Journal publishes study linking energy activity to Oklahoma's largest recorded earthquake

Research published this week but reported initially a year ago linked a water injection well to a 5.0 earthquake in 2011 that preceded, and likely triggered, Oklahoma’s largest-ever earthquake.
by Adam Wilmoth Published: March 6, 2014

Research linking Oklahoma’s 2011 magnitude 5.7 earthquake to the state’s oil and natural gas activity was published this week in the Journal of Geophysical Research.

The paper, co-written by former University of Oklahoma seismologist Kathleen Keranen, found that an earlier 5.0 earthquake near Prague was linked to a water injection well and that the first tremor likely triggered the state’s largest-ever quake less than 24 hours later. Her findings were reported initially a year ago.

“There appears to be a strong correlation between the wells that are injecting waste water in Lincoln County and the earthquakes in 2011,” Keranen told The Oklahoman in March 2013 when the report was completed.

Keranen now is an assistant professor at Cornell University. Her paper has since been peer reviewed and published.

“If this hypothesis is correct, the M5.7 earthquake would be the largest and most powerful earthquake ever associated with waste water injection,” the U.S. Geological Survey said Thursday.

The Oklahoma Geological Survey, however, has not drawn a connection to the oil and natural gas industry or any other man-made causes. Oklahoma Geological Survey seismologist Austin Holland has said the Prague quake appears “consistent with a natural earthquake.”

What’s to blame for recent quakes?

More than 220 earthquakes magnitude 2.5 or higher were reported in Oklahoma in 2013 — more than any other year in state history.

by Adam Wilmoth
Energy Editor
Adam Wilmoth returned to The Oklahoman as energy editor in 2012 after working for four years in public relations. He previously spent seven years as a business reporter at The Oklahoman, including five years covering the state's energy sector....
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