First research links California earthquakes to oil operations

SAN FRANCISCO - A 2005 spate of quakes in California's Central Valley almost certainly was triggered by oilfield injection underground, a study published Thursday said in the first such link in California between oil and gas operations and earthquakes.

See Full Article

Researchers at the University of California at Santa Cruz, the University of Southern California and two French universities published their findings Thursday in a publication of the American Geophysical Union. The research links a local surge in injection by oil companies of wastewater underground, peaking in 2005, with an unusual jump in seismic activity in and around the Tejon Oilfield in southern Kern County.

In Oklahoma and other Midwestern states, the U.S. Geological Survey and others have linked oilfield operations with a dramatic surge in earthquakes. Many of those quakes occur in swarms in places where oil companies pump briny wastewater left over from oil and gas production deep underground.

"It's important to emphasize that definitely California is not Oklahoma," lead author Thomas Goebel at the University of California at Santa Cruz said Thursday. "We don't really expect to see such a drastic increase in earthquake occurrences" in California given different oilfield methods and geology in the two areas.

In Kern County, the shaking topped out on Sept. 22, 2005, with three quakes, the biggest magnitude 4.6, researchers said.

Researchers calculated the odds of that happening naturally, independently of the oilfield operations, at just 3 per cent, Goebel said. However, the oilfield operation "may change the pressure on ... faults, and cause some local earthquakes" in California, he said.

Researchers are now studying other areas of the state to see if California's high background level of shakiness is obscuring other seismic activity possibly linked to oilfield activity. California is the country's No. 3 oil-producing state.

The Center for Biological Diversity environmental group, using state figures, estimates that the amount of oilfield wastewater injected underground in California climbed from 350 million barrels in 1999 to 900 million barrels in 2014.

Catherine Reheis-Boyd, president of oil-industry group the Western States Petroleum Association, said the organization is reviewing the study. But she said the study's calls for careful monitoring are consistent with what the group's member companies are already doing.

California on Dec. 10 commissioned Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory to study the overall potential for oilfield-induced quakes in the state, said Don Drysdale, spokesman for the state Division of Oil, Gas and Geothermal Resources, the main oil regulatory agency. Rules that went into effect last year for some intensive forms of oil production require monitoring for seismic activity.

"In California, of course, we have a lot of natural seismicity here, so it's much more difficult" to establish that an earthquake was caused by oilfield activity than it is in places like Oklahoma, which used to be quiet, said Art McGarr, a seismologist at the U.S. Geological Survey's Earthquake Science Center in Menlo Park, California.

"Nonetheless, I think they made at least a fairly convincing case that these earthquakes were related to fluid injection" by oilfield operators, said McGarr. He called the researchers' analysis "quite careful."



Advertisements

Latest Tech & Science News

  • Motorcycle-related deaths more common during full moon, study finds

    Tech & Science CBC News
    Motorcyclists should take extra care the next time they're out for a drive at night during a full moon. A new study in the Christmas issue of the BMJ suggests that a full moon is associated with an increased risk of fatal motorcycle crashes. Source
  • Trump wants to send man back to moon, on to Mars

    Tech & Science CTV News
    WASHINGTON -- President Donald Trump wants to send man back to the moon -- and on to Mars. Trump signed a policy directive Monday instructing the National Aeronautics and Space Administration to "refocus America's space program on human exploration and discovery. Source
  • Researchers predict 'vaccine scares' using Google and Twitter trends

    Tech & Science CBC News
    What do Google searches and tweets tell us about disease outbreaks? As it turns out, analyzing search and tweet trends could give warning signs for when a disease outbreak may happen due to reduced vaccinations. An international team of researchers analyzed searches and tweets related to measles and the measles-mumps-rubella vaccine using artificial intelligence and a mathematical model, and detected warning signs of a "tipping point" two years before the Disneyland outbreak happened. Source
  • SpaceX launching recycled rocket, supply capsule for NASA

    Tech & Science CTV News
    CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. -- Space Age hand-me-downs are soaring to a whole new level. On Tuesday, SpaceX plans to launch its first rocket for NASA. The unmanned Falcon 9 -- last used in June -- will carry up a Dragon capsule that's also flown on a previous space station supply run. Source
  • Nova Scotia rocket launch site hopes to eventually reach 12 launches per year

    Tech & Science CTV News
    HALIFAX -- The developers of Canada's only commercial spaceport are shooting for as many as a dozen rockets to blast off per year from a proposed site near a small community on Nova Scotia's eastern shore. Source
  • How Canadians are constructing North America's biggest green buildings

    Tech & Science CBC News
    In January, tenants will move into a six-storey Vancouver apartment building designed to be so energy efficient, you can heat each bedroom with a 100-watt light bulb. Boasting a total of 85 studio, one- and two-bedroom units, The Heights at 388 Skeena St. Source
  • Bitcoin's move to mainstream carries new financial risks

    Tech & Science CBC News
    Investing often descends into a kind of immoderate zeal, but there are signs the digital currency craze has the potential to threaten the wider global economy if left unchecked. Just as we've seen with the current passion for bitcoin, part of that single-minded enthusiasm includes the fierce rejection of criticism. Source
  • LA subway construction unearths more fossils

    Tech & Science CTV News
    LOS ANGELES -- As part of the crew digging a subway extension under the streets of Los Angeles, Ashley Leger always keeps her safety gear close by. When her phone buzzes, she quickly dons a neon vest, hard hat and goggles before climbing deep down into a massive construction site beneath a boulevard east of downtown. Source
  • N.S. community hopes rocket launch site will revitalize economy

    Tech & Science CTV News
    CANSO, N.S. -- Residents of a sleepy fishing village on Nova Scotia's eastern coast are looking to the stars to breathe new life into their economy as a proposal to install Canada's only commercial spaceport inches closer to becoming a reality. Source
  • Scholarship for Muslim women honours pioneering scientist

    Tech & Science CTV News
    DETROIT -- When it came to pursuing a scientific career, Tasneem Essader encountered forces pulling her in and pushing her away: She drew inspiration from her mother's work in chemistry, but initial discouragement from her engineer father, who thought she should do something else. Source