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Did Fracking Cause Recent Oklahoma Earthquakes? 288

Posted by timothy
from the fracking-geological-facts dept.
Hugh Pickens writes writes "Oklahoma is typically seismically stable, with about 50 small quakes a year — but in 2009, that number jumped up to more than 1,000 and on November 5 a 5.6-magnitude tremor rattled Oklahoma — one of the strongest to ever hit the state — leading scientists to wonder if the increasingly common use of fracking, the controversial practice of blasting underground rock formations with high-pressure water, sand, and chemicals to extract natural gas, may have put stress on fault lines. Human intervention has caused earthquakes before with one 'textbook case' occurring in 1967 in India, says Peter Fairley at IEEE Spectrum, when the reservoir behind the hydroelectric Koyna Dam was filled up. The added water 'unleashed a magnitude 6.3 quake' by placing stress 'on a previously unknown fault, killing 180 people and leaving thousands homeless.' Last week's earthquakes and aftershocks are centered in rural Lincoln County, in an area about 30 miles east of Oklahoma City and there are 181 injection wells In Lincoln County. But a recent study by Austin Holland, a seismologist with the Oklahoma Geological Survey, says that it's possible that hydraulic fracking caused a series of small earthquakes, peaking at 2.8, in an area south of Oklahoma City but doesn't believe fracking caused the big Nov. 5, 6 and 8 earthquakes comparing a man-made earthquake to a mosquito bite. 'It's really quite inconsequential,' says Holland."
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Did Fracking Cause Recent Oklahoma Earthquakes?

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  • No. (Score:5, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday November 14, 2011 @03:55PM (#38051540)
    It was global warming.
    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward

      We just need to start living in bouncy castles instead of inflexible, tends-to-break-apart-into-heavy-and-sharp-things houses.

  • Oh frak, (Score:2, Funny)

    by asdf7890 (1518587)
    It was all Starbuck's sweary mouth fault!
    • Re:Probably. (Score:5, Interesting)

      by imamac (1083405) on Monday November 14, 2011 @04:02PM (#38051638)
      Most of the news around here (Oklahoma) is saying probably not. The seismologists that have been on are saying that, while the earthquakes were shallow, they were still far too deep to be caused by fracking.
      • Re:Probably. (Score:4, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward on Monday November 14, 2011 @04:22PM (#38051904)

        I guess I'm not sure how anyone is ruling out the possibility of a cumulative effect from the minor (2.8 and under) earthquakes, which we are being told can be caused by fracking, putting stress on the fault line. Is that really not possible?

        • by imamac (1083405)
          I really have no clue. I'm trusting the scientists on our news at this point.
          • Re:Probably. (Score:5, Interesting)

            by hairyfeet (841228) <bassbeast1968 AT gmail DOT com> on Monday November 14, 2011 @11:05PM (#38055468) Journal

            Well all I can give is my little anecdote, but I have a friend that develops models and presentations for the NG wildcatters in Northwest AR and the map he showed me made me think Frakking? not such a good idea. He laid out a map on the screen of every place the bunch he had been working for was frakking then he laid over it a map from the local college's seismographic monitoring stations and what they had picked up and every single site they frakked had 2.8 or better earthquakes within 6 months of the start of frakking. And the area they were frakking is solid bedrock and shale, it just doesn't get earthquakes. he showed me the recorded data of that area going back to 1947 (when the college first started monitoring and collecting data) and they averaged maybe one a decade, now it is closer to one a month!

            Frankly if the wildcatters elsewhere are like the ones here We, the People will get stuck cleaning up their messes anyway as they have a nice scam going. they have a shell corp set up which they lease ALL the assets from, from mineral rights to drilling equipment, right down to the office furniture. They hit a couple of dry wells or make a mess and the bills start piling up? They just burn the original corp by filing bankruptcy and make a new corp to lease the equipment from. I've already seen a couple pull that scam locally and skip town owing quite a large sum of money.

            So as usual in the Corporate States of Amerika whether it turns out to be frakking or not it doesn't matter, as i'm sure by the time they get done we'll have several nice ecological messes that we the taxpayer gets to pick up the tab for while they cash out and move on to the next scam.

        • I guess I'm not sure how anyone is ruling out the possibility of a cumulative effect from the minor (2.8 and under) earthquakes, which we are being told can be caused by fracking, putting stress on the fault line. Is that really not possible?

