators will soon issue stricter guidelines on disposal wells linked to the shaking. Future earthquakes are a big concern, but one Oklahoma institution is still dealing with the damage one quake caused nearly four years ago.

St. Gregory’s University is an Oklahoma earthquake icon. When the 5.7-magnitude quake struck near the city of Prague in November 2011, one of the school’s century-old, Tudor Gothic-style towers collapsed. Another started spitting bricks.

The earthquake is Oklahoma’s largest recorded with modern instruments. It’s also the largest earthquake anywhere that scientists have linked to disposal wells used by the oil and gas industry. Two people were injured. None at St. Gregory’s.

Joe Wertz / StateImpact Oklahoma

In November 2011, a 5.7-magnitude earthquake struck near Prague, Okla., causing significant damage and injuring two people. Right away, the possibility that the disposal of wastewater by injecting it deep into the earth — part of the hydraulic fracturing process — was to blame came up.

Joe Wertz / StateImpact Oklahoma

As Oklahoma’s earthquake swarm developed over the past few years, State Seismologist Austin Holland’s work days got a lot longer. That’s the main reason Holland is leaving his position in Oklahoma to be a supervisory geophysicist at the Albuquerque Seismic Lab.

From The Oklahoman‘s Paul Monies:

“I have averaged about 80 hours each week for the 5 1/2 years I’ve been here,” Holland said Monday in an emailed statement. “I want to change my work-life balance, and this opportunity is a good way to do that.”

Since Holland came to the Oklahoma Geological Survey, the state has seen a rapid increase in earthquakes, some of which have been linked to disposal wells used for produced water from oil and gas activity.

The team at Reveal produced a nifty video on Oklahoma’s earthquake surge that shows, with entertaining visuals, the science of “induced seismicity” — the scientific mechanism that explains how disposal wells used by the oil and gas industry can trigger earthquakes.

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