Oklahoma just had another record breaking year of earthquakes, with over 5,000 recorded. This is a 50% increase from record breaking 2014. We know now what’s causing the earthquakes — disposal wells used in fracking. And while wells are being shutdown in the earthquake swarm areas, the earthquakes continue to rock other parts of the state.
Right now the big concern is the oil hub in Cushing, Oklahoma. Cushing is home to the largest commercial crude oil storage center in North America. It’s also home to many pipelines, including the Keystone XL, where many of the earthquakes are happening.
The big problem is the storage tanks in Cushing were not built with earthquakes of this magnitude in mind. Historically, earthquakes weren’t an issue in Oklahoma. The few we had were very small, not a real concern. That has now changed and there seems no end in sight.
In October, a magnitude 4.5 earthquake struck a few miles from Cushing. There was no damage found — but the faults under the oil hub are primed for more earthquakes.
Experts are warning that an earthquake stronger than Oklahoma’s record magnitude 5.6 quake back in 2011 could happen at anytime. A strong quake like that could disrupt the U.S. energy market and become a national security threat.
Scientists warned that a large earthquake near Cushing “could seriously damage storage tanks and pipelines.” The pattern of moderate quakes suggests that a large earthquake is a very real concern, the lead author of the study, Daniel McNamara, said in an interview.
“When we see these fault systems producing multiple magnitude 4s, we start to get concerned that it could knock into higher magnitudes,” he said. “Given the number of magnitude 4s here, it’s a high concern.”- NY Times
The Department of Homeland Security is concerned given the national security threat if the oil hub was hit by a large earthquake.
“The Department of Homeland Security has gauged potential earthquake dangers to the hub and concluded that a quake equivalent to the record magnitude 5.7 could significantly damage the tanks. Dr. McNamara’s study concludes that recent earthquakes have increased stresses along two stretches of fault that could lead to quakes of that size.” – NY Times
As if what happened in 2015 wasn’t enough, only eight days into 2016 and Oklahoma is on track to beat records again. Oklahoma has already seen six earthquakes of 4.0 magnitude or greater. 2015 saw 29 4.0 magnitude or greater quakes. And there were 14 in 2014.
In response to the earthquake swarms, the Oklahoma Corporation Commission has been shutting down wells around the state, including several near Cushing. However, the earthquakes have continued.
State Rep. Cory Williams, D-Stillwater is now calling on Gov. Mary Fallin and the Oklahoma Corporation Commission to force SandRidge Energy to shut down wastewater disposal wells in north-central and northwestern Oklahoma.
Research geophysicist Daniel McNamara is warning Oklahomans to prepare for a large earthquake.
“Residents should take precautions to secure heavy furniture, such as bookshelves and large televisions, McNamara said. It’s common to bolt down things in California, and Oklahomans should adopt the same approach, he said.”- Journal Record
Unless our politicians push hard to regulate the oil and gas industry further, Oklahoma families will continue to suffer from more earthquakes and our national security will remain threatened.