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posted by Fnord666 on Wednesday January 10, @05:43AM   Printer-friendly
from the if-Oklahoma-is-a-rockin... dept.

Arthur T Knackerbracket has found the following story:

In Oklahoma, reducing the amount of saltwater (highly brackish water produced during oil and gas recovery) pumped into the ground seems to be decreasing the number of small fluid-triggered earthquakes. But a new study shows why it wasn't enough to ease bigger earthquakes. The study, led by Ryan M. Pollyea of Virginia Tech in Blacksburg, Virginia, was published online ahead of print in Geology this week.

Starting around 2009, saltwater disposal (SWD) volume began increasing dramatically as unconventional oil and gas production increased rapidly throughout Oklahoma. As a result, the number of magnitude 3-plus earthquakes rattling the state has jumped from about one per year before 2011 to more than 900 in 2015. "Fluids are basically lubricating existing faults," Pollyea explains. Oklahoma is now the most seismically active state in the lower 48 United States.

Previous studies linked Oklahoma SWD wells and seismic activity in time. Instead, Pollyea and colleagues studied that correlation in space, analyzing earthquake epicenters and SWD well locations. The team focused on the Arbuckle Group, a porous geologic formation in north-central Oklahoma used extensively for saltwater disposal. The earthquakes originate in the basement rock directly below the Arbuckle, at a depth of 4 to 8 kilometers.

The correlation was clear: "When we plotted the average annual well locations and earthquake epicenters, they moved together in space," says Pollyea. The researchers also found that SWD volume and earthquake occurrence are spatially correlated up to 125 km. That's the distance within which there seems to be a connection between injection volume, fluid movement, and earthquake occurrence.


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  • (Score: 3, Interesting) by Barenflimski on Wednesday January 10, @06:17AM (8 children)

    by Barenflimski (6836) on Wednesday January 10, @06:17AM (#620360)
    Earthquakes 125km away from fluid injection sites, is an interesting result. You would think 4-8km down, and even in a porous area, 10-20km max lubrication horizontally that you might get a 20km-50km ring of earthquakes max. There is clearly tension in the ground that is slipping fairly significantly in that layer. Some of these are significant earthquakes. The sheer number of them is significant.
    • (Score: 1) by rylyeh on Wednesday January 10, @06:47AM (7 children)

      by rylyeh (6726) Subscriber Badge <{kadath} {at} {gmail.com}> on Wednesday January 10, @06:47AM (#620366)
      This result from fracking would strike fear into anyone living in the cascadia subduction zone [wikipedia.org] as I do.
      --
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      • (Score: 3, Interesting) by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday January 10, @07:05AM (6 children)

        by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday January 10, @07:05AM (#620369)

        Given how each 1.0 on the scale is a factor of 32, what would you prefer in a span of 500 years?

        1 earthquake of magnitude 9, with mountains collapsing and a tsunami that spans the Pacific
        32 earthquakes of magnitude 8, pretty devastating once every 15 years
        1024 earthquakes of magnitude 7, twice yearly but not really a big deal for a country with building codes
        32768 earthquakes of magnitude 6, an annoyance every 5 days
        1048576 earthquakes of magnitude 5, just a rumble you get used to every few hours
        33554432 earthquakes of magnitude 4, indistinguishable from passing trucks
        1073741824 earthquakes of magnitude 3, not that you could tell

        If you like that last one better than the first one, frack more.

        • (Score: 2) by FatPhil on Wednesday January 10, @07:09AM (3 children)

          by FatPhil (863) <{pc-soylent} {at} {asdf.fi}> on Wednesday January 10, @07:09AM (#620372) Homepage
          I thought the energy ratio was 10x per 1.0 delta, where did you get 32 from?
          --
          Life is a precious commodity. A wise investor would get rid of it when it has the highest value.
          • (Score: 4, Informative) by takyon on Wednesday January 10, @07:19AM (1 child)

            by takyon (881) Subscriber Badge <reversethis-{gro ... s} {ta} {noykat}> on Wednesday January 10, @07:19AM (#620375) Journal

            https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Moment_magnitude_scale [wikipedia.org]

            The moment magnitude scale (MMS; denoted as Mw or M) is used by seismologists to measure the size of earthquakes.[1]

            The scale was developed in the 1970s to succeed the 1930s-era Richter magnitude scale (ML). Even though the formulas are different, the new scale retains a continuum of magnitude values similar to that defined by the older one. Under suitable assumptions, as with the Richter magnitude scale, an increase of one step on this logarithmic scale corresponds to a 101.5 (about 32) times increase in the amount of energy released, and an increase of two steps corresponds to a 103 (1,000) times increase in energy. Thus, an earthquake of Mw of 7.0 releases about 32 times as much energy as one of 6.0 and nearly 1,000 times that of 5.0.

