Oklahoma quake threat to world oil supplies

2016-11-08 18:24
A sharp earthquake centred near one of the world's key oil hubs has night triggered fears that the magnitude 5.0 tremor might have damaged key infrastructure. (KFOR-TV via AP)

A sharp earthquake centred near one of the world's key oil hubs has night triggered fears that the magnitude 5.0 tremor might have damaged key infrastructure. (KFOR-TV via AP)

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Cushing - A magnitude 5.0 earthquake centred near one of the world's key oil hubs brought down building facades and shattered windows in a central Oklahoma city, rendering century-old buildings unsafe and raising concerns about key infrastructure.

As the sun rose on Monday, television news footage showed widespread, substantial damage to buildings, with piles of bricks and other debris littering the ground following the earthquake the previous evening. Cushing Assistant City Manager Jeremy Frazier told a news conference late on Sunday that a few minor injuries had been reported. He said the damage appeared to be contained downtown.

Oklahoma has had thousands of earthquakes in recent years, with nearly all traced to the underground injection of wastewater left over from oil and gas production. Sunday's quake was centred 1.6km west of Cushing and about 40 km south of where a magnitude 4.3 quake forced a shutdown of several wells last week.

Fearing aftershocks, police cordoned off older parts of the city to keep gawkers away late on Sunday, and geologists confirmed that several small quakes have rumbled the area. Frazier said an assisted living community had been evacuated after damage was reported. The Cushing Public School District cancelled Monday classes.

"Stay out of the area," said City Manager Steve Spears, who noted that while some damage was superficial, compromised foundations and other potential problems would be difficult to assess until daylight in the city of 7 900 about 80 km northeast of Oklahoma City.

The Oklahoma Department of Transportation reported on Sunday night that no highway or bridge damage was found within a 24 km radius of the earthquake's epicenter.

The quake struck at 19:44 on Sunday and was felt as far away as Iowa, Illinois and Texas. The US Geological Survey initially said Sunday's quake was of magnitude 5.3 but later lowered the reading to 5.0.

"I thought my whole trailer was going to tip over, it was shaking it so bad," said Cushing resident Cindy Roe, 50. "It was loud and all the lights went out and you could hear things falling on the ground.

"It was awful and I don't want to have another one."

Cushing's oil storage terminal is one of the world's largest. As of October 28, tank farms in the countryside around Cushing held 58.5 million barrels of crude oil, according to data from the US Energy Information Administration. The community bills itself as the "Pipeline Crossroads of the World."

Frazier said two pipeline companies had reported no trouble as of late Sunday but that the community hadn't heard from all companies. Gov. Mary Fallin tweeted that no damage was reported at the storage tanks at Cushing's oil storage terminal

Megan Gustafson and Jonathan Gillespie were working at a Cushing McDonald's when the quake hit.

"It felt like a train was going right through the building, actually," Gustafson, 17, said Sunday night as she and her co-workers stood behind a police barricade downtown, looking for damage. "I kind of freaked out and was hyperventilating a bit."

Gillespie said the building shook for about 10 seconds, but that he wasn't as alarmed as Gustafson because he lives in an area that has experienced multiple earthquakes, especially in recent years.

"I didn't think it was anything new," he said.

According to USGS data, there have been about two dozen earthquakes in Oklahoma in the past week. When particularly strong quakes hit, the Oklahoma Corporation Commission directs well operators to cease wastewater injections or reduce volume.

A 5.8 earthquake - a record for Oklahoma - hit Pawnee on September 3. Shortly afterwards, geologists speculated on whether the tremor occurred on a previously unknown fault.

"I was at home doing some work in my office and, basically, you could feel the whole house sway some," Spears, the Cushing city manager, said Sunday night. "It's beginning to become normal."

Read more on:    us  |  earthquakes

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