General Question

ibstubro's avatar

Did you know, or do you believe, that oil production is causing an increase in the number and strength of earthquakes in Oklahoma?

Asked by ibstubro (18765points) February 15th, 2016
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40 Answers

jca's avatar

I heard yesterday that fracking is causing the quakes in Oklahoma. I have heard in the past that fracking causes earthquakes. I’m totally anti-fracking.

elbanditoroso's avatar

I’ve read about this for at least a year, and it seems like the evidence is pretty clear cut.

It’s not the oil extraction, as I understand it, however, it’s the water slurry that they pump back in.

johnpowell's avatar

Yeah, you are replacing rock with slurry. It is obviously going to be less solid.

My friend is a geologist for the USGS and worked with the University of Oklahoma and said she is 90% sure that fracking is the cause.

This pissed her off so much that she sold her house and came back home to Oregon.

Espiritus_Corvus's avatar

Yes. I started hearing about this a few years ago when they opened the Dakota fields up. OK data was already coming in. A fairly new elementary/middle school complex in some town in Oklahoma near the epicenter of this activity was surrounded by oil storage tanks. They had to abandon it for another site because of the earthquakes and the probability that the school would be smothered in oil and fire. The USGS has been raising hell about this, the local and state governments are well aware of it and the people are torn between oil company propaganda, scientists’ warnings, and the need for jobs. @johnpowell‘s article above shows precisely why we should be careful how we allow our educational institutions to become dependent on Koch, et al, funding. These fuckers will dictate science to get what they want. They’ve done it before with tobacco (Duke and Reynolds) and other products, to the detriment of the people of this country. These guys don’t give a shit about anyone but themselves.

rojo's avatar

I believe that fracking is instrumental in the increase or introduction of earthquakes in areas like Oklahoma where they were never frequent before.
But, it is like the big cigarette companies; they will puff up and demand you show proof that it was their actions that caused it, all the while hiding the scientific data that does prove it from the general public. Eventually they will be show to be responsible but by that time we will no longer be able to hold them liable.

johnpowell's avatar

Thought I would add that my buddy has a much cooler job now

stanleybmanly's avatar

Not just Oklahoma, it’s happening nationwide wherever there’s fracking. But the quakes (so far) have all been relatively minor and both petroleum and natural gas prices are still in decline leaving billions of dollars in our collective pockets. The filthy coal industry is being more or less destroyed and the few corporations not yet bankrupt can’t give the stuff away. But more worrisome than the quakes (to me) is the near certain degradation of a significant percentage of the nation’s groundwater.

JLeslie's avatar

Yes, I do believe it’s causing earthquakes. We need Dutchess_III on this Q.

Dutchess_III's avatar

Well, hell yes! There has never been an earth quake (that one could feel) in the 50 years I’ve lived here, but in the last couple of years we have one every few months. It’s due to the fracking over yonder in Oklahoma (We’re only 20 miles from the border.) We had a 5.1 on Saturday.

There was this one a year ago when I was babysitting my Zoey. She was asleep in her playpen in our bedroom. Suddenly the house was swaying and shaking, and I was on my feet, running to snatch her up and get her out of the house, but then it stopped. It’s damn scary. More scary than tornadoes.

Here is an article that says Oklahoma is now the earthquake capital of the world.

It is so frustrating. It’s causing damage to the house and who is supposed to fix it? I got new insurance a few months ago, with an earth quake clause, but they won’t fix the old damage. Maybe we just wait till the damn house falls down around our ears.

rojo's avatar

@Dutchess_III Responsibility for damage and the eventual deaths; that is one reason the drilling companies will never admit that their process has anything to do with causing earthquakes and will hire lawyers and scientists to keep it from ever happening. They learned their lessons well from the tobacco companies.

Dutchess_III's avatar

Right. So frustrating. Waiting for someone like Erin Brockovitch to come along.

Dutchess_III's avatar

Hm. Sending an email to my lawyer.

stanleybmanly's avatar

You know down the line the fracking operations are probably going to lose the bulk of all that profit to lawsuits and damage claims. And once the extent of the groundwater contamination begins to appear (and everyone feigns shock at the “unexpected” catastrophe), the expense for remediation of it all will be shifted onto the backs of taxpayers. Watch & see.

