McALESTER, Okla. — State agencies continue monitoring a recent uptick in seismic activity near the Quinton area — with new equipment installed in Pittsburg County and plans for more in southeast Oklahoma.

Information from the United States Geological Survey shows 31 earthquakes occurred near Quinton since the Oklahoma Corporation Commission suspended a well completion operation after an August magnitude 3.7 earthquake.

Oklahoma Geological Survey State Seismologist Jake Walter said the OGS installed a new seismometer near Quinton due to the recent earthquakes in the area. The agency is also planning for new seismometers near Poteau, Okmulgee, and McAlester in the coming months, he said.

“We’re trying to broaden our coverage across the state in order to better characterize these pockets of seismicity as they pop-up,” Walter said.

After a magnitude 3.7 earthquake on Aug. 18, the OCC indefinitely suspended a well completion operation near Quinton operated by Houston-based Trinity Resources. The operation was the final step in well production, which involves hydraulic fracturing, commonly referred to as “fracking.”

Sarah Terry-Cobo with the OCC said Trinity Resources has not been allowed to restart the operation since being ordered to stop. She said the OCC seeks guidance from the OGS on the new seismic activity in the area. 

USGS data shows a three-week lull in seismic activity after the operation was suspended before five earthquakes were recorded in September.

Data shows 21 earthquakes rated at least a magnitude 2.0 have been recorded in and around Quinton since Oct. 21 — the largest being a magnitude 3.1 and one as recent as Tuesday with a magnitude 2.5.

Walter said earthquake clusters across the state have been related to drilling operations.

“Throughout the state, this is a sort of common issue,” Walter said. “Sometimes these clusters are activated by oil and gas activity.”

Walter said even though there is a pause in the current oil and gas activity in the area, there is still seismic energy in the system.

He explained that the act of fracking or wastewater disposal can set the fault into motion “faster than it would naturally.”

“Once you set one of these off, some of these sequences can be sort of self-perpetuating and that’s just a natural phenomenon of seismicity anywhere,” Walter said. “There is still energy in the system just by virtue of having other earthquakes. Earthquakes make other earthquakes.”

More than 100 earthquakes magnitude 2 and higher have been recorded in southeastern Oklahoma this year — with 76 of those occurring in the Quinton area, with the highest being the Aug. 18 magnitude 3.7.

According to the USGS, the number of earthquakes in Oklahoma continue to decline after state regulators began to close wells and reduce volumes in others.

Contact Derrick James at djames@mcalesternews.com

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