Oklahoma Geological Survey: Earthquakes Linked to Oil and Gas Activity

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(KFOR) CUSHING, Okla. – In recent years, earthquakes have become a common occurrence for many residents across Oklahoma.

20 years ago, experts say earthquakes in the Sooner State were few and far between.

Now, it is common for the Oklahoma Geological Survey and the U.S. Geological Survey to record at least one small quake a day across the state.

For months, many residents and business owners have been wondering what is behind the increased activity.

Earlier this year, the U.S. Geological Survey announced that it believed disposal wells used by oil companies was to blame.

Now, the Oklahoma agency says it agrees.

“Based on observed seismicity rates and geographical patterns of migrating seismicity in Oklahoma, which follow major oil and gas plays with large amounts of produced water, these rates and patterns of seismicity are very unlikely to represent a naturally occurring rate change and process,” a statement from OGS said.

The Oklahoma Geological Survey says the rate of earthquakes that top a 3.0 magnitude have increased dramatically since 2008.

In 2008, the OGS says Oklahoma was experiencing one and a half earthquakes of that magnitude a year.

The OGS says the current average rate of 3.0 magnitude earthquakes is two and a half per day, which is 600 times the historical level.

“The Oklahoma Geological Survey considers it very likely that the majority of recent earthquakes, particularly those in central and north-central Oklahoma, are triggered by the injection of produced water in disposal wells,” the statement reads.

Experts say produced water is mixed with oil and gas under the Earth’s surface.

When oil and gas is extracted, so is the water. The water is then separated from the oil and gas and re-injected into disposal wells.

“The observed seismicity of greatest concentration, namely in central and north-central Oklahoma, can be observed to follow the oil and gas activities (plays) characterized by large amounts of produced water. Seismicity rates are observed to increase after a time delay as injection volumes increase within these plays. In central and north-central Oklahoma, this time delay has typically been several weeks to a year or more.”

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