Dutchess_III's avatar

Well, but they’re counting on all the oil to be gone and those profits shuffled elsewhere by then.

stanleybmanly's avatar

That might be the case for the ground water, but the earthquakes and claims are rolling now and increasing daily.

rojo's avatar

Yep, but the groundwater contamination is going to be another fight. Most companies claim the content of their fluids is proprietary information and refuse to let commoners know what it is they are sending into your drinking water.

Espiritus_Corvus's avatar

@Dutchess_III Your wait is over: Erin Brockovich weighs-in on Oklahoma earthquakes

Dum de-dum-dum!

Her Facebook Page

Erin Brockovich criticizes Oklahoma City’s new wastewater treatment company

You guys are right, I think. OK represents food and lots of it. If their water went bad and these companies skip—which I believe they plan to do—the state and feds will have no choice but to fix it with money out of the common weal. If AGI was too big to fail, then OK is certainly too big to fail. We need her. The bad guys know it, and they are depending on it. A lot of the guys involved in the Lehman failure skipped and are living very well abroad in retirement. For around 20 mil, you can by your own Island in Aegean right now. It’s beautiful, it’s Europe, and everyone pretty much speaks English nowadays. That’s where I would be building my nest right now if I was one these bastards.

There’s another thing: From Texas to Montana, farmers’ wells have been going dry and it requires big, expensive equipment to drill a new, deep one, whereas forty years ago this wasn’t the case. The USGS and water management have been saying, for the past fifteen years or so, that huge Ogalala Aquifer is nearly dry. Problem is, there’s no single agency that can get all these agro people —ranchers, farmers, etc.—on one policy page and get them to conserve. They don’t trust the Feds, and they don’t want the State in their businesses. So, nobody will voluntarily cut back because it’s going to cost them and agribiz propaganda is telling them that the scientist are lying, like they say about climate change.

I wonder if this fracking is affecting the Ogalala problem. How deep are they pumping this wastewater and is it polluting what is left of an already stressed and resource?

stanleybmanly's avatar

It’s all a perfect example of privatizing profits and socializing costs, though I am happy with cheap gasoline, my grandchildren are subsidizing me. I guess I should place my savings in gas money in their college funds on the chance that should they arrive at my age they will have the money to buy an occasional glass of pristine water.

Espiritus_Corvus's avatar

It’s kinda funny. In a dark, bitter way. Corporations are treating the American people like my ancestors treated the American Indians. They come in, through various legal instruments take the resources of the land, often depleting or destroying it, then move on to better prospects while we are left with Superfund Sites like Love Canal, the nuclear deposits around Hanford, Washington and Savannah, Georgia, where nuke waste has been leaching into the Columbia and Savannah Rivers and surrounding groundwater for generations. Or the ninety mile stretch along Mississippi between Baton Rouge and New Orleans, an area with the highest cancer rates in the US per population, poisoned by generations of preventable chemical effluent from industries as far north as Bimidji, Minnesota. The list of Superfund Sites is long and tragic.

American corporations have no affinity with the populations they operate among, otherwise they would be more responsible. But laws, tested an approved by the Supreme Court as far back as the early 19th century, have made it possible for them to do this with impunity. I see myself as a capitalist—only because I’ve seen the other systems out there and this one best suits democracy—and I believe the worthy people who initially exploited these resource were due their wealth—they served our country well in the process of industrialization, but those resources our American and rightfully belong to all of us. The payoffs and exemptions should have stopped with the first generation and the profits of the resources should now be paid to us—the rightful owners, the people who hold this citizenship.

Norway, for example, farms out the development and management of their oil resources to companies who are paid well and this is considered an expense of doing business; overhead. But, it is Norwegian oil and therefore each Norwegian has a share of the profits. Since the people own it, they are less likely to do themselves harm by being negligent like many American corporations have been. The system works well and Norwegians are quite happy with the results. In good times, anyway.

So, in a way, this is quite Karmic. One could say that since none of my line of people and others like them ever made a moral stand against how we took this country—not to give it back, but to treat the aboriginals more fairly and to change cease our voracious ways—we now inherit this despicable tradition in the form irresponsible and mendacious corporate behaviour. Only this time, we, the citizens of this democracy, are the Indians. Ha. Sins of our Fathers.

