Oklahoma earthquakes triggered by wastewater injection

Pumping vast amounts of fluids underground may have set off swarm of tremors

2:10pm, July 3, 2014

A WHOLE LOT OF SHAKING  In 2009, a series of earthquakes (red dots), part of the Jones swarm, rattled Oklahoma. Dumping wastewater into disposal wells (white squares) may have boosted pressure at faults (black lines), triggering the quakes.

Pumping wastewater underground may rock Oklahoma. Vast quantities of water left over from oil and gas extraction and then injected into disposal wells may have set off a surge of earthquakes that has shaken the state since 2008.

And disposal wells don’t just trigger quakes nearby. Tremors can rattle the ground up to 35 kilometers away — much farther than scientists had previously thought, researchers report July 3 in Science.

The new study is the most definitive to link Oklahoma’s rocketing earthquake numbers to fluid injection, says seismologist Steve Horton of the University of Memphis in Tennessee.

This article is available only to subscribing members. Join SSP today or Log in.

More from the Science News Archives