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            • (Score: 2) by FatPhil on Wednesday January 10, @07:40AM

              by FatPhil (863) <{pc-soylent} {at} {asdf.fi}> on Wednesday January 10, @07:40AM (#620379) Homepage
              Ah, yes, it's what they call the "amplitude" that scales by 10x, not the energy, thanks.

              However, you have to remember that they've taken into consideration the *area* affected by the quake to get that number. Bigger quakes affect a bigger area, so the energy per unit area does not scale quite as aggressively as that 32x implies, and the local damage is better correlated to the energy per unit area. Hence amplitude is still an important measure.

              However^2, the calculation you're performing does rely on total energy dissipation, so it is the correct unit to use.
              --
              Life is a precious commodity. A wise investor would get rid of it when it has the highest value.
          • (Score: 1) by khallow on Wednesday January 10, @04:56PM

            by khallow (3766) Subscriber Badge on Wednesday January 10, @04:56PM (#620511) Journal

            I thought the energy ratio was 10x per 1.0 delta, where did you get 32 from?

            Energy goes up as 10^1.5 (which is almost a factor of 32) per one delta. It's the motion that goes up by a factor of 10. The interesting thing is that the power law seems to apply well to the frequency of earthquakes, which decline by similar amounts as one increases in the magnitude scale. Stuck faults tend to decline in frequency by a factor of 10, while slippery faults (and the Oklahoma situation) tend to decline as a factor of 30. That has the consequence that large earthquakes are far more likely on stuck faults than on slippery ones and far larger numbers of small earthquakes happen on the slippery faults.

            The real news here is that earthquake frequency in Oklahoma has declined dramatically over the past couple of years. That indicates to me that the real problem is not lubrication of existing faults as claimed in the story, but the energy input from pumping pressured water underground.

        • (Score: 2) by PartTimeZombie on Wednesday January 10, @11:28PM (1 child)

          by PartTimeZombie (4827) on Wednesday January 10, @11:28PM (#620713)

          The Christchurch Earthquake of February 2011 was 6.7 and killed 185 people.

          We have building codes (they have been strengthened however) but I can't see anyone wanting to go through that every week.

          From what friends tell me, the worst part of the many, many aftershocks (some of which were 4.0 - 5.5 ) was the unrelenting nature of them, many people left the city because they couldn't stand it any more.

          I don't think any earthquake of 5 - 6 could possibly be just an annoyance.

          • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Thursday January 11, @02:33AM

            by Anonymous Coward on Thursday January 11, @02:33AM (#620769)

            If they'd had repeated earthquakes of magnitude 6.7, there would not have been 185 deaths each time. The deaths per earthquake would rapidly drop, even if the population is kept up. Bad buildings fail, and are replaced by good buildings. People learn not to stack heavy things on flimsy shelves.

  • (Score: 1, Funny) by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday January 10, @07:07AM (1 child)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday January 10, @07:07AM (#620370)

    The TMB moved away from the Nations, like last year. The relief of his rather massive self has caused upwelling of the bedrock, with it's attendant periodic seismic activity. I am sure khallow will back me up on this one. Not to mention, the catfish.

  • (Score: 2) by FatPhil on Wednesday January 10, @07:23AM (5 children)

    by FatPhil (863) <{pc-soylent} {at} {asdf.fi}> on Wednesday January 10, @07:23AM (#620377) Homepage
    Claims that fracking and waste water injection associated with oil, gas drilling and fracking has caused an increased the number of earthquakes have been made by interested amateurs, environmentalists, and simply locals in the relevant regions, for over half a decade.

    The USGS's response was initially to flat out deny any such association or correlation.

    As more evidence came in, they doubled down by deliberately misinterpretting the claims as asserting that when the waste water or fracking fluid goes in, a quake will happen. This kind of deliberate misinterpretation would also decorrelate sex and babies, or boozing in a pub and DUI incidents.

