Oklahoma’s state government on Tuesday embraced a consensus that earthquakes rocking the state are scientifically caused by the underground disposal of billions of barrels of wastewater from oil and gas wells. The state’s energy and environment cabinet introduced a website that details the evidence behind the conclusion made earlier this week.
The site includes an interactive map that plots the earthquake locations along with the sites of more than 3,000 active wastewater-injection wells. Oklahoma is recording 2 ½ earthquakes daily of a magnitude 3 or greater, which is a seismicity rate 600 times greater than observed before 2008.
The drilling technique is known as hydraulic fracturing or “fracking” which generates a large amount of wastewater. Some of the state’s regulators have been monitoring wastewater well activity limiting permits in some areas and requiring some operators to take steps to mitigate earthquake risk. The recent actions have met a mixed response from oil and gas industry and the governor’s critics.
“There may be a link between earthquakes and disposal wells,” the Oklahoma Oil and Gas Association’s president, Chad Warmington, said in the statement, “but we — industry, regulators, researchers, lawmakers or state residents — still don’t know enough about how wastewater injection impacts Oklahoma’s underground faults.”
Most of the quakes result in no more than cracked plaster and driveways but many residents are seeing cumulative damage in quake zones and it’s continuing to get worse. In 2011 there was also a series of shocks that exceeded magnitude 5.0 which caused millions of dollars in damage.
For more information about earthquakes and their patterns in Oklahoma, be sure to visit earthquakes.ok.gov.
Images via Earthquakes in Oklahoma.