Recently, I watched an episode on the Weather Channel titled “Secrets of the Earth – Man-Made Earthquakes,” which was produced in 2014. One of the primary subjects of the documentary was the rise in the number of earthquakes in northern Oklahoma, with special emphasis on the town of Prague. It was stated that twelve quakes with a magnitude greater than 3.0 were reported in 2008. In 2009, the number had grown to more than fifty and by 2010 the number had reached into the thousands.
Both northern Oklahoma and south central Kansas quakes share a common link, waste water injection into deep disposal wells up to a mile in depth. The salty water is a resulting product of a process called fracking, which involves introducing a fluid at high pressure to fracture the rock formation in order to increase oil and gas production. Once the waste water is placed into the injection wells, it becomes a lubricant, reducing friction and aiding in the release of stress in communicated faults.
Increase in the oil and gas production activities in recent years coincides directly with the increase in earthquakes, a conclusion stated in the documentary by the United States Geological Survey. Magnitudes of up to 5.8 have been recorded in Oklahoma and 4.3 in Kansas, enough to cause structural damage to buildings.
The question arises, what will be next if the trend continues? As the number of quakes increases, so does the statistical likelihood of high magnitude quakes occurring, which could lead to damage of all types, from buildings to the infrastructure. And the Midwest isn’t the only place increases have been seen.
I am currently creating a post-apocalyptic tale of what the new world could be like if the trend continues. The anticipated release will be this Spring. Updates will be posted as that day approaches.
Just as a note of interest, earlier this week the headlines in the Wichita Eagle read “Scientists: No direct fracking-quakes link.”