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United States Government The Almighty Buck

Oklahoma Earthquakes Are a National Security Threat (bloomberg.com) 166

An anonymous reader writes: A Bloomberg article makes the case that the U.S. must consider the earthquake situation in Oklahoma a national security threat. The town of Cushing, OK is small — fewer than 10,000 people. But enough oil is stored there at times to eclipse the entire U.S. daily usage. "The oil in Cushing props up the $179 billion in West Texas Intermediate futures and options contracts traded on the New York Mercantile Exchange." In the wake of the September 11th attacks, government officials posted guards near the giant storage facilities; they're that important to the U.S. economy.

Unfortunately, the rising seismic activity in Oklahoma is putting those tanks at risk. The article argues that if a terrorist attack would threaten national security, so must an equally devastating natural disaster. This raises major questions for the legality of fracking, which has been linked to the increased number of earthquakes striking Oklahoma over the past decade. "Last month the Oklahoma Corporation Commission, which oversees oil and gas, ordered wells within three miles to shut down entirely and those between three and six miles from the town to reduce their volume by 25 percent."

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Oklahoma Earthquakes Are a National Security Threat

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  • by Applehu Akbar ( 2968043 ) on Sunday October 25, 2015 @09:39AM (#50797009)

    A large oil tank farm is an example of infrastructure that can be threatened by a number of disasters, from tornados to terrorism. But as soon as you say "fracking", the swarms of small earthquakes that lubrication of shallow rock strata can create suddenly become much more important than other threats that are historically worse in the region. You can get the same effect by dropping "nuclear" into any discussion.

    • by PolygamousRanchKid ( 1290638 ) on Sunday October 25, 2015 @10:30AM (#50797207)

      But as soon as you say "fracking", the swarms of small earthquakes that lubrication of shallow rock strata can create suddenly become much more important than other threats that are historically worse in the region. You can get the same effect by dropping "nuclear" into any discussion.

      . . . and there I was, thinking that I could get rich with "Nuclear Fracking"

      . . .

    • Oh, don't worry, I'm sure Big Energy will just sue under some "free-trade" treaty agreement [www.cbc.ca] to get their way, regardless.

      • by AK Marc ( 707885 )
        There'll be a quake exchange program to move the quakes back to the places better able to handle them. Enron will run the exchange.
    • by hey! ( 33014 ) on Sunday October 25, 2015 @11:58AM (#50797523) Homepage Journal

      I've looked into this -- to the extent of searching for papers and incidents described in the academic literature using Google Scholar, so take this with a grain of salt -- and I've concluded that there are two clear environmental concerns with fracking. The first, of course, is carbon. The lower the price of carbon-based fuel the more of it we'll use. All things being equal that would be a good thing, but the point is that all things are not equal if we emit more carbon.

      The wastewater issue is complex, in that it depends on the locality and the stage of development of fracking in the area. Thus far the industry has been quite good about handling wastewater -- my concern is in some of the fracking boom areas there aren't good disposal options yet for "flowback". The industry is dealing with this by re-using flowback, but while this is great in the boom phase of fracking it's going to be hard to sustain in an area when the rate of new well drilling begins to peak. Eventually there'll be more flowback than can be re-used, and as far as I can see there is no plan for dealing with that in some places. This could potentially leave the taxpayers with the cleanup bill. You also have to factor in what practices an industry is willing to undertake in a boom situation as opposed to the eventual scenario of declining profitability.

      This is not a crisis; it's something we have time to deal with if there's the political will. The problem is that there usually isn't much political will for dealing with problems that will manifest in fifteen or twenty years' time.

      Groundwater contamination is also a serious concern, although it is clearly a matter of each site's local geology. It's an area that needs more research.

      • Shame Cheney specifically shielded big oil form disclosing the toxic chemicals they use. Makes proving that 'contamination came from the fracking a bit tougher.
      • It's an area that needs more research.

        While the greed pigs make money hand over fist before stealing away in the dead of night, leaving nothing but destruction (and dead-end, labyrinthine LLC shell companies) in their wake.

        Great plan!

    • You can get the same effect by dropping "nuclear" into any discussion.

      I wish people would take the threat of gigantic boulders from outer space more seriously. The very existence of the human race is at stake.

      • You can get the same effect by dropping "nuclear" into any discussion.

        I wish people would take the threat of gigantic boulders from outer space more seriously. The very existence of the human race is at stake.

        Time to retrofit a WW2 battleship with a wave motion engine, methinks.

