Seismologists, OK Authorities Concerned Earthquakes Could Damage Cushing Oil Hub

Monday, October 19th 2015, 6:47 pm
By: Dana Hertneky

There are rising concerns over recent earthquakes and one of the world's largest oil storage facilities in Cushing.

The Oklahoma Corporation Commission announced Monday new directives to try and stop the earthquakes in the Cushing area. The Corporation Commission said 13 disposal wells in the area will be shut in or their volume reduced.

The Department of Homeland Security considers the Cushing Hub to be critical to the national infrastructure and requested a study of potential earthquake dangers. Seismologists warn of a potential large earthquake that could damage those storage tanks.

10/12/2015 Related Story: Large Earthquakes Continue To Rattle Cushing Residents

The Cushing oil hub stores upwards of 53 million barrels of oil piped in and out across North America. Earthquake damage to those oil tanks could have serious, environmental consequences and interrupt the flow to oil refineries nationwide.

According to a paper published by the National Earthquake Information Center, that could happen. Seismologists said the type of fault that lies beneath the oil field "could produce a large, damaging earthquake comparable to the 2011 Prague event." Dan McNamara was the lead author.

“Just based on that cascading effect in Prague where you had some foreshocks that ruptures into a 5.6 and then similarities to the Cushing structures we start to get concerned,” McNamara said.

“Because of the tank farm, Cushing is getting top priority,” said Matt Skinner, spokesman with the Oklahoma Corporation Commission.  

Skinner said a close second on their priority list is Medford, Perry and Pawnee.

The Oklahoma Corporation Commission announced four disposal wells between zero and three miles of the Cushing epicenters will be shut in and nine others within three to six miles were told to reduce their volume by 25 percent.

In addition, the owners of 13 other wells between six and 10 miles were told to prepare for changes. This is the second time in a month the Corporation Commission has taken action in the Cushing area.

9/22/2015 Related Story: Corporation Commission Turns Away 5 Disposal Well Applications

“Certainly the continuation of the quakes, the very strong quake that struck Cushing the weekend before last, a few days after we instituted the first part of the plan justifies going further,” Skinner said.

McNamara said he believes the action is warranted and added so does the Department of Homeland Security, which considers the Cushing Hub to be critical to the national infrastructure.