Category Archives: earthquakes

Fracking quakes-It’s time for a focused analysis of the recent temblors in Oklahoma

While provides fracking and earthquake-centric datasets suitable for most any citizen-scientist or analyst to consume, it does so with a bend towards the generic.  After the latest significant magnitude 5.0 earthquake to hit Oklahoma near the town of Cushing at or about 7:44 PM on November 6, 2016, as well as the magnitude 5.8 earthquake to hit 8 miles northeast of Pawnee on September 3, 2016, I’ve decided to apply my data analysis and mapping skills to making focused datasets concentrating on the State of Oklahoma’s earthquakes and underground injection wells.

When the State of Kansas experienced fracking-operation related earthquakes, reports were that they reduced the volume of wastewater injected into their underground disposal wells, whereas sources have reported that the State of Oklahoma initially changed not the volume of the wastewater disposed, but the depths at which it was injected.  Therefore, it would seem beneficial if a review of the practices of both states were undertaken, as well as any accrued benefits.

With the preceding in mind, I posit the following:

  • Pull all magnitude 0.0 and above earthquakes,from 1898 to present, from the NCEDC website.
  • Reverse-geocode the aforementioned earthquakes, adding the country, state, county, and nearest city/village in the process.
  • Locate the oil well location datasets for the states of Oklahoma and Kansas, if such are available.
  • Locate the underground injection well datasets for the states of Oklahoma and Kansas, if such are available.
  • Extract, transform, and load (ETL) the aforementioned oil and injection well datasets into a standardized layout suitable for singular and multiple state analyses.
  • Locate the volume of wastewater injection datasets for both states, if such exist.
  • ETL the volume of wastewater injection datasets into a standardized layout suitable for singular and multiple state analyses.
  • Publish the subsequent datasets, along with the methodology used to ETL them, for use by the fracking data analysis community.
  • Produce a step-by-step guide of the subsequent analyses, complete with SQL or source code, as an example of using the datasets for research.
  • Submit my study(ies) to the State of Oklahoma as well as various media outlets for their use or commentary, whichever is more appropriate based upon the nature of the receiving entity.

Please note that I’ll post my progress on the bullet points listed above, as well as build out a “living document” of my adventures in doing so at’s sister site:

In the meantime, I hope that no loss of life occurs due to the continued practice of wastewater injection into underground wells.  That being said, given the State of Oklahoma’s economic dependence upon oil as a means of income and its reluctance to date in reining its activities, I fear that loss of life will be inevitable.  “Loss of life” seems such an abstract phrase, especially when it appears in print, but given that I’ve experienced its direct effects more than once, I can assure all that might read this post that it is deeply personal and most certainly not abstract to those that encounter it on a first-hand basis.

Khepry Quixote
7 November 2016

MS Access: Database posted to downloads site

Microsoft Access, while not SQL-92 compliant, is a very popular database program suitable for analytical use by many people that don’t use R, SAS, or Tableau for analysis and reporting purposes.

Concerning data, and back again by popular demand, is now providing (see link below) a Microsoft Access database in “accdb” format containing various tables as follows:

  • tables
    • dbo_RegistryUpload
    • dbo_RegistryUploadPurpose
    • dbo_RegistryUploadIngredients
  • Earthquakes-related tables
    • NCEDC_earthquakes_reverse_geocoded (worldwide, 1898 to date, magnitude 0 and up)
  • Toxicities-related tables
    • Chemical_Toxicities_Blended_Sorted
    • Chemical_Toxicities_Blended_Grouped
    • Chemical_Toxicities_Blended_Flattened_Boolean
  • Views utilizing the above tables
    • vue_Registry_Upload_Purpose_Ingredients
    • vue_Registry_Upload_Purpose_Ingredients_Toxicities
  • Link(s) to Microsoft Access database(s), compressed with the 7-Zip program:

Henceforth, this database will be available on the same schedule as the CSV, SQLite, and PostgreSQL files and a page holding the latest link can be found on the FracFocus Data page of’s site (link below):

Khepry Quixote
10 June 2016

Earthquakes: Reverse-geocoder published on GitHub

Making good on my previous promise, I have released the source code for the NCEDC-formatted earthquake CSV file reverse-geocoder, written in Python 3, on GitHub as both as “Gist” and as an Eclipse-PyDev project .

