Could recent Oklahoma quakes have been caused by injection wells?

What was happening underground had been building up over time. More and more small tremors when the big one hit.

A 5.6 earthquake left damage to homes and buildings in Prague and geologists in a mad rush to gather data.

"We have a really nice triggering sequence of boom, boom, boom in these earthquakes," said Dr. Katie Keranen, University of Oklahoma seismologist.

Kernanen has been researching the quake since November.

Through her research she's found, "It's quite possible that these earthquakes were induced."

Possibly induced by oil and gas exploration.

Within three miles of the quake's epicenter there are five injection wells. Oil and gas crews pump thousands of gallons of waste water into those wells, sometimes daily, and some experts now believe that water and added pressure may cause the faults to slip, triggering an earthquake.

"So it's still quite possible that you're building up this pressure, this fluid pressure in the ground, what you have to do is build up the fluid pressure enough that it relieves stress on the fault that you could potentially trigger an earthquake," said Keranen.

Meanwhile, on a national scale similar findings have been discovered about injection wells.

The National Academies of Science recently gathered experts from across the globe to examine what may be inducing earthquakes. Their study found the wells can and do cause quakes, but say it's rare.

The study suggests putting a well a certain amount of feet away from a fault, to reduce the chance of an earthquake happening. David Curtiss, the head of the American Association of Petroleum Geologists, headquartered in Tulsa, is familiar with the study and several of the members of his association contributed to it and says the study found we can search for oil and gas and reduce the chance of having an earthquake all at the same time.

He says scientists are looking into how to have the best of both worlds.

"What is reasonable? What is something that enables us to continue developing the resource, but does it in a responsible way?" said Curtiss.

That's something Austin Holland, with the Oklahoma Geological Survey, is also looking into.

Although he's still researching the cause of this earthquake as a precautionary measure to prevent earthquakes in general, Holland is working to pass well distance suggestions on to the Corporation Commission, which regulates the wells.

Still, as far as a definitive answer on the cause of the 5.6 quake, all the experts we talked to agree on one thing.

"I think that we need more data," said Holland.

Both Holland and Keranen say if crews stopped injecting near the epicenter, then that would help experts gather data but that hasn't been requested and the state hasn't asked for it.

While crews search for more answers, no changes have taken place.

"I'm not a regulator. We're a research agency and so we're trying to do the research to help the state manage this resource," said Holland.

We asked the Corporation Commission if it plans to hold hearings from other experts concerning induced earthquakes.

The commissioners declined an on camera interview but sent us this statement:

It is important to note that conditions vary greatly both within and between states, and the research the survey is doing is therefore focused on Oklahoma. Thus far, the issue remains an open question, and the Commission will continue to do all it can to assist the ongoing research into this matter.

In the end, everyone says the goal is the same -- to continue oil exploration and production but reduce the chance of having another 5.6 quake.

"I think there's a way to all of this responsibly and really minimize any possible chances of causing any earthquakes or damaging earthquakes," said Holland.

Also, the Corporation Commissions says it is working with stakeholders in reviewing "best practices" for injection operations, calling that a necessary step before changing any rules.

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