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Earth Science

New Concerns Over Earthquakes In Oklahoma Near Vast Oil-Storage Facility (nytimes.com) 103

HughPickens.com writes: The NY Times reported on October 14, 2015 that a magnitude 4.5 quake struck Saturday afternoon about three miles northwest of the Cushing Hub, a sprawling tank farm that is among the largest oil storage facilities in the world, now holding 53 million barrels of crude with a capacity for 85 million barrels. The Cushing oil hub stores oil piped from across North America until it is dispatched to refineries. The Department of Homeland Security has gauged potential earthquake dangers to the hub and concluded that a quake equivalent to the record magnitude 5.7 could significantly damage the tanks and a study by Dr. Daniel McNamara study concludes that recent earthquakes have increased stresses along two stretches of fault that could lead to quakes of that size. "It's the eye of the storm," says Dana Murphy, vice chairman of the state's oil and gas regulatory body, the Oklahoma Corporation Commission.

"When we see these fault systems producing multiple magnitude 4s, we start to get concerned that it could knock into higher magnitudes," says Daniel McNamara, author of a paper published online that a large earthquake near the storage hub "could seriously damage storage tanks and pipelines." "Given the number of magnitude 4s here, it's a high concern."

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New Concerns Over Earthquakes In Oklahoma Near Vast Oil-Storage Facility

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday October 15, 2015 @09:00AM (#50734685)

    They'll be OK.

    • The Trans-Alaska Pipeline and the huge oil tanks at Valdez Alaska are designed for 8.5 magnitude earthquakes. Anything the Okies can imagine is a lesser engineering problem.

      Set the required earthquake and containment parameters, give the tank farm operators 3-5 yrs to start phasing in upgrades, and 5-10 years to finish. Done.

      Zzzzzzzz.
  • Little quakes (Score:5, Informative)

    by Grand Facade ( 35180 ) on Thursday October 15, 2015 @09:06AM (#50734725)

    I have always been told that little quakes unload the pressure that creates big quakes.

    Which is it?

    THe fear mongering is running rampant.

    That said, what measures have been taken to contain a spill caused by some entity storing that much material in one locale?

    • Re:Little quakes (Score:5, Insightful)

      by gcmd ( 894557 ) on Thursday October 15, 2015 @09:16AM (#50734773)
      That might be true for naturally occurring quakes, but the quakes that we are seeing in OK and surrounding States are being caused by increased stress along these faults by the pressure of waste water being injected into the ground and moving the faults. The ground is settling and creating new stress points, which is leading to these larger quakes. What remains to be seen is what will happen as we continue to create stress in the system. Personally, I wouldn't buy any land downstream...
    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      It's both. It always depends on what the composition of materials around the fault are made of, and what forces and materials are being introduced along the fault. In this case, we are introducing tons of lubrication and material into the ground and causing the fault(s) to shift.

      If you haven't listened to this beautiful song illustrating what fracking in Oklahoma has done to earthquake frequency, you should. Each sound is an earthquake and the frequency increase from 2008 to 2013 increasing with fracking, h

    • Re:Little quakes (Score:5, Informative)

      by drinkypoo ( 153816 ) <martin.espinoza@gmail.com> on Thursday October 15, 2015 @09:24AM (#50734835) Homepage Journal

      I have always been told that little quakes unload the pressure that creates big quakes.

      You have always been lied to [usgs.gov], at best being misled by people who thought they knew more than they did.

      • by Anonymous Coward

        You apparently didn't actually read the article (typical /.er). Lots of small quakes *do* take away the built up energy which leads to a large quake. Unfortunately, there are never enough small quakes to eliminate *all* of the pent up energy and you will still occasionally get a large quake. However, it will not be quite as large as if no small quakes had occurred.

        Please actually read your references. See the last paragraph of the very first fact/fiction then the one specifically dealing with this topic.

        Cap

        • Re:Little quakes (Score:4, Informative)

          by drinkypoo ( 153816 ) <martin.espinoza@gmail.com> on Thursday October 15, 2015 @11:27AM (#50736049) Homepage Journal

          You apparently didn't actually read the article (typical /.er).

          This is at least the second and I believe the third discussion in which I have cited this link. I read the whole thing the first time.

          Lots of small quakes *do* take away the built up energy which leads to a large quake. Unfortunately, there are never enough small quakes to eliminate *all* of the pent up energy and you will still occasionally get a large quake.

