On October 20, 2015, the U.S. Geological Survey released a study entitled “A Century of Induced Earthquakes in Oklahoma?” published in the journal Bulletin of the Seismological Society of America. The study examines historical earthquakes in correlation with the intensity of oil production in the state of Oklahoma, throughout the 20th century, to conclude that oil production activities were most likely responsible for inducing seismic activity.
The researchers consulted historical records of earthquakes from the Central and Eastern United States Seismic Source Characterization (CEUS-SSC) catalog as well as online archives of historical newspapers to further identify Oklahoma’s tectonic stress regime and well locations. According to their results, the researchers observed that all large earthquakes have either occurred in the areas with rapid increases in oil and gas production or since 2009.
They also noted spatio-temporal correspondence between earthquake epicenters and the nearest oil and gas productive areas. As a result, the researchers opined that one of the largest earthquakes that occurred in Oklahoma City in April 1952 was likely induced by nearby disposal well activities in the region.
The researchers concluded that “it is possible that earthquakes were induced by oil production activities in Oklahoma as early as the 1920’s, and several lines of evidence support our conclusion that much of the earthquake activity in the 1950s and 1980-1990s was induced.”
Written by Chloe Marie - Research Fellow