          If I recall correctly, that's pretty much the opposite of what is understood to happen; the mechanism by which fracking causes minor earthquakes is understood to be lubricating existing stressed faults and causing them to release stress with less built up than they norm

      • Re:Probably. (Score:5, Informative)

        by hawguy (1600213) on Monday November 14, 2011 @04:35PM (#38052064)

        Most of the news around here (Oklahoma) is saying probably not. The seismologists that have been on are saying that, while the earthquakes were shallow, they were still far too deep to be caused by fracking.

        Hmm...the big Oklahoma quake was 3.1 miles deep (the smaller quakes leading up to it were around 2.5 - 3.5 miles deep). Fracking wells are typically 1 to 4 miles deep.

        The Woodford shale formation under Oklahoma ranges from 5000 - 12000 feet. (around 1 to 2.25 miles)

        Sounds like it's in the same ballpark, I'm not saying that the fracking and earthquakes are definitely related, but I wouldn't call the quake "far too deep" to have resulted from fracking.

        • Re:Probably. (Score:5, Insightful)

          by Matheus (586080) on Monday November 14, 2011 @05:12PM (#38052458) Homepage

          It seems a lot of people aren't RTF(ull)A...

          The only scientist to say what the summary indicates has said that Frakking wasn't the cause of the *Big earthquake they had. He even admits it was possibly at fault for the many small earthquakes that have plagued the area in the past couple years. Also: most of the scientists who are investigating the big earthquake (as well as the small ones) are pointing more to the high pressure injection well process that is used to dispose of the waste fluids from frakking than the frakking itself. They have seen this process be responsible for large tremors in the past and so are investigating the possibility here. Note: They have not claimed fault yet. They are in the middle of what could be a very long (years) investigation as to the true cause of the tremors. They have only mentioned that the severe increase in small tremors and this extremely rare large tremor may be the result of the recent increase/presence of frakking and injection well activity near the faults.

          There is also scientific evidence that the fracking itself causes earthquakes, but nothing of the size of what happened in Oklahoma last weekend. A recent study by seismologist Austin Holland, a seismologist with the Oklahoma Geological Survey, said that it’s possible that hydraulic fracking caused a series of small earthquakes, peaking at 2.8, in an area south of Oklahoma City earlier this year. When lots of liquid is injected into the ground it changes the stress and pressure in a place that probably already was a fault, Holland said. It’s similar to injecting water between two adjacent bricks, it allows them to slide more easily and "the water under pressure is helping push the bricks apart ever so slightly," Holland said.
          But Holland doesn’t believe fracking caused the big Nov. 5, 6 and 8 earthquakes. He compared a man-made earthquake to a mosquito bite.

          Bad Summary on both the /. side and the original article. The real information is so much more interesting.

      • by nomel (244635)

        This post is a much clearer representation of what I was going to say:
        http://science.slashdot.org/comments.pl?sid=2525024&cid=38051654 [slashdot.org]

  • More Data (Score:5, Funny)

    by Sponge Bath (413667) on Monday November 14, 2011 @03:58PM (#38051588)
    I lived in Lawton, Oklahoma for a few months. I can't think of a better place to experiment with fracking and earthquakes. Let's go do some science!
  • dumbass (Score:3, Funny)

    by spidercoz (947220) on Monday November 14, 2011 @03:59PM (#38051596) Journal
    If you get 181 mosquito bites in the same 1-square inch of skin, what do you think will happen?
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward

      You'll get a nasty rash, possibly some nasty disease, and people will laugh at you for not getting insect repellent and being a mosquito magnet.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      If you get 181 mosquito bites in the same 1-square inch of skin, what do you think will happen?

      That rebuttal would make sense if he had said that each injection well equated to a mosquito bite. He didn't.

    • by sorak (246725)

      If you get 181 mosquito bites in the same 1-square inch of skin, what do you think will happen?

      jobs?

  • Statistics Please! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by MozeeToby (1163751) on Monday November 14, 2011 @03:59PM (#38051604)

    Instead of an endless stream of anecdotes can someone please do some statistics. Number of quakes within X miles of all fracking sites since fracking began versus number of quakes within X miles of all fracking sites in the years before fracking began. I'm sure it won't be pleasant to gather all the numbers, but there are dozens of places where fracking is being used, I can't imagine we don't have enough data by now to discover if there are some basic trends or not.

