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  • Ari Snow, Arizona State University

Earthquakes and the Energy it Could Disrupt

From June 2018 to June 2019 the state of Oklahoma has experienced 373 earthquakes. To someone from a place like California or Indonesia this still seems like a lot. To put this in perspective, 10 years ago from June 2008 to June 2009 Oklahoma experienced 17 earthquakes. This is almost 22 times the number of earthquakes in just one decade. Not only has the frequency of the quakes increased over the last decade the severity of them has increased. From 2008 to 2009 the quakes ranged from 2.5 to 3.7. In the year of 2018 to 2019 have ranged from 2.5 all the way up to 4.4. The following image shows all the seismic activity from June 2018 to June 2019 in the state of Oklahoma.

("U.S. Geological Survey")

These seismic events not only damage the communities they effect directly but can also damage the energy infrastructure of the entire country. Oklahoma is a large contributor to natural gas and energy infrastructure for the nation and stores and transports a large amount of natural gas and oil with large storage containers and intricate pipeline networks. Oklahoma is home to 156 different gas storage facilities. (Parker, J. 2018, April 02). Damage to these facilities could have dire effects both environmentally and economically.

If we continue to see an increase in seismic events and their severity, we could have some real big problems to deal with. The Department of Homeland Security has recognized that a slightly more severe quake of magnitude 5.7 could cause significant damage to oil storage tanks of Cushing, Oklahoma. Damage to this facility and others like it could be disastrous to the environment and nation’s energy system given the storage capacity of over 80 million barrels of crude oil. (Page, 2017) The following image shows some of the oil and gas storage facilities located throughout the state of Oklahoma.

By utilizing mapping and GIS to map the facilities in the state and the relevance of earthquakes nearby. The gas and oil companies could begin prioritizing which facilities needed to be upgraded to better deal with seismic activity. Through partnerships with local and federal government, industry, universities and communities like YouthMappers, this project could be completed quickly to help start the next phase of the project to help stabilize Oklahoma’s precious resources and help preserve our natural landscape from disaster.

Ari Snow is a USAID GeoCenter YouthMappers Virtual Intern studying Urban Planning and Political Science. He lives in Edmond, Oklahoma and attends Arizona state University online. He enjoys biking, gardening, coffee and craft beer.

(Parker, J. 2018, April 02).

Natural Gas Storage: Underground, Overlooked, and Under-appreciated. Retrieved June 25, 2019, from

U.S. Geological Survey. (n.d.). Retrieved from

Page, S. (2017, August 11). Oklahoma's fracking-induced earthquakes are not going to stop. Retrieved from

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