Oklahoma – The New Earthquake Epicenter
America’s earthquake epicenter was once California.
Now it’s Oklahoma. In 2014 there were nearly 300 times
as many magnitude 3.0 and greater earthquakes as there
were in 2008—and more quakes of that magnitude
than in the prior 30 years combined. The cause? Scientists
can’t say definitively, but new research funded by the
U.S. Geological Survey notes that as quakes increased in
number, so did the use of injection wells that bury wastewater
from tracking and other oil and gas operations.
Driving that water deep underground is intended
to keep it from creeping into shallow aquifers. But the
process can be likened to forcing water into a lidded
cup, says hydrogeology researcher Matthew Weingarten:
“You can only push so much water through a straw before
pressure builds.” Increased subsurface water deposits
can raise fluid pressure and cause geologic faults to slip.
Though other fossil-fuel-rich states—Kansas, Texas—
also have injection wells, Oklahoma’s faults seem more
prone to quake-causing slips. Is more regulation needed?
Mike Teague, Oklahoma’s energy and environment secretary,
says the state will decide once it has more data,
which it gets from the oil and gas industry.
Source: Daniel Stone; USGS; OKLAHOMA GEOLOGICAL SURVEY