OKLAHOMA – We are used to tornado warnings in our state.
Now, a new kind of warning – an earthquake warning.
Researchers with the US Geological Survey and the Oklahoma Geological Survey say the rate of earthquakes in Oklahoma has increased by 50 percent since October of 2013.
That’s significantly increasing our chances for a damaging magnitude 5.5 or greater quake in central Oklahoma.
“It’s the responsible thing to do to not scare people but make them aware there’s some possibility of a bigger earthquake,” G. Randy Keller said, Director of the Oklahoma Geological Survey.
The number of earthquakes Magnitude 3.0 and greater so far this year is already far outpacing the total number from last year.
“We had those Magnitude 4.0 earthquakes and then that gave us some reason to be a little concerned,” Keller said.
The statement issued with the warning also said, “The analysis suggests that a likely contributing factor to the increase in earthquakes is triggering by wastewater injected into deep geologic formations.”
The Oklahoma Corporation Commission is the state agency that regulates oil and gas.
Matt Skinner said they’ve been monitoring earthquakes and wastewater injection for a couple years now.
He said there have been only a few instances where there was enough data to prompt a direct response on a well.
“That’s been rare and in those rare instances we have, in fact, taken action,” Skinner said.
Skinner said they permit injection wells on a case-by-case basis and no data has come out that would cause them to change their policies right now.
“This is an ever-changing thing,” he said. “What’s prudent to do based on what we know today and will we know more tomorrow? Quite possibly.”
The Oklahoma Independent Petroleum Association issued a statement in response to the earthquake warning.
“Disposal wells have been used in Oklahoma for more than half a century and have met and even exceeded current disposal volumes during that time. Because crude oil and natural gas is produced in 70 of Oklahoma’s 77 counties, any seismic activity within the state is likely to occur near oil and natural gas activity. The OIPA and the oil and gas industry as a whole support the continued study of Oklahoma’s increased seismic activity but a rush to judgement provides no clear understanding of the causes.”
Researchers said they don’t know exactly where or when this big earthquake could happen.