Wastewater cap could dunk Oklahoma quake risk | Science News

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Wastewater cap could dunk Oklahoma quake risk

Rising volume of underground injections had caused seismic activity to skyrocket

2:36pm, November 30, 2016
Oklahoma quake map

THE SHAKES  In Oklahoma, disposal of massive amounts of wastewater into underground wells over the last few years (redder-shaded regions) caused an uptick in earthquake activity (gray dots) over historic rates (black dots), including several large quakes registering magnitude 4.5 or stronger (stars).

New wastewater disposal regulations in Oklahoma will be enough to steady the state’s shaky ground, new research predicts.

The injection of wastewater from oil and gas operations into underground wells has caused Oklahoma’s seismic activity to skyrocket (SN: 8/9/14, p. 13). In response, state regulators earlier this year ordered a 40 percent reduction in the volume of water pumped underground. After studying the statistical link between wastewater disposal and earthquakes, Stanford University geophysicists Cornelius Langenbruch and Mark Zoback predict that seismic activity in the region will return to historically normal levels within the next few years.

“It should be possible to dispose a limited volume of wastewater underground without inducing any earthquakes,”

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