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Oil and Gas Production Likely Causing Earthquakes, Reports Say

posted: 04/21/15
by: Discovery.com Staff
Operating oil and gas well profiled on cloudy sky
cta88/thinkstock

Reports from Southern Methodist University and the Oklahoma Geological Survey are providing compelling evidence that oil and gas production is responsible for a recent increase in seismic activity in the midwestern United States.

A study from Southern Methodist University in Texas confirms that wastewater injections and brine extraction "most likely" caused a series of earthquakes that occurred in Texas between 2013 and 2014. Researchers used advanced 3-D imaging to map the changing fluid pressure in the vicinity of the earthquakes, where there are more than 70 production wells that drill for natural gas.

"When we ran the model over a 10-year period through a wide range of parameters, it predicted pressure changes significant enough to trigger earthquakes on faults that are already stressed," explained Matthew Hornbach, SMU associate professor of geophysics.

Similarly, the Oklahoma Geological Survey released a statement concerning increased seismicity throughout the state. Prior to 2013, the OGS recorded less than two magnitude three or greater (M3+) earthquakes annually. In 2015, the agency reports more than two M3+ earthquakes each day.

The agency implicated the "injection/disposal of water associated with oil and gas production" as a likely cause. The increased seismic activity is occurring in an area of Oklahoma that has been subject to a "significant increase in wastewater disposal volumes".

Click here to read the Oklahoma Geological Survey's statement

Click here to read the full report from Southern Methodist University

Learn more about earthquakes:

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