Thursday, July 17, 2014

Seismic Study To Be Done In Oklahoma: 4500 Disposal Wells and Earthquakes Linked

An E&E Publishing Service

EARTHQUAKES: Okla. agency gets $1.8M to study seismic links to drilling (Wednesday, July 16, 2014)

Mike Soraghan, E&E reporter
Earthquake researchers in Oklahoma have received nearly $2 million from the federal government to study connections between the state's surge in quakes and oil and gas drilling activities.
The Oklahoma Geological Survey will use the money to buy new equipment and hire researchers to analyze piles of research about the drilling wastewater injected into the state's 4,500 disposal wells, said Director G. Randy Keller.
The two-year, $1.8 million grant is from the Department of Energy's Research Partnership to Secure Energy for America (RPSEA). The state, the University of Oklahoma, and the oil and gas industry provided a 20 percent match.
"The whole scheme of things is to produce a really detailed 3-D model of the earth down 10 miles or more," Keller said.
Oklahoma has become the most seismically active state in the lower 48 in the last few months, and many have pointed the blame at disposal wells used to inject wastewater from oil and gas drilling.
The state has had more earthquakes magnitude 3 or higher than California in the last nine months (EnergyWire, May 7). There's been a fortyfold increase during the period of 2008 to 2013 compared with 1976 to 2007.
In 2014, Oklahoma has had twice as many quakes as California, though it's only half the size.
There also have been earthquakes linked to injection in Arkansas, Colorado, Kansas, Ohio and Texas.
The U.S. Geological Survey and academic researchers have linked much of the increase in Oklahoma to deep injection of waste fluid from oil and gas production in the drilling-heavy state.
OGS has been the voice of skepticism in the seismology community on links between drilling activities and earthquakes. The agency has said it is premature to link the earthquakes to wastewater disposal and rebutted the findings of other researchers.
In anticipation of a March 2013 study finding that the state's largest earthquake was induced by disposal, OGS released its own conclusions that it was the result of natural causes (EnergyWire, March 27, 2013).
When areas north of Oklahoma City were rattled by a swarm of smaller earthquakes in November, OGS posted a report pointing away from oil and gas activities and toward changing water levels in nearby Arcadia Lake. Other researchers have linked the swarm to oil production in the area that produces huge volumes of water.
But OGS seismologist Austin Holland has linked very small earthquakes and the hydraulic fracturing of an oil well. And his research contributed to state officials' decision last year to sharply restrict injection at a well site near Marietta, Okla., after a nearby earthquake.
OGS applied for the grant in December and got official word that it had been approved for the grant last month.

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