Claremore Daily Progress

State/Nation

July 3, 2014

Study shows how drilling wastewater causes quakes

WASHINGTON D.C. —

A new study explains how just four wells forcing massive amounts of drilling wastewater into the ground are probably shaking up Oklahoma.

Those wells seem to have triggered more than 100 small-to-medium earthquakes in the past five years, according to a study published Thursday by the journal Science. Many of the quakes were much farther away from the wells than expected.

Combined, those wells daily pour more than 5 million gallons of water a mile or two underground into rock formations, the study found. That buildup of fluid creates more pressure that “has to go somewhere,” said study lead author Cornell University seismologist Katie Keranen.

Researchers originally figured the water diffused through underground rocks slowly. But instead, it is moving faster and farther and triggers quake fault lines that already were likely ready to move, she said.

“You really don’t need to raise the pressure a great deal,” she added.

The study shows the likely way in which the pressure can trigger fault lines — which already existed yet were not too active— but researchers need more detail on the liquid injections themselves to absolutely prove the case, Keranen said.

The wastewater is leftover from unconventional wells that drill for oil and gas with help of high pressure liquids — nicknamed fracking — and from the removal of water from diluted oil. These new methods mean much more wastewater has to be discarded. While there are about 8,000 deep injection wells in the region, the amount of water injected at the four wells — named Chambers, Deep Throat, Flower Power and Sweetheart — has more than doubled since the drilling boom started about a decade ago.

From 1976 to 2007, Oklahoma each year averaged about one quake of magnitude 3 or more — strong enough to feel locally but too weak to cause damage. But from 2008 to 2013, the state averaged 44 earthquakes of that size every year. So far this year there have been another 233, Keranen said, getting her earthquake figures from the U.S. Geological Survey database.

Text Only
State/Nation
  • Gas prices continue falling in Oklahoma

    AAA Oklahoma says gas prices continue to drop in the state as demand nationwide drops below 9 million barrels per day.

    July 29, 2014

  • Perry: Texas plans to send 1,000 guardsmen to border

    Texas Gov. Rick Perry plans to deploy as many as 1,000 National Guard troops to South Texas to bolster security along the Mexico border, a local lawmaker confirmed Monday.

    July 21, 2014

  • NASA renames building for Neil Armstrong

    NASA has honored one of its most famous astronauts by renaming a key building at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

    July 21, 2014

  • New arrivals worry some in the Oklahoma panhandle

    A family who says they were excommunicated from Warren Jeffs' polygamous sect has moved to a small city located in the Oklahoma Panhandle, raising concerns among some residents.

    July 20, 2014

  • Celebrate 45 years since man's first steps on the moon

    Now's the time to get moonstruck.

    Forty-five years ago Sunday, Apollo 11's Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin became the first humans to set foot on another world. Armstrong's "one small step ... one giant leap" on the dusty lunar surface July 20, 1969, still stirs hearts.

    July 20, 2014

  • US outlines case against Russia on downed plane

    Video of a rocket launcher, one surface-to-air missile missing, leaving the likely launch site. Imagery showing the firing. Calls claiming credit for the strike. Recordings said to reveal a cover-up at the crash site.

    July 20, 2014

  • Oklahoma Capitol renovation project previewed

    State officials have previewed preliminary plans for renovating the century-old Oklahoma State Capitol amid a display of artifacts from groundbreaking ceremonies for the structure.

    July 17, 2014

  • House passes tax breaks to boost charitable giving

    The House passed a package of tax breaks Thursday designed to boost charitable donations by seniors, private foundations and procrastinators.

    One provision provides tax breaks to people over 70 who make donations from their individual retirement accounts. Another reduces excise taxes on private charitable foundations.

    July 17, 2014

  • Should online accounts die when you die?

    Should your emails, web albums and other online accounts die when you do? Or should you be able to pass them down to a family member much as you would a house or a box of letters?

    July 17, 2014

  • Obama, Putin discuss Malaysia Plane incident

    The Kremlin says Russian President Vladimir Putin and President Barack Obama have discussed the Malaysia Airlines plane incident over eastern Ukraine.

    July 17, 2014