Archive for Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Earthquake may have been linked to oil production

December 18, 2013


A rare earthquake centered in southern Kansas this week may have been a man-made event caused by oil production activity in that area, according to the Kansas Geological Survey.

"That's the concern," KGS Interim Director Rex Buchanan said. "There have been cases of 'triggered seismicity' in Arkansas and Oklahoma. We're looking to see if that's what happened here."

But Buchanan said it may be hard to determine definitively whether the quake was natural or man-made because it occurred in an area that historically has had some natural seismic activity.

The temblor, which measured 3.8 on the Richter scale, occurred Monday and was centered near the town of Caldwell, about 40 miles south of Wichita, near the Oklahoma border.

Buchanan said there is no evidence yet to suggest the quake was caused by hydraulic fracturing, or "fracking," a process that involves injecting pressurized fluid into a well to fracture the ground and release oil or natural gas.

More commonly, he said, minor quakes related to oil drilling are caused by the disposal of salt water waste from oil drilling operations.

"There's a lot of saltwater produced with oil," he said. "Once you separate that off, you need to dispose of it. In Kansas, that's done in wells deep in the subsurface."

"There is production and disposal wells in the general vicinity around there," he said.

Officials at the Kansas Corporation Commission, which regulates oil and gas production in the state, said it is looking into the issue.

"It is important to point out that Kansas has a long history of oil production with very few reported incidents of any kind," KCC spokesman Jesse Borjon said in an email. "The KCC is looking into the issue of seismic activity as it relates to oil and gas activities. We have been in communication with the Kansas Geological (Survey) and continue to gather information."

Buchanan said there is also a possibility that the earthquake was entirely natural.

Caldwell is in Sumner County, just west of a geological formation called the Nemaha Ridge, a buried granite mountain range that extends roughly from Omaha, Neb., to Oklahoma City.

According to information on the KGS website, that ridge was formed about 300 million years ago and and the faults around it are still "slightly active" today, although most of the seismic activity has been on the eastern side of the ridge, in an area known as the Humboldt fault zone.

"There has been activity down in that part of the state," Buchanan said. "Whether this is a continuation of that or something else, that's what we're in the very early stages of talking about."

The largest recorded earthquake in Kansas, estimated at 5.1 on the Richter scale, hit near Manhattan in 1867. It reportedly toppled chimneys and cracked foundations, and is said to have been felt as far away as Dubuque, Iowa.


Ron Holzwarth 3 years, 10 months ago

"The largest recorded earthquake in Kansas, estimated at 5.1 on the Richter scale" - in 1867?

And this one measured 3.8 on the Richter scale?

Excuse me while I remain unimpressed. I haven't spent all that much time in California, but while I was there, I experienced two 6.5 magnitude earthquakes. But, for both of them, I was 90 miles from the epicenter, and coincidentally, I was on the third floor of a building for each. Neither one of them caused any damage, because in California, earthquakes are a very common occurrence, and structures are built to withstand them.

I also experienced a few other tremblors. Each one was different, and from one of them I learned exactly what is meant by one Indian tribe's name for an earthquake: "Thunder in the ground."

There is nothing to worry about in an earthquake that is less than say, magnitude 7 to 7.5, unless you live in a very shaky house that is on the verge of collapse anyway. Although, stone homes are very vulnerable to collapse by an earthquake, as unreinforced concrete is also. But unreinforced concrete construction is very rare in the United States.

Save your worries for car accidents and tornadoes - those are the big killers in Kansas.

Ken Lassman 3 years, 10 months ago

Hmmm....don't you think using a photograph of an abandoned asphalt ramp that has cracked and having grasses growing through it for an article about earthquakes is either an example of hyperbole or sensationalism? Particularly since we're talking about a tremblor that is 3.8 on the Richter Scale, which is somewhere between being mistaken as a passing vehicle on a nearby road and actually causing perceptible movement in a stack of dishes?

Or is this an example of visual sarcasm? Or maybe you slip out these little jokes just to see if anyone is paying attention? Have a Happy Holiday season any way you meant it....

Jake Esau 3 years, 10 months ago

We're going to write a big article and put it on the front page of the website just because a small earthquake might have been caused by man made activity, but we have no evidence to back that up except that it has happened a few times before.

In all seriousness, why is this even posted on here?

Jean Robart 3 years, 10 months ago

How old is the picture associated with this article? It sure didn't come right after an earthquake. Look at the grass/weeds growing up within the traffic lanes?

Richard Heckler 3 years, 10 months ago

Union of Concerned Scientists

Risks Associated With Fracking

Earthquake risks are also a serious consideration. Oil and gas production using hydraulic fracturing is not generally associated with earthquakes detectable at the surface. Rather, concern about seismic activity stems primarily from the deep injection of wastewater from hydraulic fracturing operations. This wastewater injection has been linked to large earthquakes, such as one earthquake on November 5, 2011 that was felt in 17 states.

Other food for thought.

Richard Heckler 3 years, 10 months ago

The picture of the road could well represent what communities will be experiencing once the fracking boom leaves town. Ghost towns will be the result and more people looking for food stamps in addition to other benefits. Fracking spells wreckanomics.

How can anyone assume the oil industry has a communities best interest at the top of their hit and run list?

The oil industry has more than enough dough to bring cleaner forms of energy on line for less money that would be favorable to bottom lines across the board. Oil is a major culprit to air pollution which brings global warming which brings climate change. Some say we've had climate change before however the hard evidence behind that thinking is difficult to provide although it might have happened.

But Mother Earth has never had such an enormous quantity of man made assistance such as billions of fossil burning objects known as automobiles,houses,buildings and the USA military. However the USA Navy is definitely taking climate change serious because the rise of ocean water could prove to be quite a challenge with regard to their defense strategy. The Navy is not waiting on congress for they know that would be an exercise in futility.

People enjoying ocean side residential privilege will need to move one day as the tides enter their living rooms. If the homes don't fall down due to erosion.

My point is what will it take before humans realize that fossil fuel consumption is risky business? Electric vehicles and hybrids are the future with coal and nuke plants needing to be replaced with wind,solar,geothermal etc etc etc etc. Reducing fossil fuel consumption by 50% would be extremely helpful.

Fracking is reckless,environmentally destructive,expensive and certainly not necessary. Why are we taxpayers forced to subsidize such nonsense?

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