When we move out from fracking to waste water disposal to the oil industry we see that it is the wastewater disposal in the U.S. of the oil and gas industries that are causing earthquakes in the center of the country. Each year the number of earthquakes has grown in unison with the increase in fracking and the disposal of the wastewater it generates.
The state of Oklahoma had only three earthquakes greater than magnitude-3 in 2011. Magnitude-3 is the level at which earthquakes can generally be felt. Oklahoma had 109 magnitude-3 quakes in 2013 mushrooming to 585 of them only one year later or 2014. The total number of earthquakes in Oklahoma in 2014 was 5,415 at all magnitudes. In 2015 there was a record of more than 900 earthquakes greater than a magnitude-3. In 2016 a 5.1 magnitude earthquake struck Oklahoma.
Earthquakes are being felt in Texas, Kansas, Arkansas, Colorado and Oklahoma. Unfortunately these have become a regular daily occurrence.
Of course the dropping price of oil has put all companies relying on a higher price of a barrel of oil in jeopardy. The oil barons in the region led by Saudi Arabia have consciously let the price fall and refused to cut back on production. They are consciously attempting to force oil companies having higher costs (fracking entrants in the United States) to go bankrupt.
As an example, the companies that are going broke in Oklahoma are under the jurisdiction of Oklahoma regulators that are attempting to stop the rising number and magnitudes of earthquakes. Under a recent plan by these same regulators, Sandridge Energy Inc. was asked to reduce injection volumes at 65 of its wells. This request would also force the company to shut down six wells. Because of its finances, it refused the regulatory request and only agreed to a deal after being threatened with legal action.
There continues to be confusion about the cause of these earthquakes in other countries. Questions among Canadian geologists are still revolving around fracking as a cause of earthquakes in Canada. The largest induced Canadian earthquakes are reputed to be in British Columbia, the largest of which has been measured at around 5.0 on the Richter scale. The Canadians believe there is still evidence that some different phenomena are at work.
Arthur McGarr of the United States Geological Survey has said, “Among the earth science community I don’t think there’s any doubt. The scientists are all on the same page. Wastewater disposal, at least in the U.S., has been the primary cause of earthquakes. In Canada, it’s not clear that things work the same way. That’s still a debated question.”
David Eaton, a University of Calgary geophysicist, has said, “But the evidence which is coming through in these studies is that features that are mappable with seismic imaging are not necessary problematic, whereas features that are very difficult to see with the geophysical technology that we’ve got may actually be the problematic ones.”
Oklahoma and other states have recently eclipsed California in total number of earthquakes but these earthquakes have only caused researchers to once again look at California quakes. California is the third largest oil producer in the continental United States. Certainly some of its quakes over the years have been the result of pumping water into disposal wells like the rest of the nation.
Researchers know that the high-pressure wastewater spreads out from the well sometimes lubricating ancient faults and causing them to relieve some of their pent up pressure as induced earthquakes. A Santa Cruz researcher, Thomas Goebel has published a 2016 study in the journal Geophysical Research Letters looking at an earthquake swarm in the Tejon Oil Field south of Bakersfield in September 2005.
The oil field had produced three quakes larger than magnitude-4. This was very close to the White Wolf fault that had been responsible for a major California earthquake decades ago. Five months earlier than the September 2005 quakes a new, large wastewater well was opened up only five miles away in the Tejon Oil Field.
The results of his analysis and assessment program were that earthquakes were predicted that matched the performance of the surrounding terrain. A KQED program in February 2016 stated, “The results were a decent match to the record: the pumping would raise the underground pressure by about 1.5 pounds per square inch, enough to push a fault to failure, and the timing was right too. This was cutting-edge scientific work that relied on excellent seismic records, an area of well known geology, and earthquakes of appreciable size.”
It is probable the oil and natural gas industries have caused the high number of earthquakes that have ravaged a number of states. This phenomenon may disappear due to the price pressure of oil having fallen below $30 a barrel. Many U.S. oil companies are going broke and this bodes well for solving the burgeoning earthquake problem.
We need to ask what is being taught in all of the geology classrooms across the country. If up to this point the teachers and professors have portrayed earthquakes in the normal way they are doing an injustice to their students and misrepresenting their science. Our children need to know this is another instance of human beings having a pervasive effect on their environment. They need to know our greed is causing the earthquakes everyone is feeling.
This is just another example of human beings raping the planet as a result of their all-consuming greed. Now we are causing earthquakes that are shaking up populations all other the world, causing fear and damage amongst their citizens. We need to speak out against these industries and politicians that allow this rape to continue. We must make the difference and stop the ongoing greed that is using up the resources of our planet.
Use the following links to obtain more information or access the source documents that served as the basis of this article.