It tends to make one take a closer look as Social Democracy.

rojo's avatar

Industries such as coal, nat gas, oil and the like should be nationalized and everyone should get a share of whatever profits are generated since we all have to share the burden of costs.

stanleybmanly's avatar

For the very same reasons, banks should be nationalized as well. In fact there is no exaggeration in stating that there is an ever growing visible division between corporate goals and the public interest.

bestbroseph's avatar

Alright, I’m somewhat knowledgeable in this, so lets first look at what causes earthquakes. earthquakes are tremors caused by the moving of the tectonic plates. this plates slide past one another at a fairly slow pace. sometimes these plates get stuck on another, and when the tension builds past the friction, the plate slips. this slip sends powerful tremors that shake the ground and result in earthquakes. the areas where these slips occur are fault lines, and are typically the epicenter of these quakes.

Now, we look at oil and natural gas drilling. this involves digging a small hole with a drill into a pocket of oil in the earth. natural gas is nearer to the surface and floats on oil because it is less dense. once all the oil is drained, a new well can be dug elsewhere. I’m not sure what happens to empty pockets, if they’re filled, or left empty.

the only thing these empty pockets would cause is sinkholes, as we have no machinery strong enough to move tectonic plates or affect them otherwise. maybe a hydrogen bomb could make them slip early, but the tremors from that alone would be noticed. its probably more of a way to get rid of oil drilling then actual science. ill ask an expert later for more info and have an update.

Espiritus_Corvus's avatar

@bestbroseph

Your statement, broken down into its basic elements, is:

(1) Earthquakes are caused exclusively by shifting tectonic plates.
(2) Fracking does not cause the shifting of tectonic plates,
(3) Therefore fracking does not cause earthquakes.

I disagree and I say your definition of and the cause of earthquakes is very narrow. The United States Geological Survey, it’s international counterparts and the Encyclopedia Britannica disagree with your narrow definition of “Earthquake.”

“In its most general sense, the word earthquake is used to describe any seismic event — whether natural or caused by humans — that generates seismic waves. Earthquakes are caused mostly by rupture of geological faults, but also by other events such as volcanic activity, landslides, mine blasts, and nuclear tests.”
—Retrieved 17 February 2016 from Encyclopaedia Britannica @http://www.britannica.com/

Therefore, since part 1 of your statement is false, your conclusion is as well.

Creating large (or a network of large), unsupported voids under the surface of the earth can cause the destabilization at the surface that we call earthquakes, inclusive the resultant proportional damage one can expect from earthquakes.

Dutchess_III's avatar

Well, this is crazy. You know that link @Espiritus_Corvus gave me up there? It had an email address for Erin Brockovich. I just sent off a throw away email to it.

Within an hour I got a call from a lawyer in NY, NY who works for the firm that Brockovich has chosen to handle this issue.
The guy’s name is Sean Mccue. He works for Weitz & Luxenberg, 700 Broadway, NY NY. I asked a million questions, it checks out on the internet, and I’m 99% sure it was legit.

He didn’t ask for any personal information,other than my address, which I wouldn’t give, and he said he understood.

He said “Document, document, document.” For what it’s worth. If anything is to happen in will be years, and OK will be first.

He said Brockovich is going to be in Edmund, OK on the 22 or 23rd for a meeting, but it isn’t open to the public.

I’ll be receiving “blast” updates from Weitz & Co.

Things that make you go “Hmmmm.”

stanleybmanly's avatar

Nice work Dutchess!

Dutchess_III's avatar

I sent an email about the New Madrid earthquake in 1812.
This is how he replied.

Hi Valerie –

You might find this article to be of interest: http://www.kgs.ku.edu/Current/2004/Gerhard/07_nemaha.html

While the article is 12 years old now, it goes into the geologic and seismologic history of the Nemaha fault in Kansas.

The New Madrid quake swarm in 1811/12 was actually along a different fault but it’s all the same idea. Essentially, fault lines exist throughout North America, some of which are more active than others. The spot where Arkansas, Tennessee, and Missouri all meet is a relatively weak part of the North American plate and thus has historically seen more shaking than most of the rest of the continent, especially when you don’t count the western boundary of the continent (ie, the Pacific coastline). The troublesome part about the Nemaha fault, though, is that it was never considered particularly seismically active when compared to previous hot zones like New Madrid (and to a lesser extent other areas such as Yellowstone and Charleston, SC). Thus, we have to ask – what’s making the Nemaha wake up?

