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Oklahoma Geological Survey Hires New Lead Seismologist

The Oklahoma Geological Survey (OGS) said it has hired Jacob Walter as its new lead seismologist, a post of increasing importance as the agency is tasked with analyzing continuing seismic activity in part attributed to oil and gas activities.

Meanwhile, the agency recorded 22 earthquakes since Friday, the largest a 3.6-magnitude temblor that struck in the early evening on Saturday.

In a statement, the OGS said Walter is a research associate at the Institute for Geophysics at the University of Texas (UT) at Austin. He will assume his new post with the agency in November.

"We are pleased to add Dr. Walter to the seismology team," OGS Director Jeremy Boak said in a statement Friday. "He brings valuable research capabilities, and we look forward to working with him."

Walter holds a Bachelor of Arts in Geology from the University of Colorado at Boulder and a Physical Doctorate in Earth Sciences at the University of California, Santa Cruz. His previous work experience includes serving as a geologist with Trihydro Corp. and as a postdoctoral fellow at Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta. He has worked at UT since 2014.

According to the OGS, Walter's area of expertise includes ice sheet and glacier dynamics; tectonic tremor and slow slip; earthquakes, and the seismic triggering of earthquakes. He has conducted research in Antarctica, Costa Rica, the Solomon Islands, Greenland, Texas and Alaska.

Walter follows Austin Holland, who served as lead seismologist until July 2015, when he accepted a position with the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) in New Mexico. Another state seismologist, Amberlee Darold, accepted a position with the USGS four months later.

Last January, Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin approved the transfer of nearly $1.4 million from the state's emergency fund to the Oklahoma Corporation Commission (OCC) and the OGS to support their earthquake research efforts (see Shale DailyJan. 29). Most of that money, $1 million, was earmarked for the OGS. The agency planned to use the funds to install additional permanent seismic monitoring stations, update its seismic monitoring network and software, and hold workshops to share research results and identify areas that need additional study.

Of the 22 most recent earthquakes recorded by the OGS, 13 struck the state on Friday, followed by two on Saturday, five on Sunday and two on Monday. Only five temblors measured 3.0-magnitude or higher. The largest quake, in terms of magnitude, measured 3.6 and struck at 6:55 p.m. CDT on Saturday and was centered 10.8 miles southeast of Waynoka, OK.

An earthquake measuring 5.8-magnitude, the largest recorded earthquake in Oklahoma state history, struck near Pawnee on Sept. 3 (see Shale DailySept. 3). Last week, citing new data from the OGS, the OCC's Oil and Gas Conservation Division directed the operators of 27 wastewater disposal wells targeting the Arbuckle formation to cease operations and another 21 to reduce their intake volumes by 25% (see Shale DailySept. 13). Meanwhile, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, which has primacy over oil and gas activity on Indian land, has ordered five wells in neighboring Osage County shut-in and another 11 wells to reduce intake volumes by 25%. Osage County lies within the Osage Nation Mineral Reserve.

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