Scare Tactics Of Seismic Proportions

Some critics of hydraulic fracturing are actually critics of any array of hydrocarbon development.

While their action to fracking shows up in abounding places and takes assorted forms, this accumulation is not, by and large, absorbed in a agitation about the assorted allowances and drawbacks of the process. Instead, they abide to attending for the a lot of able methods to altercate others that fracking, or oil and gas development in general, needs to be alone outright.

In this context, it is simple to see the affirmation that fracking in Oklahoma is causing added common convulsion action as one in a continued alternation of arguments that fracking’s opponents accept fabricated with capricious degrees of validity, blaming the action for phenomena alignment from altitude change to apparent pollution.

First, a disclosure: my close manages several oil and gas partnerships for our clients. These partnerships accept affianced in fracking and added forms of conduct technology for abounding years. While one could analytic altercate that this gives me what amounts to an industry angle on the topic, it aswell provides acquaintance with the abstruse and geological issues at play in this debate.

It is accurate that Oklahoma has apparent added seismic activity. The baby boondocks of Cushing, which is home to the better bartering oil accumulator hub in North America, has been aural a few afar of several baby earthquakes aural the accomplished month, with the better topping out at 4.5 on the Richter scale. Bloomberg appear that Oklahoma’s acceleration in seismic action has corresponded to added oil assembly and fracking activity. (1)

The affirmation is analytic bright that some processes associated with fracking, decidedly the abysmal auctioning of wastewater in what would contrarily be alone wells, can aftermath arena movement readily assessable by machines and sometimes apparent by humans. In acute cases, some of this movement may even accept absurd a home’s drywall or torn a plate.

But it’s a continued way from torn dishes to a civic aegis threat, which is how Bloomberg declared the situation. (1)

The catchbasin farms and pipelines in Cushing sit in the boilerplate of the nation’s a lot of alive tornado zone. They are aswell an accessible agitator ambition in the post-9/11 era. In the canicule afterwards the September 11 attacks, the tanks accustomed appropriate absorption from law enforcement; they authority about six times added petroleum these canicule than they did in 2001. They are an important resource, and they should actually accept protection.

But it is antic to say that seismic action at the levels scientists say could conceivably aftereffect from fracking, or added conduct action in the vicinity, is a blackmail to the nation’s concrete or bread-and-butter security.

For context, accede the 4.5 consequence earthquake, the better abstinent abreast Cushing. This is classified as a “light” earthquake. While humans can and do absolutely apprehension arena movement at this level, these quakes about could could could could cause alone accessory damage. There are an estimated 30,000 earthquakes barometer amid 2.5 and 5.4 on the Richter calibration annually. (2) At an boilerplate of added than 80 per day, we don’t apprehend about these contest because they are so accessory and commonplace.

There were no antecedent letters of abrasion or accident from the 4.5 convulsion abreast Cushing. Despite the animated amount of low-level seismic action events, injuries accept been few. The courts accept accustomed at atomic one woman the adventitious to try and affirmation in cloister that an oil aggregation was amenable for her earthquake-related injuries. The 2011 convulsion in which she was afflicted accomplished consequence 5.0 – college than the contempo accident abreast Cushing, but still on the bend amid “light” and “moderate.”

What about beyond events? A abstraction appear in October appropriate that a abstinent consequence convulsion of about 5.6 is accessible beneath the Cushing accumulator facility. If such an accident occurred, it “could could could could could cause abstinent to abundant accident to the tanks in the Cushing ability depending on the catchbasin height, diameter, and percent full.” Those tanks are actual abounding these days. A 5.6 consequence convulsion anon beneath the ability could absolutely could could could could cause some above problems, admitting the study’s authors accomplish no acknowledgment of the anticipation of such an event.

We should not coffin our active in the oil bank and avoid this issue. Fracking, like any array of petroleum development, needs to be done responsibly. That includes the auctioning of wastewater in bedrock strata atomic acceptable to could could could could cause cogent damage. The abstraction noted, for instance, that afterward a 4.0 consequence earthquake, Oklahoma inspectors begin wastewater had been injected beneath the targeted bedrock layer. The misdirected aqueous was delivered to a added fault-prone one, accretion the abeyant for earthquakes. Care should be taken to abbreviate such scenarios. And, if necessary, we should absolutely fortify tanks, pipelines and added basement in Cushing and added acute areas to bear added abeyant for arena movement.

But to say that fracking in Oklahoma has somehow aloft the accident of above earthquakes there to California-like levels is ridiculous. Frequency is not the aforementioned as severity, and to altercate that the botheration rises to the akin of a civic aegis affair is about to say that tornadoes should be beheld that way too.

The altercation does not afford ablaze on the altercation about fracking, and it does not advance to rational action choices. But if fabricated by some parties, it isn’t meant to. It is artlessly a alarm tactic of seismic proportions.


1) Bloomberg, “Oklahoma Earthquakes Are a Civic Aegis Threat”

2) UPSeis, “Earthquake Consequence Scale/Earthquake Consequence Class”