Each of the above links has a README file with instructions on its use, arguments, and dependencies.

I dedicate this project and Gist to those about to endure the dubious “benefits” of fracking operations in the United Kingdom.

Khepry Quixote
7 June 2016

Earthquakes: Reverse-Geocoded Files Posted to

As I promised earlier, I’ve downloaded earthquakes from NCEDC’s web site (1898 to date), reverse-geocoded them via GeoNames and K-D Trees (thereby obtaining their country, state, county, and city/village values), archived the resulting files via 7-ZIP and uploaded both the CSV and SQLite datasets to:

I have authored a program in Python 3 that reverse-geocodes (via GeoNames and K-D Trees) the lat/longs into their respective countries, states, counties, and cities/villages.  I will post a link to the open-source project shortly once I’ve vetted its license and repository.  The program processes nearly 3 million rows in approximately 240 seconds.

Earthquakes – Reverse Geocoding Coming Soon

One of the most vexing sets of data to make usable for a data analyst is the earthquake dataset available via the NCEDC search site.  While the site returns results quickly enough to an anonymous FTP site, they do not contain any columns representing the country, state, county, or city.  These columns are some of the most useful for analysis of questions such as: “Oklahoma now rivals and even exceeds California for the number of significant earthquakes?”

Believe it or not, the answer to the preceding question is “True,” especially when one can analyze reverse-geocode earthquakes using relatively simple SQL queries.

The difficulty was in the reverse-geocoding of the latitudes and longitudes to their respective countries, states, counties, and cities.  Originally, I had authored a Java program that used various ESRI shape files and discerned to which administrative units a lat/long belonged.  That is, if you wanted to wait 12 hours for it to run.

Given the long run time and inconvenience of obtaining the shape files, I declined to publish it except as source code with little, if any, explanation as to its operation and use.  I just didn’t think it was suitable for public consumption yet, as the reverse-geocoding was only tediously repeatable.  I knew there was a better way, and as of a few weeks ago, after some research, I authored a better mousetrap:

  • a Python 3.4 script
  • using the reverse-geocoder package
  • which uses K-D trees
  • and datasets from GeoNames
  • reverse-geocoding 2.8 million rows in approximately 210 seconds

So, in the next few weeks, the Python script will be pushed to GitHub and the reverse-geocoded earthquake dataset to  A posting or postings will be pushed when this is done.

How cool, from 12 hours to 210 seconds.

Finally, some progress…

Khepry Quixote
12 April 2016

Breaking the “Fracking Wall”

This post describes why I’ve resolved to break the “fracking wall” surrounding the data sources of oil well locations, fracking chemical disclosures, and earthquake sources.


I am a software/database/systems developer/designer/analyst with over thirty (30) of IT experience in a variety of domains: petrochemical plant applications, tax appraisal, county-level governmental agencies, law enforcement applications, point-of-sale systems, data warehousing and analysis, insurance, near-realtime aircraft/vessel dispatch and tracking, mapping applications, search engines, desktop and web applications, health care extraction, transformation, loading (ETL) and analysis. In short, there’s not a lot I haven’t done over my career.


One of my continuing challenges is to self-educate on emerging languages, databases, and software on a frequent basis. This I do as a “night job” a few nights each week, every week, every month of every year. Having enjoyed applications involving mapping the most, in the Spring of 2012 I decided on a course of self-education with variety of mapping packages, but covering a single domain with free information: earthquakes. I choose this domain for no other reason than the data was freely available and of modest size, sources of publicly-available data being just a few million records.


And so I merrily went about my self-education on various mapping packages using the free source of earthquake data, enjoying positive results and pretty graphics along the way. Then, quite to my surprise, “swarms” of earthquakes began to materialize on the various maps I was creating. Interestingly enough, some of those swarms were in Oklahoma, a state of the union in which I had the privilege of living in from 1979 through 1982. What struck me as interesting was that I didn’t recall that many, actually relatively few, earthquakes during those three years I lived in that state. Needless to say, my interest was piqued.