    • by G3ckoG33k (647276) on Monday November 14, 2011 @04:08PM (#38051710)

      http://www.wired.com/wiredscience/2008/06/top-5-ways-that/ [wired.com]

      As close i got get on short notice. I posted this two years ago IIRC

    • You would think there would be data, but until someone suggests a correlation it's unlikely that the research exists. It certainly isn't in the interest of the extraction companies to find a link, and when you send somebody looking for something you don't want them to find, any evidence (even unrelated) is damning.

      There was talk about this when the Virginia earthquake hit earlier this summer, too. It's the largest since 1897, and not on a particularly well-known fault (like the Narrows fault where the 1897

    • Re: (Score:2, Redundant)

      Riiiiiight... I'm sure the oil and drilling companies will jump all over cooperating with that study.
      • What do you need their cooperation for? They have fill out paperwork with the EPA before they can begin fracking at a given location and they aren't in charge of maintaining seismology records last time I checked. In fact, I'd be willing to bet that all the information needed to do a baseline study is public domain, available from one public database or another if you knew where to look.

        • by Luckyo (1726890) on Monday November 14, 2011 @04:24PM (#38051934)

          You need their cooperation to survive the massive anti-you lobby they will put out. Source: tobacco industry and decades it took for poor bastards trying to study tobacco's adverse effects on health to shake off "sharlatan"-image slapped on them by the said industry.

          On the other hand it's actually pretty interesting that we as humans are getting skilled and powerful enough to affect planet in ways that causes earthquakes without having to blow stuff up underground. We've done it with geothermal and apparently this at the very least.

          • by tacokill (531275)
            If your data is good and you did things right, there is no anti-you crowd to worry about. If your data is trying to back up a preset agenda instead of going where the evidence takes you.....well then you should expect strong resistance from others who disagree with your findings.

            This isn't tobacco. Comparisons to the tobacco industry are not warranted. The ASME [asme.org] and API [api.org] would both be more than happy to accept and publish your work if you find evidence that supports or challenges what they already kno
        • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

          by Mister Whirly (964219)
          The EPA has been all but dismantled by the last few administrations. Corporations are self regulating - they are the ones responsible for testing and complying with the law. I bet those numbers are never fudged, especially when there is no additional checking done by the EPA in 99% of the cases. If the corporations are responsible for testing and reporting the results to the EPA, why would they ever report something negative that could cost them millions of dollars to fix?
          • by Artraze (600366)

            Every state has a Dept. of Environmental Protection (or similar), and I know a few states that have a moratorium on fracking. Presently my state does not, but my county does. Even lower than that, municipalities and property owners have a say in fracking. So regardless of whether of not the EPA is "all but dismantled", there is still quite a bit of oversight for fracking. Oversight (and, indeed, research funding) by the people most closely affected by it, not some massive federal bureaucracy.

            • Right, and what about states/counties that do not have a lot of oversight on fracking on the books presently? If only there were an Agency with federal jurisdiction in Environmental Protection policy... Oh yeah, right. Do you really think every county has a fiscal responsibility to do research on it's own? Or do you really think you can trust the research that is done exclusively by the corporations who stand to greatly benefit financially if nothing negative is found?
          • by tacokill (531275)
            The EPA has been all but dismantled by the last few administrations.
            Are you serious? I about choked when I read your post. If anything, the EPA has only INCREASED it's power over the last 30 years. Here [epa.gov], look for yourself at the budget numbers. Note, this doesn't even consider the increased regulatory power they have by issuing new rules, edicts, etc.

            Methinks you are a little too mired in the day to day of politics to notice but the EPA has been growing and getting more powerful over the last
    • by 93 Escort Wagon (326346) on Monday November 14, 2011 @04:16PM (#38051834)

      Instead of an endless stream of anecdotes can someone please do some statistics. Number of quakes within X miles of all fracking sites since fracking began versus number of quakes within X miles of all fracking sites in the years before fracking began. I'm sure it won't be pleasant to gather all the numbers, but there are dozens of places where fracking is being used, I can't imagine we don't have enough data by now to discover if there are some basic trends or not.

