Is Oil Drilling in Alberta Causing Quakes in the Cascades?

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posted on Oct, 28 2005 @ 11:10 AM
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Oil and gas drilling commonly causes small quakes, and small quakes can trigger larger quakes - in different locations. Much has been written on ATS speculating that oil and gas drilling and testing caused the Asian quake and tsunami last year. This thread speculates that some effects of oil and gas drilling and testing are closer to home. As Alberta's oil industry has grown, so too have reports of increased seismic activity in the Cascades.


A. QUAKES TRIGGER QUAKES


The main ideas are addressed here:

ATS: Quakes Trigger Quakes

Study: Quakes Trigger Quakes

Experts study how quakes trigger quakes





B. OIL DRILLING AND TESTING TRIGGERS QUAKES



Induced Seismicity:

Oil Extraction, Mining, and Water Pumping can Trigger or Directly Induce Earthquakes




This copy is pulled from the Institute for Geophysics:


TEXAS EARTHQUAKES FAQ:

Q: Does drilling for oil and gas cause or trigger earthquakes?

A: Research carried out by UTIG scientists suggests that earthquakes in some parts of Texas may be induced by the pumping of fluids at oil and gas fields, or by the injection of fluids to dispose of chemical wastes. The earthquakes in the Fashing-Pleasanton area southeast of San Antonio are almost certainly caused by or triggered by pumping; such earthquakes also seem to occur in the Texas Panhandle near Snyder, Texas. [NOTE: Parts of the Panhandle sit above the Ogallala Aquifer.]

Q: If pumping oil and gas cause earthquakes, is it safe to continue pumping?

A: Yes, it is almost always safe. Earthquakes induced by the injection or pumping of fluids from wells are generally very small; most have magnitudes of 3 or less. Moreover, while tens of thousands of oil and gas wells exist in Texas, only a few fields show any evidence that oil and gas pumping induces earthquakes.

Re: Media Bias. The above copy would had to have passed inspection by the Texas oil industry's promo and legal departments.



On a more practical note, here's the legal poop on earthquake hazards for common Texans:


EARTHQUAKE SEISMOLOGY. Chapter 12 of, State of Texas Hazards Analysis, by the Governor's Division of Emergency Management, Department of Public Safety, Austin, Texas, 1998.

"For reasons of safety, economy, and (in some cases) law, Texans need to consider earthquake hazard when designing or siting various structures which are essential for providing medical or emergency management services, which house sensitive manufacturing processes, or which store hazardous wastes."




...This article is was written by Dr. Elchin Khalilov, an accomplished Russian scientist, and published by Azeri Consulting. It is translated badly from Russian - but is informative. It seems to say that oil and gas deposits - at least in Russia and the Caspian - are always in earthquake-prone areas (subduction zones) - therefor, oil extraction is always a geologically destabilizing factor.
OIL AND EARTHQUAKES

...This article is a review of events - including seismic testing for oil, and dolphin beachings - that preceded the Asia quake and tsunami.
Earthquake: Coincidence or a Corporate Oil Tragedy?



C. GENERAL OVERVIEW OF GEODYNAMICS AND THEORIES

Earthquakes occur as a result of numerous factors acting and interracting - the main theory used to predict earthquakes is called "complexity theory." Here are a few articles on complexity theory:


A COMPLEX SYSTEM VIEW OF WHY STOCK MARKETS CRASH

"A central property of a complex system is the possible occurrence of coherent large-scale collective behaviors with a very rich structure, resulting from the repeated non-linear interactions among its constituents: the whole turns out to be much more than the sum of its parts. ...It turns out that most complex systems around us do exhibit rare and sudden transitions, that occur over time intervals that are short compared to the characteristic time scales of their posterior evolution. Such extreme events express more than anything else the underlying "forces" usually hidden by almost perfect balance and thus provide the potential for a better scientific understanding of complex systems. These crises have fundamental societal impacts and range from large natural catastrophes, catastrophic events of environmental degradation, to the failure of engineering structures, crashes in the stock market, social unrest leading to large-scale strikes and upheaval, economic drawdowns on national and global scales, regional power blackouts, traffic gridlock, diseases and epidemics, etc. It is essential to realize that the long-term behavior of these complex systems is often controlled in large part by these rare catastrophic events..."

***

"But because there are so many constituents in a large system, their multiple relations generate a relational network that can be highly complex, variegated, and surprising."
SYNTHETIC ANALYSIS OF COMPLEX SYSTEMS I - THEORIES

***

On Self-Organized Criticality (SOC):

"Self-organized criticality is hypothesized to link the multitude of complex phenomena observed in Nature to simplistic physical laws and / or one underlying process. It is a theory of the internal interactions of large systems. Specifically, it states that large interactive systems will self-organize into a critical state (one governed by a power law, see figure 1). Once in this state small perturbations result in chain reactions, which can affect any number of elements within the system."

