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Oklahoma Earthquakes Decline After New Regulations Kick In

Image: Oklahoma Earthquakes Decline After New Regulations Kick In

Damage in Cushing, Okla., is seen on Monday, Nov. 7, 2016, caused by a 5.0 magnitude earthquake. (Jim Beckel/The Oklahoman via AP)

By    |   Thursday, 01 Dec 2016 08:44 AM

Oklahoma earthquakes have declined since May when new state limits on wastewater injections into energy wells kicked in.

Oklahoma officials ordered what resulted in a 40 percent reduction in the injection of saltwater into the wells that many researchers had blamed for a dramatic increase in earthquakes, The Associated Press reported.

Before the rule took effect, Oklahoma averaged 2.3 earthquakes a day, but that average has tumbled to 1.3 since the regulations, based on an AP analysis of U.S. Geological Survey data of earthquakes of 3.0-magnitude or greater.

"Definitely the rate of quakes have gone down," said the survey's geophysicist Robert Williams. "At the same time we had more magnitude 5s this year than ever before historically in Oklahoma. It's good news on one hand. It's heading in the right direction, but troubling to see these large damaging quakes in Pawnee and Cushing."

Scientists at Stanford University said in a statement that the regulation on wastewater injections should continue to limit Oklahoma earthquakes, which had greatly increased since 2009. Their research was published Wednesday in the journal Science.

"Over the past few years, Oklahoma tried a number of measures aimed at reducing the rising number of induced quakes in the state, but none of those actions were effective," Mark Zoback, a professor at Stanford's School of Earth, Energy & Environmental Sciences, said in a statement.

Stanford wrote that Oklahoma was experiencing one earthquake of 3.0-magnitude a year before wastewater injections ramped up, and it jumped to two to three per day in 2015.

"Several months after wastewater injection began decreasing in mid-2015, the earthquake rate started to decline," Cornelius Langenbruch, of Stanford's School of Earth, Energy & Environmental Sciences, said in the school's statement. "There is no question that there is a significantly lower seismicity rate than there was a year ago."

Cliff Frohlich, associate director of the Institute for Geophysics at the University of Texas, told The Wall Street Journal in June that while the commission's efforts appear to be working, it might not bring a sustained drop right away.

"If you've been injecting and turn off the injection, that doesn't turn off the earthquakes immediately," Frohlich told the Journal. "Often earthquakes don't start until there have been injections for weeks months or years. And then when you stop the injections, the earthquakes continue for weeks months or years."

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Oklahoma earthquakes have declined since May when new state limits on wastewater injections into energy wells kicked in.
oklahoma, earthquakes, decline, regulations
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2016-44-01
Thursday, 01 Dec 2016 08:44 AM
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