    • So you would agree that it would be wiser to completely avoid oil farms of this size, then?
    • A large oil tank farm is an example of infrastructure that can be threatened by a number of disasters, from tornados to terrorism. But as soon as you say "fracking", the swarms of small earthquakes that lubrication of shallow rock strata can create suddenly become much more important than other threats that are historically worse in the region. You can get the same effect by dropping "nuclear" into any discussion.

      That's just silly. Nuclear fracking would be counter-productive.

    • Except if you live near oil producing areas using fracking and suddenly your well water becomes flammable:

      http://www.dailymail.co.uk/new... [dailymail.co.uk]

      http://ecowatch.com/2013/11/07... [ecowatch.com]

      So while there may be some hysteria, I damned well would be hysteric if my drinking water suddenly became flammable.

      In fairness, it isn't the fracking process that is directly causing the earthquake problem here -- it is disposing of the wastewater in certain deep wells that is causing the earthquake activity. I read somewhere that ninety percent of the earthquake activity is associated with less than ten percent of the wells, which tells me that if we are able to choose which wells we use for wastewater injection we can substantially solve this problem.

      Ohio has had a similar, if less serious, problem:

      http://www.livescience.com/493... [livescience.com]

      For all that, this whole story sounds like we are watching a classic disaster movie unfold.

  • by Ol Olsoc ( 1175323 ) on Sunday October 25, 2015 @09:44AM (#50797021)
    I stopped reading after the September 11th introduction.

    Its a problem. A big one.

    But are we going to start arresting earthquakes and sending them to Gitmo now?

    • I stopped reading after the September 11th introduction.

      I stopped reading after the first word in TFS. Seriously: Fuck. That. Place. I finally manage to leave (one of the worst places in the English-speaking world, in my not-so-humble opinion)... and the fucking shithole continues to follow me around on the web.

      • by KGIII ( 973947 )

        This is why I don't believe most of the comments such as yours. If you'd actually traveled, you'd know that people are people pretty much anywhere you go. All those things you see as major problems are really trivial in the scope of things. If you go to most any (not totally impoverished or in a conflict area - I've visited both types) you'll find that the average person is just as content (or not) as they are anywhere else. The average government makes is just as retarded, no matter where you go. The avera

        • If you'd actually traveled, you'd know that people are people pretty much anywhere you go.

          Okay, okay; I lied: I wasn't actually in Oklahoma for ten years. Truth be told, I was in the Riviera... I just thought people would think I was cooler if I told them Muskogee. ;)

          So, you've either never really been anywhere

          Dammit, you're really forcing me to divulge everything, aren't you? Alright, alright, I admit: I've never been anywhere (mind you, I was under the impression that Oklahoma essentially counted as nowhere... but we'll defer to your holier-than-thou expert opinion on the subject). ;)

          or are completely so self centered that you're unwilling to look around you to determine that your preconceived notions aren't actually correct

          Rest assured, I'm plenty self-centered. ;) Nonetheles

      • I've never seen somebody so triggered by the word "A" before.
        • I've never seen somebody so triggered by the word "A" before.

          Well, to be fair, it's in "Oklahoma" not once but twice!

    • The summary doesn't say it, but the issue here is fracking. This talk of "National Security" is a diversion from that. They're shutting down wells near a storage site because of fear of earthquakes. That should be national news and cause a complete re-evaluation of the dangers of fracking. It's similar to how Wall Street executives spend billions lobbying against climate change while publicly acknowledging it in their SEC filings. It's about carefully controlling a narrative.

      I hate to admit it but I can
      • by tomhath ( 637240 )

        The summary doesn't say it, but the issue here is fracking.

        Did you read the summary? Its entire focus is that the recent earthquake swarm is caused by fracking (unlike the many similar earthquake swarms that area has had in the past, apparently).

        This raises major questions for the legality of fracking, which has been linked to the increased number of earthquakes striking Oklahoma

        • by Ol Olsoc ( 1175323 ) on Sunday October 25, 2015 @05:04PM (#50798987)

          Did you read the summary? Its entire focus is that the recent earthquake swarm is caused by fracking (unlike the many similar earthquake swarms that area has had in the past, apparently).

          I RTFA, and there might be some serious issues with it. It has some severe inconsistencies with the report it cites:

          http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com... [wiley.com]

          tl;dr version The report notes that increased fracking and the wastewater injection, if disposed in that manner, might be a problem. But the injection wells are the cause of the problem, not the nature of hydraulic fracking. Those injection wells have been there long before modern day fracking was around. Here's an abstract from Geology http://geology.gsapubs.org/con... [gsapubs.org]

          The takeaway is that the culprit here is injection wells for wastewater, which by the way, is not only loaded with brine water, and toxic chemicals, but lubricating agents. It was proobably never a good idea, even when these injection wells were utilized well before modern day fracking - like the culprit wells in Oklahoma.