So, I began to plot out the earthquakes for Oklahoma on a wider scale, on a year-by-year basis, and I could discern that there were “swarms” of earthquakes materializing in places where there had been very few in the preceding decades. As I have a B.S. in Zoology, a scientific bend to my mind and an absolute passion for the discernment of emerging patterns, mental alarm bells went off that I was seeing an emerging pattern that might have a more anthropogenic than natural origin. Casually, as this was a “night job,” I began searching the Internet for possible causalities and ran across the hypothesis that hydro-fracturing a.k.a. “fracking” operations, specifically the injection of water and chemicals into “fracking” and underground “disposal” wells, was causing the emerging swarms of earthquakes.


At a magnitude of 5.6, the largest earthquake ever recorded in Oklahoma up to that time struck on November 5, 2011, being preceded by 4.7 through 5.0 foreshocks earlier in the day. It was this earthquake and its foreshocks that really raised my interest as I was mapping not only the locations of the earthquakes on the map but also their intensity via color, the more reddish the stronger the quake. To me, where there’s smoke there’s fire, and that being said I resolved to start mapping out well locations as well. It was my quest for well locations on a state-by-state basis that turn self-education into an avocation of sorts, and introduced me to the “fracking wall.”


In an effort to obtain the locations of oil wells, I contacted various state agencies of the State of Oklahoma with virtually no results. It wasn’t that the data wasn’t available, it’s that what data was available was not easily downloaded and most importantly did not contain the latitudes and longitudes of the wells. In other words, I could roll the cigar between my fingers but I could neither light nor puff upon it. I was told by one state official, emphatically, that such location data was not available. Agency-by-agency, I wrote and/or called the appropriate personnel, and although most of the employees were polite, they were also equally unhelpful. It took me several months to find out where the data sets containing oil well location data had been posted. There was one, I repeat one, mention of a link to Oklahoma’s oil well location datasets in an obscure forum in a backwater of the Internet. This was the clue I needed, and finally I was able to plot the oil well locations against the occurrence of earthquakes and confirm that “where there’s smoke, there’s fire.” The refusal of the State of Oklahoma to point me to the location(s) of oil well location data was my first experience with the “fracking wall,” and it wouldn’t be my last although the “fracking wall” would be manifested by different states and agencies in different ways.


Because of the State of Oklahoma’s behavior and lack of cooperation, I resolved to break the “fracking wall” for both myself and all others needing access to the same type of data. In an effort to collect all of the oil well location and fracking chemical disclosure hyperlinks in one place, as well as offer curated datasets of the aforementioned data, I created the website with curated FracFocus data extracts, chemical toxicities and their datasets, state-by-state sources of well location data, and the source code used to extract the datasets into more usable forms. In short, I created to be a one-stop shop for anyone wishing to conduct analysis of fracking-related data.


+ Link earthquake data to oil well locations in a manner convenient to anyone wishing to analyze such data (In progress)

+ Automate the download, extraction, transformation, and loading of data into datasets more suitable for use by analysts or citizen-scientists. (Done)

+ Transform the GUID keys into more user-friendly integer keys that also reduce storage by over 25% (Done)

+ Push the curated data sets to ODATA repositories, e.g. Google Fusion Tables, so that analysts can more easily access the data via packages like Tableau, SAS, or R. (In progress)

+ Push more of the source code used to do this extraction, transformation, and loading to repositories like GitHub so that all may share in its presence and perhaps even contribute to its maintenance. (Partially done)

As I have a “day job,” progress is painful but the results are worth it.

Khepry Quixote
11 March 2016

Examination of Possibly Induced Seismicity from Hydraulic Fracturing in the Eola Field, Garvin County, Oklahoma

[editor’s note: the full report from the Oklahoma Geological Survey is available as a downloadable PDF at the link below]