      That's not really going to tell you much - what you really need is historical seismic data. Generally speaking, you'd expect a lot of small seismic activity temporally centered around a larger event. So what you really need to know is - does the pattern of seismic activity prior to this quake differ substantially from the activity observed prior to other historical quakes in the same area?

      With fracking being such a recent practice, and given that eastern US earthquakes tend to effect a relatively large area thanks to the geology of the region... just looking at recent trends could very well be misleading.

      Unfortunately the midwest is rather stable geologically, so there's likely not enough data points to allow one to draw a conclusion with any expectation of certainty.

  • Someone made a nice song.
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=timfvNgr_Q4 [youtube.com]

  • by Kohath (38547) on Monday November 14, 2011 @04:01PM (#38051616)

    What if it did? Earthquakes can't be avoided. The longer that seismic pressure builds, the bigger the quake. Relieving this pressure early by causing minor quakes should help avoid massive, deadly earthquakes in the future.

    • by pclminion (145572) on Monday November 14, 2011 @04:03PM (#38051646)
      That makes about as much sense as snorting a bunch of coke to determine whether you might have latent heart problems.
    • by blueg3 (192743)

      That's only true if the fracking is triggering an earthquake that is powered by already-built-up stress. This is actually asking whether fracking is causing additional stress that eventually leads to earthquakes. Adding stress does not, in fact, make earthquakes less serious.

      • by Lifyre (960576)

        This except that there is another possibility as well. These small quakes may not be ultimately relieving or adding stress but transferring it to a different location ultimately leading to a build up of stress along a particular fault without any net input or release of stress until the large quake that would result from the concentrated stress.

        • by Kohath (38547)

          That was hard to follow.

          You're saying that relieving stress in one spot could cause the next spot down the line to have more. So while an earthquake is inevitable, but it could happen in a different location where it wouldn't otherwise happen. Correct?

          I guess that's a problem if the earthquake gets moved closer to populated areas. And it's a good thing if the earthquake gets moved away from populated areas.

          It would be good to be able to manage this phenomenon.

    • by jeffmeden (135043) on Monday November 14, 2011 @04:39PM (#38052108) Homepage Journal
      Your argument (and that of many other commenters in this thread) would make sense if all earthquakes were caused by slip-fault activity and are therefore unavoidable/inevitable so long as there is tension between plates. That is simply not the case. It is perfectly possible (but no one really knows) that the process used in hydraulic fracturing (a lot easier of a term to use with a straight face than 'Fracking') is altering the crust in a way nothing else would, and hence is generating earthquakes that otherwise would never have existed in the first place.
  • by chipperdog (169552) on Monday November 14, 2011 @04:02PM (#38051636) Homepage
    If North Dakota starts seeing earthquakes (they are in the center of the North American plate), then we know that fracking has something to do with it....Of course the petrochemical, and petrochemical funded industries will do studies to find no connection...
  • Butterfly Effect (Score:5, Interesting)

    by blair1q (305137) on Monday November 14, 2011 @04:04PM (#38051654) Journal

    The Butterfly Effect is described in terms of weather systems, where it's total bullshit.

    But here, not so much. The ground under us is full of cracks that have stopped moving because they're caught on something. Break that something, and you unleash a quake. If the reason the crack can't produce enough force is because there's another, smaller thing they're caught on, too, then all you have to do is break that smaller thing to allow the bigger thing to feel enough stress to be broken.

    And so on.

    As I said, this is bullshit in the atmosphere, where violence is the result of concentration of energy from the movement of thousands or millions of cubic kilometers of atmosphere into a vortex in their midst, something a butterfly can have no bearing on. But underground these chains of critical stability are all over the place. Just look at the NEIC's map and see them letting go daily. And each time one lets go, it changes the criticality of another, or of another part of itself.

    Fracking certainly could be the causative factor in the initiation of a chain of releases that result in a larger release. The fact that there are smaller quakes means that of course they could be releasing the crack to bear on a major sticking point with more force than before, and certainly could lead to a larger quake.

    Any seismologist who discounts this possibility is suspect.

    • by khallow (566160) on Monday November 14, 2011 @04:49PM (#38052204)

      The Butterfly Effect is described in terms of weather systems, where it's total bullshit.

      The "Butterfly Effect" is simply that even minute changes in a chaotic system, such as the weather, can result in large changes far enough down the road. Saying it can't matter is incorrect.

