Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Not Their Fault? Oil Industry Geologist Looks Globally for Cause of Quakes

Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Not Their Fault? Oil Industry Geologist Looks Globally for Cause of Quakes

Article excerpt

OKLAHOMA CITY - Glen Brown wants to calm the earthquake hysteria in Oklahoma. When residents search for answers about why the ground is trembling, they should look broadly at global earthquake data, rather than point fingers at the oil industry, said the vice president of geology at Continental Resources Inc.

Regardless of the cause of the uptick in temblors, geologists need to do a better job communicating to the public, Brown said. He explained his hypothesis to about 225 people on Wednesday at a technical seminar hosted by the Oklahoma City Geological Society.

Since 2009, there has been an uptick in recorded earthquakes in Oklahoma. From January to June, the Sooner State had more earthquakes greater than magnitude 3 than California. The near- constant tremors have unsettled many residents. More than 750 people attended a town-hall meeting June 26 in Edmond in search of answers.

Some research has linked an earthquake in Garvin County to the hydraulic fracturing process used to drill an oil well. Other research has correlated the earthquake swarm to injecting oil-field wastewater in deep underground wells. State seismologist Austin Holland has previously referred to the earthquake swarm as an unprecedented amount of activity.

However, Brown argued that what is unprecedented is scientists' ability to measure seismic activity. One reason the Oklahoma Geological Survey has recorded more earthquakes is there are more instruments to record that activity, he said. The state got its first seismograph in 1961 and by 1978 had nine. Now there are 18 permanent seismographs and 17 portable ones.

Brown said global shifts in the Earth's tectonic plates are more likely to blame for the tremors in Oklahoma. Three of six of the world's largest earthquakes happened in the 1950s and 1960s. Oklahoma had an earthquake swarm around that time in the 1950s, including the state's second-largest quake, a 5.5 magnitude in El Reno in 1952.

Similarly, the state's largest recorded quake, the 5. …

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