A sharp earthquake in central Oklahoma last weekend has raised fresh concern about the security of a vast crude oil storage complex, close to the quake’s center, that sits at the crossroads of the nation’s oil pipeline network.
The magnitude 4.5 quake struck Saturday afternoon about three miles northwest of Cushing, roughly midway between Oklahoma City and Tulsa. The town of about 8,000 people is home to the so-called Cushing Hub, a sprawling tank farm that is among the largest oil storage facilities in the world.
Scientists reported in a paper published online last month that a large earthquake near the storage hub “could seriously damage storage tanks and pipelines.” Saturday’s quake continues a worrisome pattern of moderate quakes, suggesting that a large earthquake is more than a passing concern, the lead author of that study, Daniel McNamara, said in an interview.
“When we see these fault systems producing multiple magnitude 4s, we start to get concerned that it could knock into higher magnitudes,” he said. “Given the number of magnitude 4s here, it’s a high concern.”
The federal government has designated the hub, run by energy industry companies, a critical national infrastructure. Major tank ruptures could cause serious environmental damage, raise the risk of fire and other disasters and disrupt the flow of oil to refineries nationwide, said Dr. McNamara, a research geophysicist at the National Earthquake Information Center in Colorado.
Nah, keep on fracking. Nothing to see here.