      As one of the AC's mentioned, you're speaking of some sort of "snowball effect".

      Any seismologist who discounts this possibility is suspect.

      I imagine we'll have to measure geological properties such as stress and strain on a newly developed fracking field to see how things change. It might be a bit costly to do, but capital layout is probably not that significant.

      • by blair1q (305137)

        Er, no, the Butterfly Effect is a particular form of infinite response to finite input, described as a butterfly causing an unstable weather system to develop into a hurricane instead of a cool breeze.

        It's a cute illustration, but utter bollocks, so it's inept.

        There are other ways you can use a butterfly as a minor event with a knock-on amplification, like, a butterfly flies into the mouth of a drunk driver, causing a 40-car pileup that kills the Pakistani ambassador to the USA, who's carrying information t

        • by khallow (566160)

          Er, no, the Butterfly Effect is a particular form of infinite response to finite input, described as a butterfly causing an unstable weather system to develop into a hurricane instead of a cool breeze.

          It's a cute illustration, but utter bollocks, so it's inept.

          As I note, it's not "utter bollocks", but a property of chaotic systems. And the response isn't "infinite" since the chaotic system is bounded.

        • by Raenex (947668)

          In a chaotic system, any minor change can result in a big change after a period of time. The butterfly effect is not "utter bollocks". That you described it as such in a weather system is particularly egregious, since that is where the term originated and is accepted mainstream science.

          You can read the Wikipedia page [wikipedia.org] and cite a counter-source if you disagree.

    • I amd not a meteoroligist and don't know how much I buy into the butterfly effect, but I hear it described in 1-of-2 ways.

      1) The minute air displacement from a flap might shift the overall wind current .0000001% and thus make a change down the line.

      2) The domino effect
      a) Butterfly flaps its wings, incredibly small breeze
      b) Incredibly small breeze moves some pollen / dust / etc
      c) Floating pollen / dust makes a predator sneeze (like a cheetah)
      d) The sneeze scares the heard of animals that it was hunting, caus

      • Chaos in Mathematics (Score:3, Informative)

        by mx+b (2078162)

        The butterfly effect is a statement of chaos, which from a mathematical perspective is mostly described as "extreme sensitivity to conditions". In other words, using the same mathematical model and equation to predict weather a week from now, but with two different but very similar starting conditions (say, the temperature is 74 F vs 75 F one day, but all other conditions the same), after a sufficient amount of time, the two solutions (for each initial condition) to the equation, or predictions if you want

      • Re:Butterfly Effect (Score:4, Informative)

        by blair1q (305137) on Monday November 14, 2011 @05:26PM (#38052662) Journal

        Except that the atmosphere doesn't work that way. It ignores small disturbances, dissipating them rather than concentrating them. In order for a tornado to form that causes damage to a 5-10 square mile footprint along its path, the atmosphere has to coalesce the rotational energy from a mesocyclone tens or hundreds of miles across, and to form that required days worth of planning by the sun and the jet stream. There's no supercritical point where the atmosphere can be kicked between tornado and not-tornado by any input that's much smaller than the tornado itself. Getting a hurricane to happen is an even bigger proposition. The difference caused by a 1-degree change in the surface temperature of the Atlantic Ocean (and how much energy is that?) is only enough to maybe change the hurricane from one category to another. A butterfly at full gallop is certainly not going to be the difference between a hurricane and a breezy day.

        The linking of butterflies to even hypothetical weather changes is fanciful ignorance.

  • by jellomizer (103300) on Monday November 14, 2011 @04:10PM (#38051740)

    Conservative Media: Fracking is perfectly safe, everyone should allow this in their back yard, if you don't have it in your back yard then you are letting the terrorist win.
    Liberal Media: Fracking is horrible, it pollutes all your drinking water, causes earthquakes, and eats puppies.

    Like all forms of energy extraction there are economic trade-offs that must happen. Fracking a newer technology is much cleaner then other methods but it isn't 100% clean or safe. Yes it could cause issues with underground wells, but it doesn't always. It is one of those things you need to monitor while you are doing it. And make sure if it does pollute your drinking water the Fracking company has insurances that will provide the residence with clean water for as long as their water tables are polluted.

