Injection wells likely culprit behind increase in Oklahoma earth - WFMJ.com News weather sports for Youngstown-Warren Ohio

Injection wells likely culprit behind increase in Oklahoma earthquakes

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The rate of earthquakes in Oklahoma has increased by about 50 percent since October 2013, significantly increasing the chance for a damaging quake in central Oklahoma.

In a new joint statement by the U.S. Geological Survey and Oklahoma Geological Survey, the agencies reported that 183 earthquakes of magnitude 3.0 or greater occurred in Oklahoma from October 2013 through April 14, 2014. This compares with a long-term average from 1978 to 2008 of only two magnitude 3.0 or larger earthquakes per year. As a result of the increased number of small and moderate shocks, the likelihood of future, damaging earthquakes has increased for central and north-central Oklahoma.

The joint statement indicates that a likely contributing factor to the increase in earthquakes is wastewater disposal by injection into deep geologic formations. The water injection can increase underground pressures, lubricate faults and cause earthquakes – a process known as injection-induced seismicity. Much of this wastewater is a byproduct of oil and gas production and is routinely disposed of by injection into wells specifically designed and approved for this purpose. The recent earthquake rate changes are not due to typical, random fluctuations in natural seismicity rates.

Injection wells are not the same as the controversial gas and oil well drilling procedure known as hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, which utilizes the injection of water, chemicals and sand into the earth to fracture rock formations, releasing natural gas liquids trapped inside.

As a result of the increased seismicity, the Oklahoma Geological Survey has increased the number of monitoring stations and now operates a seismograph network of 15 permanent stations and 17 temporary stations. Both agencies are actively involved in research to determine the cause of the increased earthquake rate and to quantify the increased hazard in central Oklahoma.

On December 31, 2011, an 4.0 magnitude earthquake was reported in Youngstown. Some research linked that incident to a local brine injection well which was closed as a result.

An analysis by the Columbus Dispatch in March found that the average number of 2.0 magnitude and higher earthquakes occurring in Ohio each year has risen.

Ohio Department of Natural Resources data reviewed by the newspaper showed Ohio averaged two earthquakes annually of 2.0 magnitude or greater between 1950 and 2009. Between 2010 and 2014, that average rose to nine.

ODNR issued a moratorium on hydraulic fracturing within a three mile radius of several earthquakes that occurred this past March in Poland Township. Several tremors were reported in the area of gas wells near the Carbon Limestone Landfill in Poland.

The ODNR also ordered that permits issued by ODNR for horizontal drilling within 3 miles of a known fault or area of seismic activity greater than 2.0 magnitude would require companies to install seismic monitors.  If seismic activity in excess of 1.0 magnitude is recorded, activities will be paused.  If the investigation reveals a probably connection to hydraulic fracturing, activities will be suspended.
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