Thanks for staying in touch,

Sean

And today I got another follow up about a public meeting in Oklahoma next week with Erin Brockovitch.

JLeslie's avatar

That flipping New Madrid fault cost me a fortune for earthquake insurance for my house in TN. An extra $900 a year for coverage! My neighbor there, his insurance dropped earthquake coverage altogether about 7 years ago.

It doesn’t surprise me a law firm looking into class action for the quakes possibly caused by fracking quickly responded. My guess is the more people they sign up the better for them.

dappled_leaves's avatar

This has been known for a long, long time. It happens everywhere there is intense fracking, and is all the more obvious in areas that should see no earthquakes because of the local geology. I can’t believe we haven’t decided, as a planet, to just forbid all fracking by this point. It’s one of the stupider things humans have decided to do.

Dutchess_III's avatar

Well, @dappled_leaves, they figure they can rip as much $$$ out of the ground as they can before they have to dace the music…which will be years and years into the future.

ibstubro's avatar

Yeah, @Dutchess_III wait until the insurance companies realize they can stick it to you like @JLeslie.
My first house I took Earthquake insurance as a lark because it was under $20 a year. The next year the New Madrid reevaluation raised the Earthquake to $120+ alone.

JLeslie's avatar

New Madrid is expected to be a doozy when it really shakes things up again. We had little tremors now and then while I lived there. I don’t know if the fracking ever causes such severe quakes?

Dutchess_III's avatar

You guys live in the southern Illinois, southeast Missouri, far eastern Arkansas, or west Tennessee areas? In this area? I somehow thought you were much further west, @JLeslie.

ibstubro's avatar

@Dutchess_III I realize that you probably only intend that question for @JLeslie, but I’m actually north of that graphic, and earthquake insurance increased my premium (if I recall correctly) by over ⅓ because I had an FHA, first time home owners loan.

When earthquake was optional, it was under $20 a year. When the government required it on FHA loans, it went to over $120.
First time home owners cost me, literally $1,000’s over conventional, with zero benefit. Since it was my first home, I just _ass/u/med it was the way to go.

Dutchess_III's avatar

The truth is, earthquake insurance won’t do jack unless your house is leveled. They won’t pay for constant repairs.

ibstubro's avatar

My New Madrid insurance was catastrophic only, as far as I knew, @Dutchess_III.
The government required replacement insurance based on the probability of an earthquake.

My house was solid brick which the insurance loved for most purposes. Of course that’s the worst to insure for earthquake.

JLeslie's avatar

I lived 20 miles east of Memphis. Memphis was part of the quake 100 years ago caused by New Madrid, and would be again if another registered 8 on the Richter scale. Where I was, 20 miles east, would be much less affected, but we would feel it. During the 1812 quakes Memphis area witnessed the Mississippi River flowing north. While I lived there I attended a lecture about earthquakes and the specialist giving the lecture said Memphis was ill equipped at the time to handle a big quake if it happened. He was consulting with the city and they were finally putting into place emergency plans if a quake hit to get emergency needs and provide shelter. At the time the main bridge crossing the river from Memphis, TN to West Memphis, AR, which is the I40 bridge was being reinforced to handle land movement and water direction changes.

Dutchess_III's avatar

….The problem from where I sit is that no one has had any reason to build any houses designed to ride out earthquakes of any significance, until very recently. Absolutely no reason to, any more than a house in the Mojave Desert should be designed with a tornado shelter in mind (although a tornado shelter is a hell of a lot less expensive than specialized housing foundations.)
Lucky Guy sent me the name of a company who actually makes foundation braces that are designed to have some give, but to do this retroactively is going to be SO expensive. The companies who are causing the shifting should be held at least somewhat accountable for the expenses in retroactively fitting the houses.

bestbroseph's avatar

@espiritus_corvus obviously if you include seismic waves caused by fracking earthquakes, then the number goes up in direct relation. I was speaking of natural ones, and the original question asks of drilling in general, not just fracking. So, can oil drilling directly increase the number of natural earthquakes? No. But can fracking and other explosions shake the ground? Obviously so. Its like saying clapping makes noise.

ibstubro's avatar

@bestbroseph “the original question asks of drilling in general” simply isn’t true.

In the details are two links discussing the disposal of waste water from oil drilling, and the ways that the disposal is contributing to increased earthquake activity.

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