          As noted before, we need to make the fracking fluid more environmentally benign. It won't ever be completely so, as brine is picked up in drilling. But simply pumping it back underground will just expose local fault lines over the years, and endangers a whole lot of folks and real estate.

    • The U.S. Army has been sent to "free" the Earthquakes from their evil leader, W. Frack.
  • by Christian Smith ( 3497 ) on Sunday October 25, 2015 @09:49AM (#50797035) Homepage

    Those 2-3 richter scale earthquakes could cause devastation. The security guards' "best Dad" coffee cups might fall onto the floor and break.

    The 4.5 scale quake might even set off the alarms!

    • Have you ever tried to tell your child that you broke the birthday gift they gave you and that they put so much work into?

      Believe me, you'd prefer dealing with ruptured and exploding fuel tanks.

    • Those 2-3 richter scale earthquakes could cause devastation. The security guards' "best Dad" coffee cups might fall onto the floor and break.

      What about the little ceramic coffee cream dispensers that say "Lubbock TX" shaped like a cow that pours out of the mouth? Because they tried making one that poured from the udders like it should but the milk leaked onto the table. Then they tried raising the udders up right under the tail but it looked really weird and disgusting. Clearly we have some serious problems to solve in this country besides small earthquakes, like cow dispensers that barf milk. Who has the courage to stand up and decide that crea

    • This is fucking insightful? A series of small earthquakes can cause a lot of imperceptible damage over time. Frankly, I hope this lot goes up. Natural selection.
  • This raises major questions for the legality of fracking, which has been linked to the increased number of earthquakes striking Oklahoma over the past decade.

    This isn't true. Even the EPA has been forced to admit that freaking is safe.

    • How much did THAT cost? It's got to be more expensive to force the EPA to lie.

      I think you're telling more literal truth than you anticipated.

    • Re:Error in summary (Score:5, Informative)

      by Ol Olsoc ( 1175323 ) on Sunday October 25, 2015 @10:11AM (#50797135)

      This raises major questions for the legality of fracking, which has been linked to the increased number of earthquakes striking Oklahoma over the past decade.

      This isn't true. Even the EPA has been forced to admit that freaking is safe.

      Pumping the used fracking water into wells might not be. When they do the drilling and fracking, they put chemicals in the water - some to make it slippery to aid in the fracking. There's no reason to believe they don't retain the same properties. Lubricate a fault line, don't be too surprised if it moves.

      Fracking is almost certainly pretty safe. What I mentioned above might pose a problem. We've been doing fracking for a long time, and I think the big push now will be to research more environmentally safe or easily recyclable fracking fluid. Injection wells are just accidents waiting to happen.

      Side note: After WW2, there was a lot of napalm left over, and they used it as a lubrication agent in fracking solutions for some time. I suspect a blowout could be pretty exciting.

    • This isn't true. Even the EPA has been forced to admit that freaking is safe.

      Well, as long as we get our freak on in a responsible manner.

    • Fracking is absolutely safe. There is no way you could possibly get hurt by it.

      As long as it's done far enough away, of course.

    • Even the EPA has been forced to admit that freaking is safe.

      The EPA also said that sulfoxaflor was safe.

      http://www.reuters.com/article... [reuters.com]

      • You're missing the point, Rat. I don't trust the EPA, because the EPA pretty consistently comes down on the side of green kooks who think fracking causes earthquakes. The science is 100% against that position, so the EPA parted ways with the green kooks on this and says that fracking does not cause earthquakes.
    • ATTENTION, it is of ABSOLUTELY CRUCIAL importance that NO ONE make a joke on this MOST DEADLY SERIOUS of issues. If you can't discuss this HORRIFIC RISK to my PRECIOUS PRECIOUS LIFE with all the seriousness of a HUMORLESS ASSHOLE about whose OPINION nobody CARES, well then.

      Although to be fair, freaking has been known to cause an earthquake or two in MY house. OH BITCH NO I DIDN'T!!!

  • Duh. Because we know the fissures could rupture a portal and release the Kaiju. Read. Your. Bibles.
  • What cheek! How dares that planet threaten our national security! It's time to declare a War on Earth!

    Wait... haven't we already?

  • These are private oil storage facilities. If they are being threatened by human activity, this can be sorted out in the courts. If they are being threatened by natural disasters, insurance and diversification can sort it out. Furthermore, we have insane amounts of oil in the "strategic petroleum reserves" all across the country, which could easily absorb even a total loss. There is absolutely no reason for the US government to get involved in this; it simply amounts to crony capitalism. It is even more idio

    • by AHuxley ( 892839 )
      Re "insurance and diversification can sort it out"
      The US supply network is basically a for profit just in time network that moves in cheap raw material, has it passed into a limited number complex plants and the resulting products move around the nation at a nice profit.
      No good buying in expensive raw product, refining it and waiting for prices to go up again "soon". Better to pass on the production costs with a just in time production and final product transport method.
      With news of wars, peace, other i
      • None of your lengthy bloviations explain why tax payers or the government should get involved in this.