          You just failed at logic. Either small quakes significantly diminish the magnitude of large quakes, or they don't. And they don't. You made it through the reading comprehension part, but the logic escaped you.

          See the last paragraph of the very first fact/fiction

          Okay, I will help you understand it, against my better judgement as it is probably a fat waste of time. "Parts of the San Andreas Fault system adapt to this movement by constant "creep" resulting in many tiny shocks and a few moderate earth tremors. In other parts, strain can build up for hundreds of years, producing great earthquakes when it finally releases." What this means is that the small quakes which occur along the [San Andreas] fault do not diminish the intensity of the large quakes along the same fault line. You failed at logic there, too.

          then the one specifically dealing with this topic.

          Oh, you mean where it says "This sounds like a lot of small earthquakes, but there are never enough small ones to eliminate the occasional large event." ... that one? The one that agrees with me? Yeah, I read that one too. Now we know why you're too cowardly to log in. You're an idiot.

      • by Reziac ( 43301 ) *

        And look at the earthquake map. Oklahoma is a specific region of regular moderate quakes. Nothing terribly unexpected going on here.

    • by dywolf ( 2673597 )

      those little quakes can also be signs that the plates are slipping, and that a bigger quake is on the way.
      it not very cut and dry

    • Which is it?

      Gotta love it when someone demands a simple explanation to a complex question. Incidentally, you're not from the area in question, are you? Simple explanations reign supreme there; accuracy, not so much...

    • I have always been told that little quakes unload the pressure that creates big quakes.

      Which is it?

      Any earthquake moves strain from one location in the Earth to another location. Those movements change local stresses. This can go both ways - moving stress away from one location to another on lowering the stresses at the first and raising it at the other.

      That said, what measures have been taken to contain a spill caused by some entity storing that much material in one locale?

      Bunding. Absolutely standard [wikipedia.org] tec

  • by rmdingler ( 1955220 ) on Thursday October 15, 2015 @09:10AM (#50734745) Journal
    To be fair, the storage vessels are largely above ground tanks with floating tops and earthen dams around them, unlike the salt dome reservoirs used for the national petroleum reserve.

    It seems unlikely there would be a major ecological disaster from tank rupture, and pipeline ruptures could be contained rather quickly.

    Unfortunately, some spillage is an accepted part of the energy trade-off provided by crude oil.

    • by fyngyrz ( 762201 )

      Earthen dams. Earthquakes. Doesn't seem like the one could be counted on to respect the other.

  • We're all lucky they didn't build a solar power or wind farm there - can you imagine the toxic spillover that would be caused if an earthquake would hit one of those?

    Drill baby, Drill!

  • They're getting excited about 4s and 5s? Quick someone tell them about the petrochemical depots near LA.

    • About six times more quakes happen for each smaller magnitude. So with the increasing number of 4s and 5s, it suggests a possible 6.
      The maximum size quake is bounded by the largest possible fault area, a number not well understood yet.
    • by dywolf ( 2673597 ) on Thursday October 15, 2015 @10:21AM (#50735337)

      CA has mandatory minimum seismic design requirements.
      OK doesn't.

      And the energy companies are fighting efforts to add those requirements.

      • by Daetrin ( 576516 )
        It's like a bunch of Pacific islanders moving to the Pacific Northwest in the summer and building open air huts. And when people point out those might not be such a wise idea come winter, the islanders argue that people live in Alaska, so it's been proven that winter weather isn't a problem. (The difference in this case of course being that the area itself is changing, rather than the people moving to a different area.)

        In a less hyperbolic example, the Jr high school i went to in Washington was designed b
  • A quake in the 4.x range happens 10,000 - 15,000 times per year. In the 5.x range, 1,000 - 1,500 times per year. So we're seeing quakes like these happen several times a day, every single day, all over the world and there's not a single instance of ecological disaster the FUD being spread in the article tells us to believe.

    A magnitude 5.x earthquake "Can cause damage of varying severity to poorly constructed buildings. At most, none to slight damage to all other buildings. Felt by everyone." So a 5.7 arou

    • by dywolf ( 2673597 ) on Thursday October 15, 2015 @10:27AM (#50735407)

      But not in OK.
      And that's the point.

      We went from an average of 10 quakes a year BF (before fracking) to over 900 in this year alone.
      And the year aint over yet.

      we can't even determine the new average yet, cause each year has been higher than the previous one in an ever increasing trend.

      And youre estimate of what causes dmg is off too.
      House foundations (almost always slabs here) are cracking, requiring (very expensive) shoring/piering. Brick siding is falling off houses. Particularly older houses, which is the majority in the state (not a big new home market, most current dwellings date from the 70s/80s on average).

      And we're talking about quakes in the 3's doing that.

      and the article is talking about a facility located near the swarms.
      a facility that was never designed with seismic activity in mind, because we don't have those rules in OK like they do in CA.

      So no its not FUD, but your post is rather ignorant.

      • by tomhath ( 637240 )
        You are the one spreading FUD. Earthquake swarms like the one OK is having now have occurred many times in the past [newsok.com], long before gas well drilling started. There's no reason other than FUD to associate the tremors with human activity.
        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by dywolf ( 2673597 )

          NewsOK, aka The Oklahoman, our local paper, is well known across the state as a shill for the energy companies.

          After all, it's owned by one.

          So thanks for linking to a news story they published that has already been dismissed by scientists across the state and country several times.

      • According to USGS, those 3's you say doing all that damage create, " Vibrations similar to the passing of a truck." The same intensity of a passing truck is cracking foundations and bringing down walls? I call bullshit.

  • We have seen that the relatively minor amount of water injected into the ground during fracking operations tends to induce earthquakes.

    Carbon dioxide under pressure (supercritical CO2) is a solvent that is at least as good as water, and sequestration proposals call for pumping gigatons of liquid carbon dioxide underground, into the same kind of strata that once held oil. Does anyone think that this will not tend to induce earthquakes?

    Releasing oil from a storage area would cause an environmental mess - som

    • Very interesting comparison. I too am pro-nuke but it's hard, beyond the obvious, to find arguments that make as much sense as this. I will be stealing this line of thinking for my next argument.

    • What I fail to understand is that the very same people who eschew nuclear power because the waste products "Will be dangerous for centuries" don't have a concern about storing vast quantities of carbon dioxide underground.

      What you failed to understand is that you're wrong all around. I eschew nuclear power because humans have been proven to mismanage nuclear waste, and I also am opposed to pumping CO2 into the ground, and I'm opposed to fracking as well. I am pro- solar and wind.

  • Why is The Department of Homeland Security poking its nose in everywhere? Why are they "gauging potential earthquake dangers" when this would normally be monitored and studied by the USGS?

    • Look! A Danger! Quick, before it gets away!

      "The bureaucracy is expanding to meet the needs of the expanding bureaucracy.”

        Oscar Wilde

    • Making sure things are secure from natural disasters actually sounds like what the should be doing instead of being the department of "OMG TERRISTS!"

      That being said, I would expect the USGS to actually have the best interests of the people in mind, and certainly not the DHS.

      • That being said, I would expect the USGS to actually have the best interests of the people in mind, and certainly not the DHS.

        If I were running the DHS, when I got done petting my persian cat and polishing my monocle I would probably have some of my underlings look into doing some things which are actually good for the country so I could point at them when people asked if I ever actually did anything useful.

  • Let's face it. it's going to take a major catastrophe to get America's collective head out of its ass. Of course Fox News will blame the whole thing on Obama, but eventually, people will figure out that we're being screwed by big corporations.

    Unfortunately, history (Deephorizon) has shown us that, even after being screwed by big companies, the deep south still votes republican -- the base thinks that the free market should regulate itself. Hey, you voted for these clowns, live with the consequences.

  • Am I the only one wondering why DHS is the lead agency here? If only there were some kind of agency in charge of geological surveys of the United States... (DHS is probably there because energy security is in vogue in the Beltway, but it definitely shouldn't be the lead agency)
    • USGS can monitor the situation with respect to the earthquakes but what could they do about making sure the tanks are safe or what would happen if the tanks failed? Maybe FEMA.

  • When Memphis falls down, people are going to lose their minds. It's just a guessing game as to when. Nobody is prepared for it and the USG will drag down the rest of the country to deal with a relatively local disaster. "United we stand, together we fall".

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/... [wikipedia.org]

  • Experience has shown that that's the real killer problem after earthquakes, right?
  • They say they have a much larger potential for storage than they are now using... that implies tanks most tanks are empty. I suggest fitting those empty tanks with multiple flexible bladders... say, 8 or ten bladders per tank... the outside walls should be lined with steel fabric such as conventional chain link fencing, so that if the rigid, outer walls are compromised, the steel fencing fabric will hopefully still be able to contain the bladders with their content. Fill that tank with its bladders with o

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