On January 18, 2011, The Oklahoma Geological Survey (OGS) received a phone call from a resident living south of Elmore City, in Garvin County, Oklahoma, that reported feeling several earthquakes throughout the night. The reporting local resident had also offered that there was an active hydraulic fracturing project occurring nearby. Upon examination there were nearly 50 earthquakes, which occurred during that time. After analyzing the data there were 43 earthquakes large enough to be located, which from the character of the seismic recordings indicate that they are both shallow and unique. The earthquakes range in magnitude from 1.0 to 2.8 Md and the majority of earthquakes occurred within about 24 hours of the first earthquake. Careful attention and significant effort was put into obtaining the most accurate locations possible and gaining a reasonable estimate in the error in locations. The nearest seismic station is 35 km away from where the earthquakes occurred. Formal errors in location are on the order 100-500 m horizontally and about twice that for depth. Examination of different velocity models would suggest that the uncertainties in earthquake locations should be about twice the formal uncertainties. The majority of earthquakes appear to have occurred within about 3.5 km of the well located in the Eola Field of southern Garvin County. The Eola Field has many structures, which may provide conduits for fluid flow at depth. The well is Picket Unit B well 4-18, and about seven hours after the first and deepest hydraulic fracturing stage started the earthquakes began occurring. It was possible to model 95% of the earthquakes in this sequence using a simple pore pressure diffusion model with a permeability of about 250 mD (milliDarcies). While this permeability may be high it is less than those reported for highly fractured rock. The strong correlation in time and space as well as a reasonable fit to a physical model suggest that there is a possibility these earthquakes were induced by hydraulic-fracturing. However, the uncertainties in the data make it impossible to say with a high degree of certainty whether or not these earthquakes were triggered by natural means or by the nearby hydraulic-fracturing operation.


Fracking Hell: Oklahoma, Earthquakes, Injection Wells, and Data Accessibility

Attempting to mash the earthquake and underground data into a cohesive user-interface has proved to be, to put it mildly, daunting.  It was much easier to find sources of earthquake data than it was to find any source of well data with any fields relevant to my needs.

The earthquake data was relative easy to come by, for example I found the following sources:

I downloaded the entire earthquake dataset from the Advanced National Seismic System (ANSS) beginning in 1898 through the present day and imported the data into an Apache Lucene index.  In short order I had a searchable earthquake index lacking but a few location-centric fields:

  • The country in which the earthquake occurred.
  • The state in which the earthquake occurred.
  • The county in which the earthquake occurred.

In order to associate the above needed fields with the earthquake data, I downloaded two ESRI-formatted shapefiles from the National Atlas:

And one shapefile from Mapping Hacks:

I then wrote a Java program that would read each earthquake record and link it to its associated country, state, and county available from the respective shapefile of each.  To do this I used a Java library at from

Well data was much more difficult to come by, especially with any fields relevant to my needs, for example:

  • The type of well, for example “oil”, “gas”, “inj” (for injection) was available as data, just not available as a field upon which one could query.  In other words, I could not query for just underground injection wells (“inj”).
  • The date each well became active, let alone its filing date, was not available via the web interface.
  • The location of each well, in latitude and longitude, was not available either.
  • Given the lack of the above information, I didn’t even concern myself with the lack of well depth information.

As an exercise in personal fortitude, I downloaded the wells for each county in the State of Oklahoma from the Oklahoma Corporation Commission’s Well Data System into one Excel spreadsheet per county.  I then wrote a Java program that read the well data within each county’s Excel spreadsheet and posted it to an Apache Lucene index.  I then zipped the Apache Lucene index and pushed it a web site so that it could be queried and viewed using Apache Solr’s VelocityResponseWriter browser interface.  The results of this effort can be viewed and queried here.

So, in concluding this post, I find the earthquake data adequate for my present needs but the well data lacking any useful date or location information to allow me to associate the earthquakes to the wells by either location or time.  As I am a persistent researcher, my next post will detail my further attempts at locating and downloading well data.

Commentary on Oklahoma Geological Survey’s “Position Statement on Triggered or Induced Seismicity”

The following is my commentary, [bracketed in green text], concerning a faithful reproduction of the Oklahoma Geological Survey’s “Position Statement on Triggered or Induced Seismicity” statement. The only differences in the reproduction are to be found in the formatting of the bullet lists as the original, visible here, had different bullet imagery and some “[sic]” notes within the statement where some grammatical errors were present in the original PDF.