    Worse, even though in the last 3 years they've started to produce their own research verifying the correlation (there was a trickly of papers in 2014, but they only really ramped up in 2015) and admitting to the causation aspect, they're still trippling down and claiming that their opponents are saying, and have always said their garbage misinterpretaion from their doubleing down above.

    The USGS seems as intellectually corrupt as many a Climate Science department. Science needs some purges to clean out the politics and of course big-business interests, and get back to the actual science.
    --
    Life is a precious commodity. A wise investor would get rid of it when it has the highest value.
    • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday January 10, @07:45AM (3 children)

      by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday January 10, @07:45AM (#620380)

      1. fracking and earthquakes
      2. sex and babies
      3. boozing in a pub and DUI incidents
      4. vaccines and vaccine injury

      With that last one, anything that happens outside of a really narrow time window is excluded. If I remember right, the end of the window is 24 hours later, and the beginning is something like an hour or thereabouts.

      • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday January 10, @11:48AM (2 children)

        by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday January 10, @11:48AM (#620435)

        > 4. vaccines and vaccine injury

        You mean autism? Can you please get a Doctorate in medicine so that we can revoke it?

        • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday January 10, @08:38PM

          by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday January 10, @08:38PM (#620616)

          Even if that were an issue, it would be excluded from the stats. Never minding if vaccines cause autism or not: excluding anything outside of a narrow window of time is fucked up wrong

          Kids actually die from vaccines. This is a well-known fact. Any death outside of a narrow window is excluded.

        • (Score: 2) by sjames on Wednesday January 10, @11:12PM

          by sjames (2882) on Wednesday January 10, @11:12PM (#620707) Journal

          It's not just the well debunked autism connection. There are real and actually documented vaccine reactions that do happen with a non-zero probability. Often it starts with inconsolable crying and ends up in high fever and brain damage leading to death or permanent disability.

    • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday January 10, @02:50PM

      by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday January 10, @02:50PM (#620474)

      yeah it seems to be that injecting a lubricant into the faults would cause things to move more easily. whether it is fracking related or not.

      a problem is that it comes across as an attack on big oil and so the dogs react angrily to such provocations. granted--it's big oil's methods and their injection of such fault lubricants that are at fault.

      If they perhaps had a better way to get rid of their waste material besides this manner... but oh no that would increase costs, so it won't happen. something about onerous industry regulation or free market or terrorisim or something.

      getting any industry to take care of their trash is a problem, not just them. look at e-waste and battery recycling as an example of another problem with cheap disposal tactics. but those won't cause earthquakes; they may pollute concentrated areas and make the land unlivable and remain suited for only a dump and poison the people working at the recycler, but earthquakes... well just don't put a battery recycling dump nearby a fracking well near the coasts, I guess.

  • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday January 10, @09:32PM (1 child)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday January 10, @09:32PM (#620640)

    How long will it take for people to realize that dumping or removing industrial quantities of fluids or gases in random places in general tends to result in unintended consequences and maybe.. just maybe.. should be considered a bad idea in general?

    Seeing history repeating itself and people making the same mistakes over and over with seemingly no end in sight is enough to make me want a ride to another place off this rock. Though if human nature is anything to go by, it won't be long before we'll ruin that too.

    • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday January 10, @11:09PM

      by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday January 10, @11:09PM (#620704)

      You have to break some eggs to make an omelet.

      It would be reasonable to tax the fracking, then discount that amount off of property taxes in a 125 km radius.

  • (Score: 1) by GreatOutdoors on Thursday January 11, @04:07AM

    by GreatOutdoors (6408) on Thursday January 11, @04:07AM (#620794)

    I do agree with the article for the most part, and the injection wells were (are) causing earthquakes, but they are leaving out an important detail..

    The oil and gas companies picked the fault areas because they were the easiest to pump the saltwater back into. If they had not specifically targeted fault lines, then the issue would be less severe. Over time, things are still only going to get worse, and eventually oil companies will have to pay to have their fracking/production waste cleaned so they can dump it in our rivers and lakes. Yeah... not looking forward to that either..

    Another reason they inject wells with such a massive amount of pressure is because it helps push the remaining oil in the surrounding areas out to the remaining production wells. Once those wells start pumping mainly water, they are turned into injection wells and the process starts over.

    --
    Yes, I did make a logical argument there. You should post a logical response.
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