    Heck when I was growing up. They built a housing development with a huge water tower. And what happened after they started drilling our own water became much heavier and contained more surfer. Yes there is an impact. But compared to the alternatives it is better the other ones are.

    • Surfers, in your water? Did you live in a houseboat on the pacific? :P
    • by blair1q (305137) on Monday November 14, 2011 @04:24PM (#38051936) Journal

      Like all forms of energy extraction there are economic trade-offs that must happen.

      And the general form of this is: "ignore the problem until after we're filthy rich from selling energy to the consumers, then walk away and let the government (i.e., the consumers) pay to clean it up."

      If the people causing the problems had to pay to fix them, most energy extraction wouldn't be done.

      Which would be the correct choice, unless you're the greedhead who stands to become a rich greedhead in the process.

    • Re:Stupid Media. (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Oswald McWeany (2428506) on Monday November 14, 2011 @04:26PM (#38051964)

      Absolutely- and I wish people would realise this.

      It appears mostly cleaner than other forms of energy retrieval- certainly much cleaner than coal and less environmental damage than moving mountain tops around.

      It is something that needs to be monitored- and from what I understand the use of toxic chemicals is not required- there are non-toxic equivalents that may cost a little more... USE THEM.

      Regulate the industry- don't just kill it outright.

      I'm also curious specifically on the drinking water pollution- something we should watch. Some people have detected elevated levels of methane in their water around fracking sites. I'm curious how much of this is really from fracking and how much is due to the fact that they only frack in places where there is methane in the ground anyway.

      Sure you're going to find more methane in areas around fracking sites than elsewhere... that's why they are fracking there in the first place.

      Please proceed with fracking- but have independent review and make sure shotcuts arn't taken. Make sure we watch all the time and take every precaution not to make a "deepwater" mistake. This is potentially a great way to get "relatively" clean power.

  • Petro Engineer's POV (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday November 14, 2011 @04:11PM (#38051756)

    I am or was a petroleum engineer, and I can tell you that yes it's entirely possible for subsurface oil and gas operations to affect fault lines and cause seismic events like those described.

    With that being said, I think there is also a lot of FUD surrounding the practice of fracing. Fracing is not particularly new to the Oil and Gas industry, and there are a lot of Oil and Gas operations that cause environmental and seismic problems, not just fracing.

    I feel like people have sort of jumped on to this Fracing thing, because of the "Gasland" documentary. And now they have some "evil" practice to blame the Oil and Gas companies for, but in reality I think it is a little more complicated than that. We have found trillions of cubic feet of natural gas reserves that can be released through fracing, and this has a major implications for domestic energy production and the US economy.

    • by blair1q (305137)

      The process is becoming more necessary to get at less-accessible sources of fuel, since we've bled the easy ones dry. And there are just plain more people so it's happening near an inhabited space more often.

      Neither of those processes will be reversing itself, so the decision is to let the people die from flames shooting out of their showerheads, or stop trying to get at this fuel because it's just not worth it.

      • Or advance the science and engineering so that we can safely retrieve the stored petrochemicals and handle the resulting combustion products. You know, there's always that option.
        • by blair1q (305137)

          I'm pretty sure that the ChemE's who figure this stuff out already know that their only other solution is to drill a bazillion wells, and that such a system is simply more energy than they can retrieve.

          Whereas fracking is quick, dirty, cheap, and profitable, and the law and human nature are such that they can get away with it well enough to pay it off, even if a bunch of rednecks blow 'emselves up real good just watering the lawn.

          It may never be reasonable to retrieve some energy trapped in the Earth's crus

  • Call it a coincidence, but the Youngstown, Ohio area has never had regular earthquakes. We'd be lucky to have a noticeable earthquake once every 2-3 years. Since fracking began in this area, we've had 7 earthquakes since March 2011! Three of those earthquakes were felt by a large number of the locals with the other 4 only going somewhat noticed.

    These earthquakes are in the 2.x magnitude, causing very little to no damage, but how can these experts ignore anomalies like this?

    http://www.dnr.state.oh.us/geos [state.oh.us]

  • by michaelmalak (91262) <michael@michaelmalak.com> on Monday November 14, 2011 @04:27PM (#38051976) Homepage

    Rocky Mountain Arsenal, bordering the city limits of Denver, tried disposing of liquid waste by injecting it 12,000 feet below the ground. The result was a series of damaging earthquakes in Denver, up to 5.0 - 5.5 magnitude. USGS wrote a report [usgs.gov] in 1990.

