A quite marvelous piece of reporting

Another earthquake hits Oklahoma as concern rises over wastewater injection

So, maybe this earthquake is a result of pumping that waste water into the ground? And that’s the way the piece reads.

A 4.2 magnitude earthquake struck north Oklahoma City early on New Year’s Day, the latest in a series of temblors in the area in recent days that has prompted state regulators to call for more restrictions on oil and gas operators.

Well, could be, obviously.

Oklahoma has become one of the most earthquake-prone areas in the world, with the number of quakes magnitude 3.0 or greater skyrocketing from a few dozen in 2012 to more than 800 in 2015.

Many of the earthquakes are occurring in swarms in areas where injection wells pump salty wastewater – a byproduct of oil and gas production – deep into the earth. As a result, state regulators have begun reducing the volume or shutting down disposal wells in response.

And that’s about as far as most people read of such articles. And that’s also where we get this:

However, the Edmond area has not previously been associated with the activity.

The Oklahoma Corporation Commission issued a statement on Friday saying its Oil and Gas Division staff were taking action in response to the earthquakes in Edmond and that details should be available on Monday.

“The issue is extremely complex, as the initial review of the data for the area in question has not identified any oil and gas wastewater disposal wells that are both high volume and in the state’s deepest formation, a combination that researchers have identified as being at the highest risk for inducing earthquakes,” the commission release stated.

Oh, it’s not about that then. But, of course, that won’t stop people from calling for the practice which hasn’t caused this to cease so as to stop this happening.

27 thoughts on “A quite marvelous piece of reporting”

  1. So Much For Subtlety

    I wonder what these people would do if you told them there is a strong correlation between witch craft and unemployment levels? Or Zionists and cancer?

  2. Magnitude 3.0? That’s the equivalent of your dog snoring softly at the end of the bed. Hardly worth stopping production of very cheap fuel.

  3. Fossil fuels anger Gaia. She will punish our arrogant presumption with global warming, earthquakes, locusts and effete bespectacled Wikipedia editors.

    So sayeth The Science.

  4. @AM
    Very cheap fuel? Very expensive non-profit-making method of extraction when world oil prices are in a historic slump.

  5. DBC,
    The oil price is low precisely because the frackers have added to global supply. (Yes, other factors may exist; but fracking is a major part of the story.)

    Ask yourself, if it’s so unprofitable, why are these profit-seeking companies undertaking such activity?

  6. #GreeniesAreStupid because they stop the waste water from being treated and safely disposed of above ground (via the EPA) and insist that it should be put back in the ground. So it’s really the fault of Greenpeace et al.

  7. If you set out to avoid big earthquakes by stress relief efforts that led to minor tremors instead, you’d presumably be a hero.

    Not that that has much bearing on this story which doesn’t seem to be richly evidence-based.

  8. ‘In the wake of more temblors is Oklahoma, President Obama is calling for more gun control.’

    The agenda awaits any help. Non sequiturs accepted.

  9. @Rib: Do keep up, deep coal mining is a noble career for working class men (where female/transgendered coal miners fit into this narrative I’m not sure) that must be preserved at all costs, and any subsidence problems are mere scars of honour that the public should wear with pride, honouring the fact that Stakhanovite heroes are working tirelessly for the common good miles underground.

    Whereas fracking is a neoliberal attempt to rape Gaia and the minor earthquakes thus caused are just one of a thousand reasons why fracking should be banned, not least the reason (as eloquently espoused by DBC Reed above) that fracking isn’t (apparently) profitable and therefore we should ban capitalists from throwing their money away on doing it, and providing the public with cheap energy at their own expense.


    Of course deep coal mining definitely wasn’t profitable in the UK but I don’t remember the Left pointing this out in the 80s.

  10. “And that’s about as far as most people read of such articles. And that’s also where we get this:”

    With depressing regularity, really important facts seem not to appear until the end of articles. It’s almost as though the opinions of the reporters, editors, and headline writers are considered more important than facts which don’t fit those opinions. It’s almost as though such facts are included only to immunize the publication’s self-image.

    When you start noticing this, you’ll find it’s often true even for articles like book and theater reviews.

    My advice: read the first paragraph, then skip to the last three paragraphs, before you finishi the article – if you still think it worthwhile.

  11. So Much For Subtlety

    Rob – “Funny how you never heard about minor earth tremors from coal mining.”

    You rarely hear about it with hydro-electricity either. But large dams may or may not be the cause of earthquakes.

  12. After reading the full article I can easily see where the confusion is. Once again poor writing paints an incomplete picture. Perhaps an extra hundred words would make things much clearer. More likely the article uses a few too many words to meant a goal.

    In short the article should make clear:
    Oklahoma has seen a massive rise in small earthquakes since the introduction of disposal wells.
    Deep disposal wells are normally found near sites of the earthquakes although no definite link has been proven.
    The Oklahoma Corporation Commission doesn’t show any companies using the deepest disposal wells in the Edmond area.