Introduction to Self-Organized Criticality & Earthquakes

***

Observing SOC in Action

"Wide area around the future epicenter reaches a metastable state, and the system turns to be very sensitive to small external actions. The concept of SOC does not contradict to the concept of dilatation. However it assumes that significantly greater region is involved during the last stages of the earthquake preparation as the dilatation theory implies....during the last stages of earthquake formation, fractures emit electromagnetic waves with increasing frequency able to penetrate into the ionosphere and magnetosphere, ..."




The main theory used historically to explain why and where earthquakes happen is "Plate Tectonics," but it's generally considered to be inadequake and incomplete. A new theory called "Surge Tectonics" has emerged to better explain and predict earthquakes, which better integrates complexity theory, SOC, and the known effects of oil and gas drilling and testing, mining, and water extraction.


Surge Tectonics. Fall of 2000: Plate Tectonics: A Paradigm Under Threat

"This paper looks at the challenges confronting plate tectonics-the ruling paradigm in the earth sciences. The classical model of thin lithospheric plates moving over a global asthenosphere is shown to be implausible. Evidence is presented that appears to contradict continental drift, seafloor spreading, and subduction, as well as the claim that the oceanic crust is relatively young. The problems posed by vertical tectonic movements are reviewed, including evidence for large areas of submerged continental crust in today's oceans. It is concluded that the fundamental tenets of plate tectonics might be wrong."

***

Earth Geodynamic Hypotheses Updated PDF

***

Surge Tectonics: A New Hypothesis of Global Geodynamics
Meyerhoff, A.A., Taner, I., Morris, A.E.L., Agocs, W.B., Kamen-Kaye, M., Bhat, M.I., Smoot, N.C., Choi, D.R.
Meyerhoff Hull, Donna (Ed.)
1996, 348 p., Hardcover
ISBN: 0-7923-4156-2





D. THE ROLE OF SUBSIDENCE AND SEISMIC LENSING

While numerous factors do come into play and interract to cause earthquakes, two mechanisms stand out as critical in their ability to re-direct and amplify seismic waves. Both these mechanisms may be caused by industrial activity, including oil and gas drilling and testing.

1. Subsidence




Rapid subsidence over oil fields measured by SAR interferometry

Most of the major subsidence areas around the world have developed in the past half-century at accelerated rates due to the rapidly increasing use of ground water, oil and gas.

Measuring Land Subsidence from Space

Land subsidence is a gradual settling or sudden sinking of the Earth's surface owing to subsurface movement of earth materials. Subsidence in the United States has directly affected more than 17,000 square miles in 45 states, and associated annual costs are estimated to be approximately $125 million.

MAN-MADE SUBSIDENCE




2. Underground Lens Structures, Seismic Lens, or Seismic Lensing


Localized Amplification of Seismic Waves

"our results suggest that a contact between high velocity material underlying the Santa Monica Mountains and low velocities of the Los Angeles Basin is warped to form a 3D lens that focuses waves arriving from the north on sites in mid-Santa Monica. ...enhanced damage in Santa Monica is explained in the main by focusing due to a lens structure at a depth of several km beneath the surface, and having a finite lateral extent.

...The reason why the difference of S-wave amplification factors between the central and northern parts of Santa Monica is significantly larger than the coda amplification factors, is that S-wave energy is focused on the stations through the lens, while coda wave rays, being omnidirectional, are not."

1996 - Southern California Earthquake Center. Re: Santa Monica lens structure (PDF)

2001 - A trail of clues have led American researchers to the amazing possibility of a "seismic lens" in the ground capable of magnifying the force of a quake, turning minor tremors into intense, destructive earthquakes

Seismic Imaging of Fractured Media PDF

Seismic Focusing Through Fractures Under Radially Varying Stress Fields




Man-made subsidence at least is affecting the geodynamic stability of the continental USA. The topic was addressed neatly in this article:


Is Subsidence Caused by Oil and Gas Drilling Causing New Orleans to Sink into the Ocean?

The river is moving away from the city. The city is sinking because of its weight, because no upbuilding by new muck for many decades, because of being cut off from the fresh water, because it is sliding off a cliff (the Continental Shelf), and because the Oil and Gas Industry is extracting oil out from under it. It is a city that for all intents and purposes is now Sea domain.


Biggest Cost of Oil: Land-Mass Destruction

The dirty secret of the Oil and Gas business is that in order to get it out of the ground, you have to do things that are messing up the structure of the planet. When you pump the stuff out, the land subsides. It goes down not only from the volume of fuel removed, but also from the volume of all of the other stuff removed as well. ...The deeper the recovery site, the more certainly these effects are seen, but over wider areas involving hundreds of miles.

This is causing the earth to slide. The Norphlet structure which dives below the surface at Tuscaloosa Alabama and across to about Shreveport, La, and well into Texas is 50,000 feet down at the lowest end of Petronius. Petronius, 65 miles south of the opening of Mobile Bay, is an old river delta that is now sliding into the ocean because of Oil and Gas Extraction. The slide is about 1 foot a year and accelerating, taking the whole region -- an area of about 100,000 square miles -- into the deep Gulf of Mexico.

...The industry is very familiar with this problem although they have not publicized it.


Hurricanes are Seismic Events

It is during Hurricanes that this land loss becomes apparent to the public. Hurricanes settle the land by seismic effects of their waves together with washing action. The force of hurricane-driven waves can easily reach seismic values of a 3.0 on the Richter scale -- repeated every few moments for many hours. This causes liquefaction, settling, erosion and triggers slides. A hurricane the size of Katrina is a Geologic event as much as it is a weather event.

.....Subsidence due to oil and gas extraction is historically documented and ongoing damage can be confidently declared to be fact. The damage these guys are doing is horrid. ...Maybe if we were publicly discussing oil’s true cost – destruction of cities and whole land areas -- a rational decision will be possible.





E. ALBERTA AND THE CASCADES

As Alberta's oil industry has grown, so too have reports of increased seismic activity in the Cascades. The activity may be related, via various factors and mechanisms.

ATS: Cascades - Disturbing Activity at St Helens & Rainier!!



CONCLUSIONS

Obviously, oil and gas drilling and testing endangers the planet's geodynamic stability, along with mining and water extraction. This destabilization can trigger earthquakes and volcanic activity, and appears to be escalating their frequency and worsening their effects.

The questions are: Where and how exactly are these effects occurring? How far gone is the SOC? And finally, Is oil drilling and testing in Alberta causing geodynamic instability and earthquakes in the Cascades?




NOTE: All of the research on subsidence was done by loam, who contributed other links and ideas too, and posted on this thread: Quakes Trigger Quakes

...and thanks to Dulcimer for asking the question that led to this question.




posted on Oct, 28 2005 @ 01:25 PM
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Gosh! Something I actually know something about.


I lived in Alberta and my father works for an oil & gas company. In fact, he has worked for some of the largest companies in Canada my entire life other than a few years in the Sulpher industry (now THERE is a conspiracy) so let me say...he has decades of experience here (as do I).

Anyway, I now live a stone's throw from the Cascades. Alberta, besides being some distance away is separated from the Casades by the Rocky Mountains (the largest mountain range in North America).

Note the location of the Rocky Mountain range:


Note the location of the Cascades


So, the Rocky Mountains in effect, make a very large barrier between Alberta and the Cascades. The question then becomes, are there volcanoes in the Rocky Mountains? That answer is yes as shown below.

external image

It is true that the Rocky Mountains have quakes which is shown by the map below. They really only fall into the middle range and not the top range like the Cascades (on the coast). I would think we would see high activity in the Rockies as well, if oil and gas drilling were such a major factor.



Last 50 events in Canada (including some of the Cascades):


Feel free to also look at the activity for:
Past 12 Months
Past 5 Years

Note that MOST activity is on the West side of the Rockies. They are coastal quakes and not near Alberta.

Now another factor for some of the reference you provided:


TEXAS EARTHQUAKES FAQ:

Q: Does drilling for oil and gas cause or trigger earthquakes?

A: Research carried out by UTIG scientists suggests that earthquakes in some parts of Texas may be induced by the pumping of fluids at oil and gas fields, or by the injection of fluids to dispose of chemical wastes. The earthquakes in the Fashing-Pleasanton area southeast of San Antonio are almost certainly caused by or triggered by pumping; such earthquakes also seem to occur in the Texas Panhandle near Snyder, Texas. [NOTE: Parts of the Panhandle sit above the Ogallala Aquifer.]

Q: If pumping oil and gas cause earthquakes, is it safe to continue pumping?

A: Yes, it is almost always safe. Earthquakes induced by the injection or pumping of fluids from wells are generally very small; most have magnitudes of 3 or less. Moreover, while tens of thousands of oil and gas wells exist in Texas, only a few fields show any evidence that oil and gas pumping induces earthquakes.

Re: Media Bias. The above copy would had to have passed inspection by the Texas oil industry's promo and legal departments.


I know you site media bias, but I still highlighted very important words in the above quote. The research is still speculative. I however, am not going to come to the table empty handed since I can give a better theory as to the quake activity.

Now you also mentioned this link: Induced Seismicity

I think you happened to miss a VERY important quote there near the top of the page:


Reservoir induced seismicity in connection with large hydropower dams has been well known for at least 60 years, and induced seismicity in connection with ore mining has a history of at least 100 years.


This is extremely important because it adds an unmentioned variable into the equation of the theory. Large hydro dams are WELL KNOWN to cause siesmic activity.

How is this important?

During the depression era, an entire series of hydroelectric dams were constructed along the Columbia River (I have seen them). These were part of a project to increase the production of electricity in Washington State. In fact, as an added bonus...I know the person who ran the construction company that built the Grand Coulee Dam which was completed in 1941.

This dam is (cue the drumroll) the LARGEST in the United States.

Let me summarize this.
While oil & gas drilling is speculated to be a cause, hydroelectric dams are a KNOWN cause and in addition to having an entire series in Washington State, they also have the LARGEST hydroelectric dam in the entire United States.

Now, the Rocky Mountains provide a barrier from Alberta and these dams. In fact, the majority of these dams, including the largest I mention above are located on the Cascades side of the Rocky Mountains.

Hydroelectric Dam placement in Washington State.


So, I understand your theory and I find it an interesting one, but I think there is enough evidence to show that there are other reasons why there is major quake activity in the Cascades due to hydroelectric dams (a known cause) OR even the fact that Mt. St. Helens is an active volcano which could be a major factor as well (not even getting into the "ring of fire").

I know that doesn't help the mankind is destroying the earth theory or the media bias which is covering up for the oil companies angle, but it's just a tough fit for me.



[edit on 28-10-2005 by ZeddicusZulZorander]



posted on Oct, 28 2005 @ 04:10 PM
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ZedicusZulZorander - Absolutely excellent stuff ZZZ.


Thank you.

I think your information about hydroelectric dams shows clearly that dams are a far more important factor influencing Cascades activity than my speculation about oil drilling in Alberta. But I am glad I asked the question.



...Moving along. Given that quakes trigger quakes and other geodynamic responses, do you think that a small induced quake might domino from Alberta through the Rockies, and into the Cascades? Hypothetically speaking?

Also, I still am very intrigued by the seismic lens phenomenon - especially these lens' ability to redirect seismic waves, not just amplify them.

Do you see the hypothetical possibility that there may be seismic lenses, natural or otherwise, that might go through or under mountains or mountain ranges? Or across continents, for that matter?

I suspect the seismic lens phenomenon is important, overlooked, and minimized - to our potential detriment.

...I am trying here to look beyond the idea of direct cause and effect to consider ALL the factors - and while the hydroelectric dams clearly are the most important, other factors do contribute. Question is, which ones, and how?

Anyway, thanks again. Great contribution. I will review your post more closely and come back with questions about dams - maybe more on the mechanics.


.Ed clarify

[edit on 28-10-2005 by soficrow]



posted on Oct, 28 2005 @ 05:13 PM
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Originally posted by soficrow
ZedicusZulZorander - Absolutely excellent stuff ZZZ.



Thank you. I think in both listening and dealing with a topic, we both come out more knowledgable.


...Moving along. Given that quakes trigger quakes and other geodynamic responses, do you think that a small induced quake might domino from Alberta through the Rockies, and into the Cascades? Hypothetically speaking?


I have heard of this domino effect referred to as a "chain" I believe, but I would think that it would be more dependent on the fault lines.

I don't believe a quake in that region would/could move through the Rockies into the Cascades. Now, a quake in the Cascades moving to other areas in the Cascades...THAT I believe has happened.

I think more of the quakes come from the plating and magma activity in the "ring of fire."

Anyway, more later maybe. I need to run for a bit.



posted on Oct, 28 2005 @ 06:11 PM
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Fantastic thread. Great material and reading.


Here are some Alberta oil maps:
www.energy.gov.ab.ca...

Natural Gas information:
www.energy.gov.ab.ca...

History of major earthquakes in Canada:
Link

Geological Survey of Alberta:
www.ags.gov.ab.ca...

Rocky Mountains Volcanic Past:
Link

Keep up the excellent work everyone.



posted on Oct, 28 2005 @ 06:24 PM
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Well here is my theory....

I have been watching the quake maps and devouring info daily for a few years now...well maybe more I just found a book of world maps that in 88 I was angling quakes and eruptions on.....

But in the last year I have been doing my same calculations on quakes when they occur to see if I can work out where the chain reaction will fall next.. and many many times I have been right in say 6 out of 7 movements....I can put 7 crosses on a map and get 6 of them marked with quakes or eruptions within a month.... that one I never get ..is always america..whether it be ALaska or California..its always america that misses the movement I think should occur..

At first I put it down to my error in the plate movements but then slowly it took on a sinister meaning when it happned over and over....for some reason America is not getting the big quakes it should be getting ...for some reason the USA have series of small quakes but not the big ones expected....

I really do think that America is interferring with seismic activity....

in the last few years there has been much scientific action along the San Andreas... how easy would it be to place the equipment to create small quakes there...

The movie 10.5 really pushed my thoughts along when they were setting nukes off to seal the plates...hmm where was that nuke testing in America? Nevada? Not to far away...

I think America is causing small quakes to release the pressure and to stop the larger quakes...



posted on Oct, 28 2005 @ 07:48 PM
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Originally posted by Mayet

I think America is causing small quakes to release the pressure and to stop the larger quakes...



Wow. Interesting work you do Mayet.


...and interesting observation/theory too. I know I've read recommendations that small quakes could be triggered to release pressure and prevent larger ones. Need to dig that up. VERY astute.


ZZZ - traditional tectomics theory says that quakes domino only along fault lines - but that isn't how it always happens in reality. "Surge tectonics" and the seismic lens structures may help explain how quakes "skip." I think maybe.

Dulcimer - thanks. Great links - must take real time to read tho.



posted on Oct, 29 2005 @ 08:28 AM
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soficrow

Great job starting this fantastic thread!


This has got me reading for hours....

Mayet & ZeddicusZulZorander: Awesome contributions!

Now THIS is what ATS is about! Great stuff.



posted on Oct, 30 2005 @ 12:43 PM
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Thanks loam, and thanks again ZZZ.

ZeddicusZulZorander

Thank you for all your work.

You have shown that hydroelectric dams are a critical factor contributing to geodynamic activity in the Cascades, due to their proximity and given their already known effects - and you say dams in the Cascades are more likely to cause quakes in the region than far away drilling. You also show that the Rocky Mountains are between Alberta and the Cascades, and contend that this barrier either absorbs or blocks the seismic effects of oil drilling in Alberta, and prevents it from causing quakes in the Cascades.

In terms of direct cause and effect relationships, you are clearly right about the dams. Your point here also applies to complexity theory, in terms of hydroelectric dams being a more critical contributing factor. You also are right that the Rockies create a barrier between Alberta and the Cascades.

However, IMO - your argument is weak in that it really does not accommodate complexity theory - it is focused almost exclusively on direct cause and effect relationships, which do not and cannot explain or predict this planet's geodynamics. Also, you rely on the "Proximity Myth," which is in doubt if not debunked.

One piece of information that comes immediately to mind is the report that the Asia quake impacted Virginia well-water levels.



Arlington Institute Archive

We are all connected. The South Asian earthquake that spawned deadly tsunami waves also shifted water levels by at least 3 feet in a geologically sensitive Virginia well some 9,600 miles away from the epicenter, researchers say. The well near Christiansburg, which started oscillating about an hour after the magnitude 9 quake near Sumatra on Dec. 26, is particularly sensitive to movements in the Earth and is monitored by the U.S. Geological Survey. The Christiansburg well, in the western part of the state, also shows regular, but small, changes caused by tides.

Also see: NASA Archive
ATS Coverage




If a quake can impact well-water levels 9,600 miles away from the epicenter, we need to ask what else can happen - and again, look at the planet as a system, and at geodynamic activity as resulting from an interplay between numerous factors, near and far. And I think we need to look at how seemingly small events like seismic drilling can have large effects - and may contribute to creating effects that are far away from the original event, both geographically and in terms of time. To that end, I outlined several mechanical influences that might help explain some of the mysteries of geodynamic response/reaction - which you seemed to dismiss as "unproven," to support your cause-effect explanation as more valid.

I'm hoping you will look again at complexity theory, integrate it into your argument, and reconsider some of the recently described mechanical theories and explanations. Hopefully, we can evaluate your information as factors to be integrated with complexity theory, and come out with a better understanding of all the many different things that make earthquakes happen, and volcanoes erupt.


.



posted on Apr, 21 2007 @ 01:19 AM
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Mod Edit: Removed Offensive Post

[edit on 4/21/07 by FredT]





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