    The Victorian warehouse at 1000 Bannock [google.com] still shows steel L-braces affixed to the exterior to hold the brick building together from the 1967 earthquake damage -- notice also the long crack running clear through from the back wall diagonally up to the roof.

    • by tacokill (531275)
      Exactly the same.....but different.

      Or did you miss the part about deep well injection of water not being the same thing as hydraulic fracturing (aka: fracking)? NOT. EVEN. CLOSE.

      Not a textbook case, except to those easily confused by big words that look like they might be related. That and their shared hatred of hydrocarbons.
    • Rocky Mountain Arsenal, bordering the city limits of Denver, tried disposing of liquid waste by injecting it 12,000 feet below the ground. The result was a series of damaging earthquakes in Denver, up to 5.0 - 5.5 magnitude. USGS wrote a report [usgs.gov] in 1990.

      The Victorian warehouse at 1000 Bannock [google.com] still shows steel L-braces affixed to the exterior to hold the brick building together from the 1967 earthquake damage -- notice also the long crack running clear through from the back wall diagonally up to the roof.

      It wasn't just Denver. I was living in Leadville, CO at the time and some friends had a hobby mine that went into an old fault line. Gold concentrates where there are breaks in the rock because that's where the water moves. When those earthquakes started, the latter third of their mine collapsed (because it was into looser rock adjacent to the fault line). The first time they were like what? and dug it back out and started shoring it, and then the second one hit, and then the third... and they were comp

  • by tacokill (531275) on Monday November 14, 2011 @04:32PM (#38052040)
    Not only do I live in Oklahoma but my work bumps up against the energy/hydrocarbon industry. This is a subject that I know quite a bit about, in fact....

    The answer is: No, No, and No.

    For forever, Oklahoma has had small earthquakes like this. It is not uncommon as we sit on the Arkoma plate (little known fact: The Arbuckle mountains were the largest in the world....about 130 million yrs ago). I remember quakes as far back as I can remember and I can even remember the dumb local news outlets mistaking a B52 landing at night for yet another earthquake (circa 1991 or so). This is not a news story, rather, it is an opportunity for the anti-fracking crowd to push its agenda when the opportunity is ripe. Whether it has any basis in reality is quite a different question...

    The quakes were centered almost in the middle of the state. Unfortunately for the anti-fracking crowd, all of the fracking in the state is going on in the Woodford Shale [oilshalegas.com], which is South / Southwest of where the quakes occured (by a lot). While earthquakes being caused by fracking cater to our common senses, there just isn't ANY evidence that the two are linked. And I mean in that statistical "causation" way. *NO* regulatory agency, body, or otherwise has indicated otherwise.

    Additionally, the Woodford shale deposit has been in active development for many many years. Fracking didn't just start there a few years ago. Try a decade or more.

    While I never say never, I will only say that extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence. And it's an extraordinary claim to suggest our fracking is starting earthquakes here in Oklahoma.
    • by Anonymous Coward on Monday November 14, 2011 @04:52PM (#38052238)

      I live in Northwestern Oklahoma, and currently work for a Oil and Natural Gas company who not only supplies but regularly uses fracking equipment. At present there are over 300 wells in northwestern Oklahoma that have been fracked in the past 2 years, and yet northwest Oklahoma has seen absolutely no change in seismic activity. And yes fracking is the standard in the US for natural gas well production, and has been for at least 6 years. Thank you for being sensible and knowledgeable on the subject, so few are on here.

    • by ricky-road-flats (770129) on Monday November 14, 2011 @04:55PM (#38052280)

      While earthquakes being caused by fracking cater to our common senses, there just isn't ANY evidence that the two are linked. And I mean in that statistical "causation" way. *NO* regulatory agency, body, or otherwise has indicated otherwise.

      Except HERE... [bbc.co.uk]

    • by dwillden (521345)
      I thought I'd note that according to the USGS earthquake maps, the quakes in question, while not in the "Sweet Spot" areas on the map found on the site you linked to, are within the given boundaries of the Woodford Shale (again based on the map found on your link). So further investigation as to how much fraking is being done just north of Shawnee is essential to back up your claims.

