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New research predicts likely decline of Kansas earthquakes

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New research out of Stanford University shows that limiting wastewater injection is helping to prevent man-made earthquakes in Kansas and Oklahoma.

The researchers have created a new physics-based model that can better predict where man-made earthquakes will occur by looking at increases in pressure. The model shows that the number of earthquakes is driven by how much wastewater is being injected into the ground.

“It is clear that the key to managing the seismic hazard related to induced earthquakes is managing injection rates,” said Cornelius Langenbruch, one of the authors of the study.

Previous prediction methods relied on looking at past seismic activity to predict future activity. But that method isn’t very effective when earthquakes are being caused by an external force; in this case an increase in pressure caused by large amounts of wastewater from oil and gas operations being injected into the ground.

Langenbruch said injection limits put into place by state regulators have made a difference. His model predicts that at current injection rates, the number of widely felt earthquakes in Kansas and Oklahoma will decrease to as few as 100 by 2020. That’s down from the thousands of earthquakes felt in the area at its peak in 2015.

“Based on our model we can make scientific decisions about how to optimize injection rates in space in time to mitigate the seismic hazard,” he said.

He said the maps can also be used to identify the probability that a damaging earthquake will happen close to homes or critical infrastructure.

The research was published in Nature Communications and funded by several major oil and gas companies.

KD-COUNTRY 94 NEWS NOTE: A series of earthquakes, in upwards of a dozen minor eruptions, occurred in primarily in Jewell County as well as extreme Western Republic County in 2016. None of those minor quakes were reported to have ties to oil or natural gas exploration or extraction, nor had any wastewater injection occurred near the epicenter of those locally scattered quakes.

Brian Grimmett reports on the environment and energy for the Kansas News Service. Follow him on Twitter @briangrimmett.

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Derek Nester
Derek Nesterhttps://sunflowerstateradio.com
Derek Nester was born and raised in Blue Rapids and graduated from Valley Heights High School in 2000. He attended Cowley College in Arkansas City and Johnson County Community College in Overland Park studying Journalism & Media Communications. In 2002 Derek joined Taylor Communications, Inc. in Salina, Kansas working in digital media for 550 AM KFRM and 100.9 FM KCLY. Following that stop, he joined Dierking Communications, Inc. stations KNDY AM & FM as a board operator and fill-in sports play-by-play announcer. Starting in 2005 Derek joined the Kansas City Chiefs Radio Network as a Studio Coordinator at 101 The Fox in Kansas City, a role he would serve for 15 years culminating in the Super Bowl LIV Championship game broadcast. In 2021 he moved to Audacy, formerly known as Entercom Communications, Inc. and 106.5 The Wolf and 610 Sports Radio, the new flagship stations of the Kansas City Chiefs Radio Network, the largest radio network in the NFL. Through all of this, Derek continues to serve as the Digital Media Director for Sunflower State Radio, the digital and social media operations of Dierking Communications, Inc. and the 6 radio stations it owns and operates across Kansas.

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