        • by AHuxley ( 892839 )
          So private insurance should be left to pay up and clean any site for any reason in the US based on some clause any US court can extend over any human induced event?
          Not many insurance companies would stay in profit or interested in the US oil sector for long if that human related site coverage was allowed to stand as the default legal finding.
          Sites that fail due to well understood human activity will have to resort in some way to the "tax payers or the government". Think of it as a geological induced supe
          • Sites that fail due to well understood human activity will have to resort in some way to the "tax payers or the government".

            Quite the opposite: sites that fail due to well understood human activity should hold the people engaging in that activity responsible for the failure.

            So private insurance should be left to pay up and clean any site for any reason in the US based on some clause any US court can extend over any human induced event?

            I have no idea what "extending clauses over human induced events" is eve

  • Oklahoma earthquakes are abotu as much a security threat as Oklahoma drivers. How much sensationalization and overreaction can people tolerate?

    Oklahoma Earthquakes are caused by wastewater injection wells, which are in need of regulation. Since the U.S. Congress are a bunch of weenies and won't pass anything rational, and since the Oklahoma government is largely owned by Oil and Gas, there won't be much done to resolve this until there is an expensive earthquake. It's not rocket science.
  • Perhaps we should take oil off the futures market?

    That way, if the worst happens, we won't have to worry about it collapsing, because it won't be there to collapse?

  • Could we please begin to distinguish the activity of underground wastewater injection from fracking, the actual extraction of oil & gas?
    As I understand it, the scientific consensus is that these earthquakes are the result of the former (which I consider the ultimate in 'sweeping under the rug'), not the latter.
    • Perhaps you should read up how fracking works instead of writing nonsense like 'fracking is just the extraction of oil and gas'.
      If that is the case, why is it only called fracking recently and was not called fracking when we simply used to drill a deep long hole?

      • I'm quite familiar with how fracking is performed, and works. While fracking close to a fault is linked to earthquakes, the process of injecting waste into into a disposal well is much more likely to cause earthquakes than extraction from an oil recovery well.
        USGS Cite: https://profile.usgs.gov/mysci... [usgs.gov]
        • Does not show that you are aware how fracking works :D If you where aware how it works, the rest of your post where not such nonsense.

          And: learn to read. I did not argue that fracking necessarily causes earth quakes. In germany we had none due to fracking since 50 years (and that is roughly how long we do it).

  • Whether it is oil or coal we rarely hear any good news. We are building such a complex and interwoven national structure that we are ever more in danger from minor issues causing a cascade of very harmful events. Obviously we need to get both oil and coal out of our way of life as both lack any way to control their negative effects. Keep in mind that the city always spreads like a cancer ruining the more rural areas. It seems that we must consider making energy consumption a very local affair so that
    • use of oil and coal has propelled mankind into the modern age of increased health and lifespan, far outweighing all negative side effects. Don't diss it.

      Sure, non-polluting energy sources would be better, and we'll continue build those largely using oil and coal for now

  • It seems like the much greater danger is the huge impact from the gigantic leap you took from fracking quakes (still unproven) to anything near a quake powerful enough to disrupt tanks strong enough to hold thousands of gallons of liquid - not to mention how much inertia those tanks have that is it's own resistance to quake damage.

    A leap of that magnitude much have incalculable waves of every released on landing - thus I think we can all agree the frothing anti-fracking mind is the real danger here.

    • A tank can be strong enough to hold its contents, but not withstand an earthquake.
      Oil tanks have failed during several earthquakes.
      Here is a presentation that calculates the risk based on tank construction and dimensions: https://idrc.info/fileadmin/us... [idrc.info]
      • Yes, a MAJOR quake can affect tanks. But we are talking about, at worst, micro-quakes.

        They would not be enough to overcome inherent large tank stability - not to mention the government probably ridiculously overbuilt the storage tanks for the strategic oil reserve...

  • The recent hurricane in Mexico managed to miss any large cities. But if it had it had enough power to actually completely level a major city. If one of these super hurricanes smacks Miami, New Orleans or even New York it would bankrupt our nation.. I doubt that much of anything would survive wind gusts over 230 mph. with sustained winds of 200 mph.. But the sick part is that it is only a matter of time. Hurricanes will strike. They always do and with these super storms we all are in danger. So it is n

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