Oklahoma Geological Survey
The University of Oklahoma
Mewbourne College of Earth & Energy
G. Randy Keller, Director and State Geologist

Position Statement on Triggered or Inducedi Seismicity

    • We take allegations of triggered seismicity seriously and are actively assessing the possibility that this may be occurring in Oklahoma. [Editor's note: It is a good thing that OGS is taking these recent swarms of earthquakes seriously.]
  • It is well understood that earthquakes can be triggered by fluid injection at depth. [Editor's note: It is also a good thing that OGS acknowledges that swarms of earthquakes can occur due to injection activities.]
    • It is also well documented from the historical and geologic record that Oklahoma frequently has naturally occurring earthquakes. [Editor's note: It is not the frequency of earthquakes that is at question, rather it is rising quantity of earthquakes of significant historical magnitude that has caught the attention of concerned citizens. One more significant point to be made is "that Oklahoma frequently has naturally occurring earthquakes"? Does this phrase imply that the author has a ready method, without an extensive scientific study, to easily identify which earthquakes are "natural" and which are not? If so, as the author suggests in the aforementioned "frequently..." phrase, couldn't the non-natural earthquakes be identified as those not readily identified as "natural" utilizing the implied easy process?]
    • It is true that the past few years have seen a significant increase in earthquake activity within Oklahoma.  While we are studying the possibility that some of this activity could be related to oil and gas operations, it is unlikely that all of the earthquakes can be attributed to human activities. [Editor's note: The "unlikely that all of the earthquakes can be attributed to human activities" goes without saying as that is not what is at issue here. Rather it is the recent swarms of earthquakes that appear to be co-located with some injection wells that are of concern, especially the recent rise of earthquakes of significant historical magnitude.]
      • It is however possible that there have been incidents of triggered seismicity within Oklahoma over the past several years. [Editor's note: Alright, I'll concede that the author of this statement might be signaling some open-mindedness with this sentence.]
    • If cases of triggered seismicity are identified, our goal is to adequately and thoroughly document and research these cases, so that proper steps can be taken to mitigate the likelihood of future triggered seismicity.[Editor's note: "If cases of triggered seismicity are identified" is a loaded phrase with "identified" being the operative word. I've read many a scientific study that concluded with phrases of "waffle words" indicating that more study was needed before a definitive answer might be possible. For an applicable analogy, please read up on the history of research into the cancer causality of cigarette smoking.]
      • We will also attempt to work collaboratively with operators of these wells to gain as great of an understanding of the triggering process as possible. [Editor's note: "attempt to work collaboratively with operators of these wells" is definitely the operative phrase in this sentence. Based upon my efforts to obtain oil well information from both state agencies and oil industry sources for "TheFrackingWall" blog, I can save the OGS a lot of grief by certifying that Hell hath no ice machines yet. Simply put, "collaboration" is not going to occur on a proactive basis on the part of state agencies or private sector actors. Case and point: Tried to obtain any latitudes and longitudes for oil and gas wells from the Oklahoma Corporation Commission's Well Browser tool lately? Yes, I can personally certify that only piping hot java is served in Hell these days.]
      • When earthquakes appear to be triggered, there are methods to, with the cooperation of operators, assess whether seismicity truly is triggered or not.[Editor's note: Once again, it is delusional for anyone to think that there will be "cooperation of operators". The best one can hope for is "coercion of operators". Once again, has the author of this statement attempted to use the well browsing tool at As a software developer of thirty years experience, I can certify that the well browser at is not friendly to analysts of any sort. If I'd have to speculate, I'd say that was implemented in the manner that it was for the very reason that it would be vexing for analysts of any type. How does the author of this statement, after seeing the frustrating web site that is, think that s/he will receive any significant "cooperation of operators" in the effort to "assess whether seismicity truly is triggered"? The author is more likely to enjoy the "pleasures" of delays and obfuscations than that of cooperation.]
