With another 3.9 earthquake rocking Oklahoma on Thursday, many Oklahoman’s are wanting to know what is causing the earthquakes. A U.S. Geological Survey, led by USGS geophysicist, William Ellsworth, has linked part of oil and natural gas production to a series of recent earthquakes from Alabama to the Northern Rockies.
According to EnergyWire, Ellsworth is frustrated with confusion over the study and says that fracking does not cause big earthquakes. Something some websites have been mistakingly reporting. The possible cause is thought to be underground injection of drilling waste water, the wells are called Class II wells.
Class II wells inject fluids associated with oil and natural gas production. Most of the injected fluid is salt water (brine), which is brought to the surface in the process of producing (extracting) oil and gas. In addition, brine and other fluids are injected to enhance (improve) oil and gas production. The approximately 144,000 Class II wells in operation in the United States inject over 2 billion gallons of brine every day. Most oil and gas injection wells are in Texas, California, Oklahoma, and Kansas.- read more
Part of the confusion comes from the fact that the term fracking is often used to cover all aspects of shale drilling, including waste disposal, while the industry uses the term to just describe one part of the production process. Links were found between oil and gas waste injection and the 5.6 earthquake that rocked Oklahoma in November as well as a 5.3 earthquake in Colorado in August.
“Something is going on out of the ordinary,” Ellsworth said. “The largest preponderance of evidence,” he said, points to the Oklahoma and Colorado quakes and the rise in the number of midcontinent earthquakes being caused by injection of wastewater from oil and gas drilling. -read more
David J. Hayes, Deputy Secretary, U.S. Department of the Interior, wrote a blog post shortly after the media began reporting on the USGS study to try and clarify some things. While he agreed that they seismicity rate change in the middle part of the United State is likely manmade, he went on to say that “…it remains to be determined if they are related to either changes in production methodologies or to the rate of oil and gas production”
He concluded by saying,
“It’s clear that science is a key part of the Obama administration’s all-of-the-above strategy for American energy, and we will continue to research these important questions – working with industry and our state, federal and academic partners to ensure that we continue to expand oil and gas production safely and responsibly in the United States.”- read more
Studies on the effects of both fracking and waste water injection wells are on-going and we will continue to learn more. One thing is very clear, earthquakes have been increasing in places like Oklahoma and while most have been quite small it’s still wise to be prepared for them and to make sure your home owners insurance covers earthquakes.
About the Author
Lisa Sharp is passionate about green living, organic food, animals, and natural medicine. She is an environmental activist, green living expert, and freelance writer. In addition to being the founder and editor of Green Oklahoma, Lisa has a green living blog, Retro Housewife Goes Green. You can follow Lisa on twitter @Retrohousewife5 and Facebook.