    I see 2 possibilities that explain the increase in Edmond earthquakes. The first is that the earthquakes just happened to start around the same time as fracking making them seem to be linked. More likely is that some company is using a deep disposal well and for whatever reason didn’t tell the government.

    The EPA regulations are in response to poor waste handling practices. In Pennsylvania frackers have attempted using their own surface treatment as well as existing sewage treatment plants with mostly poor results. It is thought that fracking waste entering the Blacksville No 2 coal mine is what led to the Dunkard Creek fish kill in 2009 but as the dump site was not found the mine owner was fined for not reacting to the change in mine effluent. Municipal waste treatment plants are not designed to remove high salt levels from sewage and therefore can no longer be used to process fracking solvents.

    @everyone saying these are small earthquakes
    While the magnitudes of the earthquakes is indeed small location is key. As a traditionally seismically stable area Oklahoma building codes do not include provisions to help protect buildings against earthquakes. Oklahoma is the center of tornado alley using building methods which stress strength in high winds. This means that these small tremors can cause severe structural issues that wouldn’t happen in a traditional earthquake zone such as California.

    In summary fracking has environmental issues just like any other energy extraction method. It is my belief that fracking is cleaner than coal per kW generated. Perhaps someone that actually works in the industry can provide solid, detailed information waste water handling.

  13. PF

    Talentless but ambitious Maria Miller had to leave the Cabinet because she over-claimed her expenses. Now, she’s trying to make herself look virtuous by competitive virtue-signalling about trannies and their ‘issues’.

  14. Bloke in Costa Rica

    Liberal Yank: what building methods that mitigate the effects of high winds render structures more susceptible to tremors? I mean, I don’t know about hurricanes or tornadoes since we don’t get them here, but the usual seismic resistance technique of building everything like a nuclear bunker (to the extent that I need to bust out my hammer drill to hang a clock on the wall) would seem to be pretty good against storms too.

  15. When building in an earthquake zone care needs to be taken to ensure that the building can flex as the ground moves. Outside of these areas the standard has been to build everything as sturdy as possible. It all comes down to whether the design is built expecting 200mph projectiles or shaking ground. Although a design that stands up to both can be done there was no reason to bother previously. The foundations of buildings in Oklahoma simply were not built to the same standards as those in California. When these foundations were laid there was no reason to include earthquake resistance so the extra cost was not spent.

    The cracked basement floor pictured in the original article could have also happened in a traditional earthquake zone. However current building codes in these areas specify different rebar sizing and spacing as well as a different aggregate mix. Although I am not by any means an expert in building materials or conditions for either of these areas there have been documentaries that explain them effectively.

    Saying that just building everything to withstand a nuclear blast will work ignore the fact this adds a lot of cost to construction. This would be like suggesting that every river barge that will at most experience a 1m wave occasionally should be built to survive a 10m wave found on the high seas. At last check our river barges are designed for the conditions that can reasonable expect. The same goes for the buildings that have been built for 2 centuries in an area that traditionally has incredibly stable ground.

  16. Perhaps someone that actually works in the industry can provide solid, detailed information waste water handling.

    That’ll be me then: all produced water is treated until hydrocarbon content is less than some target of between 10-40ppm (depending on the company and prevailing legislation), then it is sent back to the sea or the nearest water course.

  17. Tim what is done about the salts used?

    The theory on what happened at Dunkard Creek is that the high salt concentrations were due to a leaking retaining pond from a fracking well. As Oklahoma and Pennsylvania are both well away from the sea dumping salt water into our local rivers is obviously not a good idea.

  18. Bloke in North Dorset

    “Talentless but ambitious Maria Miller had to leave the Cabinet because she over-claimed her expenses. Now, she’s trying to make herself look virtuous by competitive virtue-signalling about trannies and their ‘issues’.”

    It was my misfortune to be working on a failing Govt project when she became SoS and I had to meet her in her HoC office.

    She is one of the nastiest, ignorant, specimens in a senior position that I’ve come across, and believe me I’ve met a few. One of the few civil senior servants I respected met her on regular occasions and had an even lower opinion of her.

  19. Tim what is done about the salts used?

    At a guess*, they are evaporated out in settling ponds. No, you’d not want the settling ponds leaking but this is a separate issue.

    *I know a fair bit about produced water treatment, but not that which pertains to fracking.

  20. That was my guess as well. From what I know it was a coffer damn break that leaked into the mine. At least it is a problem that good engineering can fix.

    On the bright side we learned what not to do again which is why there are weird EPA regulations. Losing 40 miles on one of the top fishing streams in the state for a few years hurt. I for one am happy that we have a strong domestic fuel source. Now that we have our short term vehicle fuels sorted let’s get the nuclear base load capacity in place followed by using solar and wind for things that actually make sense.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *