With growing concerns about seismic activity tied to oil and natural gas operations in Oklahoma, the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) has deployed two seismic monitors to Cushing, OK, in the wake of a new swarm of earthquakes near the crude storage/transportation center.

Oklahoma is now home to a lot of seismic monitoring equipment, but there had been none close to Cushing.

Earlier this year, USGS scientists speculated that the extreme increase in seismic activity in Oklahoma in recent years was probably linked to wastewater injections as part of the oil/gas drilling processes (see Shale Daily, July 15; March 10). Research showed that a 5.0-magnitude injection-induced quake near Prague, OK in 2011 could have triggered a 5.7-magnitude quake a day later (see Shale Daily, Oct. 25, 2013).

Cushing (pop. 8,000) was hit by two quakes of 3.2 and 4.0 magnitude on Oct. 7, and last Friday another 4.3-magnitude temblor was recorded. USGS officials have told reporters they were concerned about a bigger tremor hitting the area that serves as a storage transport hub for millions of barrels of crude oil.

New instruments in place detected a small 2.9-magnitude quake in the Cushing area last Sunday.

State Sen. Jerry Ellis praised the USGS move, noting that if a major quake were to destroy parts of the Cushing hub it could have national security implications. Scores of companies depend on the hub for moving U.S. and Canadian supplies to market. More than 50 million bbl can be stored there and it is a major crossroads for interstate underground large transmission oil pipelines.

The recent series of quakes reportedly has not caused any damage to the oil hub operations, but they have caused minor damage to some buildings in Cushing, according to reports from the city manager.

Although small in magnitude, the frequency of the tremors earlier this year already surpassed 2013 totals, according to the Oklahoma Geological Survey (see Shale Daily,April 8). The USGS recorded three quakes in Central Oklahoma on one day in April, and as with most of the recorded events, no injuries or damage were reported.

Meanwhile, a spokesman for the Oklahoma Independent Petroleum Association (OIPA) told NGI‘s Shale Daily earlier this year that producers have a working group addressing the issue. He said production is found in 70 of Oklahoma’s 77 counties, meaning any seismic activity in the state is likely to be close to energy operations.

“OIPA and the oil and gas industry as a whole supports the continued study of seismic activity and its relationship to oil and natural gas development,” he said.

Gov. Mary Fallin established a Coordinating Council on Seismic Activity, and OIPA is part of that effort. The council had its first meeting last week, headed by state Secretary of Energy and Environment Michael Teague.