PALO ALTO (CBS SF) — Scientists have created new maps that can help oil and gas developers stop inducing earthquakes.
A group of geophysicists at Stanford University have drafted maps of Texas and Oklahoma — states that have seen a significant rise in earthquakes — that reveal specifically where developers should not inject oilfield wastewater into the ground, so as to avoid inducing earthquakes.
The maps can also help regulators ensure that oil and gas developers inject wastewater in non-risky locations.
Mark Zoback, the study’s co-author and the Benjamin M. Page Professor of Geophysics in Stanford’s School of Earth, Energy & Environmental Sciences, worked with graduate students to create and publish the new stress maps. Zoback is also the director of the Stanford Natural Gas Initiative.
The maps confirm the scientific community’s suspicions — that earthquakes are being triggered by wastewater injection occurring on faults.
To stop triggering earthquakes across the two states, oil and gas developers must know where the faults are and avoid injecting wastewater into the ground in those locations.
On Nov. 6, a 5.0 magnitude earthquake caused significant damage in Oklahoma. residents in the state are feeling tremblors just about daily. On Monday, there was a 3.5 magnitude earthquake in the state, according to the U.S. Geological Survey.
“These maps help explain why injection-induced earthquakes have occurred in some areas, and provide a basis for making quantitative predictions about the potential for seismic activity resulting from fluid injection,” Zoback writes.
The maps revealed that some of the previous injections of oilfield wastewater were carried out in areas nearly ideal for producing earthquakes.
Zoback has not responded to a CBS San Francisco inquiry into whether regulators, oil developers or legislators have met with him or discussed any plans to use these maps going forward, or whether his team plans to create these stress maps for more U.S. states.
By Hannah Albarazi – Follow her on Twitter: @hannahalbarazi.