    • We consider a rush to judgment about earthquakes being triggered to be harmful to state, public, and industry interests. We are taking a measured and scientific approach to addressing issues so that any conclusion that earthquakes are linked to oil and gas activities can be scientifically defensible. [Editor's note: Oddly enough, this is where anecdotal evidence is more helpful. A time-series analysis of earthquake swarms coupled with the start of injection operations of suspect wells will likely return more common-sense evidence of a correlation than a massive in-depth study more likely to conclude with the aforementioned "waffle words". In addition, it might be more productive to conduct a "toggle-switch" experiment with a suspect injection well. "Toggle" the suspect injection well "off" and monitor the affected area to see if the earthquakes subside over time. Then "toggle" the suspect injection well "on" at its former injection pressure and monitor for any increase in earthquake swarms. Wash, rinse, repeat. This sort of approach is done all the time in software development and it is highly effective in finding hidden bugs and undesirable behavior.]
  • We are currently working on addressing cases in Oklahoma where triggered seismicity has been suggested.  This requires careful examination of a large amount of complex data and does not happen quickly.[Editor's note: Once again, wouldn't a time-series analysis reduce the effort required to come to a common-sense conclusion about triggered seismicity? Additionally, wouldn't a "time-series tripwire" system be a reasonable proactive undertaking? That is, a system utilizing past time-series swarm patterns in the vicinity of suspect wells might be able to proactively raise "red flags" about other injection wells.]
  • We have also completed an evaluation of one such case documented in OGS Open File (OF1-2011) that is available from the OGS website.  This case involved hydraulic fracturing of a well in Garvin County in South-Central Oklahoma.[Editor's note: One study, noted without a hyperlink, that ended with "waffle phrases" in the first paragraph of the conclusions is not an omen of good portent as to the results of any future studies. As a matter of fact, it is the first paragraph of the "Conclusions" of the mentioned study that provides the proof needed by skeptics that fluid injection will ever be "identified" as the cause of the earthquake swarms in question.]
  • We are actively working with and advising the Oklahoma Corporation Commission concerning issues of possible triggered seismicity.[Editor's note: It would be to all parties interest if the OCC modified its well browser site to return latitudes and longitudes of wells as well as a comprehensive download covering all of the wells in the database.]
  • It is important to note that earthquake processes in the stable interior of continents occur on the order of hundreds to ten’s [sic] of thousands of years while meaningful earthquake monitoring in Oklahoma and the central United States as a whole has only been possible for about 40 years.[Editor's note: Once again, it's not about the scale of hundreds or thousands of years, rather it's about the swarms of earthquakes occurring in the vicinity of suspect injection wells.]
    • Earthquakes often cluster in space and time in any tectonic setting, making any short-term trends in seismicity difficult to interpret.[Editor's note: Wax-on, wax-off, Daniel-san. If in doubt, "toggle" the suspect injection well "off" and "on". Just make sure that the suspect well injects at the actual pressure they were injecting during the earthquake swarm, not the "nominal" pressure with which they claim they were injecting. To paraphrase President Ronald Reagan: "Trust, yet verify."]
    • Many processes are thought to occur within the Earth that could potentially generate the seismicity patterns observed in recent years.[Editor's note: Once again, "toggle" the suspect well "off" and "on". In addition, over time, injection wells should start showing somewhat distinctive patterns of earthquakes patterns when associated with their injection logs.]
    • Most earthquakes in Oklahoma do not occur on well-known faults, but there are many undocumented faults throughout Oklahoma due to its complex geologic history.  Thus, we are working on a new fault map for the state.[Editor's note: Noting that one is working on a more comprehensive fault map for the state is not a helpful statement. It implies that one will need "cooperation of operators" to obtain the needed seismic data to do so. It is reasonably questionable as to whether cooperation is in the operators economic self-interest. As a general rule, these sorts of studies may render useful results many years down the line but by that time the damage is already done.]


iInduced seismicity is the more colloquial term, but triggered seismicity is the more accurate term for earthquakes inadvertently cause [sic] by anthropogenic activities.  This indicates that the stress released in the earthquake was accumulated through natural processes, but the mechanism that caused the stress release was due [to] the affects [sic] of human activities.[Editor's note: The use of the word "inadvertently" gives the impression that triggered seismicity is unintentional or accidental, or more succinctly a by-product of innocence. Use of such words could also signal the likely outcome of any studies conducted by the overseen agency.]

100 E. Boyd, Room N-131, Norman, Oklahoma 73019-0628
Phone (405) 325-3031  Fax (405) 325-7069