      I tend to agree with you but, your case isn't as strong as you claim. The real question is what does the historical recor
  • by jarrettwold2002 (601633) on Monday November 14, 2011 @04:32PM (#38052042)

    If you want to see if fracking leads to an increase in geological activity, keeping an eye on North Dakota might be interesting. We have a large scale oil boom happening here. The Bakken formation is being rapidly developed using fracking in an ever increasing scale.

    The state is also relatively stable.
    http://earthquake.usgs.gov/earthquakes/states/north_dakota/history.php [usgs.gov]

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bakken_formation [wikipedia.org]

    • by tacokill (531275) on Monday November 14, 2011 @05:10PM (#38052440)
      Agreed. Bakken Shale is very exciting and that area of the world is a perfect "test bed" for this hypothesis. The "interference" is negligible so a good set of data could be generated fairly easily -- and it would have meaning.

      Sidenote: North Dakota is printing more millionaires (by count) than anywhere else in the world right now. Yes, including China.
      • We may be minting more millionaires, but due to massive flooding this year in the side of the state that matters to the Bakken... we have a housing availability rate of less than 0.1% where I live in Minot. So rental rates in our 40k pop city have skyrocketed, nuking the service (mcdonalds, pizza hut etc) sector's ability to hire and keep employees. It's a situation where you can be making 150K/yr on the rigs and be homeless, due to lack of housing.

        So the boom is coming with some really nasty environmenta

  • by kick6 (1081615) on Monday November 14, 2011 @04:40PM (#38052124) Homepage
    I lived in Oklahoma and worked in the natural gas industry circa 2005. At that point we were already frac'ing every single natural gas well we drilled, and probably had been for a decade prior. Why NOW is it suddenly a problem? Oh that's right...because its a politcal issue. If there was any real science to support this frac=quake BS siesmologists would have been screaming about it a decade ago.
  • Does anyone have the slightest idea of how many semi-trucks are traveling the roads today? If you are out on any of the Interstate roads in the evening you will pretty much seen an unending line of trucks as far as you can see. That is thousands of trucks moving across the roads at any given moment in time. Over the course of 24 hours it is likely to be over 500,000 trucks having been driven that day.

    So what? Well, considering the trucks together are going to average out at around 40,000 pounds each - 2

    • by Pope (17780)

      A million trucks would be twenty million tons of mass moving across the surface of the Earth. Easily within a single day we have ten million tons in motion.

      What do you think this is doing to the Earth's rotation?

      Absolutely nothing. Go back to Newtonian mechanics and do some reading, you don't have to report back. Here's a hint: the Earth's mass is over 6.6 sextillion tons.

  • It doesn't create the pressure.
    forcing fluid in between the pressure faces of a fault basically lubricates it.
    it's releasing pressure that was already there.

    decades ago there was a case in Colorado where a government disposal well did this as also.

    it's not new.
    it's not necessarily bad, they just need to be more careful where and how they do it.

  • And big ones, too? They certainly release a lot more energy than any one drilling operation does with an injection.

  • by desertengineer (1373803) on Monday November 14, 2011 @05:55PM (#38053022)
    There's a lot of buzz here in Oklahoma about that. Tiring of all the media drama and emotions, and wanting a better explanation, I talked to a retired geologist friend - and she had some good data... First, the epicenters of the quakes (We've probably had a hundred total in the past few weeks) are on the Western edge of a geologic area known as the Seminole Structure. That's on the edge of a much larger discontinuity known as the Nemaha. The faults have been here for a long time, and therefore hold a good measure of energy. Second, the depths have been measured to be around 18,000 ft down. There are no wells in this area close to that depth, so the chance of fracking fluid causing it is diminished. Third, the waveforms suggest a thrust movement rather than side-slip. Fracking isn't much of a candidate there. I posed the question to her that if the chances are small injection wells caused the bigger one, would it be plausible that a smaller quake from the wells could have triggered a chain of stress relief that led to the larger one? Not likely, because if it was so easily triggered ("on edge" of being triggered), then natural processes are more probable than man-made ones to "trigger" the chain. Within hours of the first correlated events, geology researchers (and students?) from OU and OSU were on scene (West of Prague) with sensors and acoustic equipment. This is pretty much the first Oklahoma quake cluster to have that level of detailed instrumentation. Maybe they will get some good grants out of this? :)

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