Billionaire Oil CEO Demands Scientists Terminated After Oklahoma Quake Study

Tyler Durden's picture

The billionaire CEO of Continental Resources told a dean at the University of Oklahoma that he wanted earthquake researchers fired. In one of the most transparently oligarchic tactics we have seen yet during this 'recovery', oil tycoon Harold Hamm demanded certain scientists be dismissed following their findings that fracking wastewater disposal was the cause of the spike in Oklahoma earthquakes. Despite his protestations recently that "I don't try to push anyone around," as the following email obtained by Bloomberg, exposes, "Mr. Hamm is very upset at some of the earthquake reporting to the point that he would like to see select OGS staff dismissed."


As we noted previously, no matter what other problems may or may not be linked to hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, the disposal of wastewater from oil and gas drilling almost certainly is primarily responsible for the recent spate of earthquakes in Oklahoma, normally a seismologically quiet state.

That’s the conclusion of a report issued April 21 by the Oklahoma Geological Survey (OGS), in which the state geologist Richard D. Andrews and Dr. Austen Holland, the state seismologist, said the rate of earthquakes near major oil and gas drilling operations that produce large amounts of wastewater demonstrate that the quakes “are very unlikely to represent a naturally occurring process.”


Andrews and Holland concluded that the “primary suspected source” of the quakes is not hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, in which water and chemicals are injected under high pressure to crack shale to free oil and gas trapped inside. It said the source is more likely the injection of wastewater from this process in disposal wells, because water used in fracking cannot be re-used.


“The OGS considers it very likely that the majority of recent earthquakes, particularly those in central and north-central Oklahoma, are triggered by the injection of produced water in disposal wells,” the statement said. It warned that residents should prepare for “a significant earthquake.”


Oklahoma recorded 585 earthquakes with a magnitude of 3 or greater, the equivalent of the force felt in Oklahoma City at the time of the terrorist bombing in 1995. This is a significant increase from 109 earthquakes of the same magnitude in 2013. Before 2008, when fracking became a popular drilling technique in the state, there were fewer than two earthquakes in Oklahoma each year, on average.



Andrews’ and Holland’s report draws the same conclusions as a study last year by Katie Keranen, an assistant professor of seismology at Cornell University, who found that injecting fracking wastewater into underground disposal sites tends to widen cracks in geological formations, increasing the chances of earthquakes.


Keranen’s study, in turn, reinforces similar conclusions in a previous study by the U.S. Geological Survey, which found that earthquakes in central and eastern parts of the United States between 2010 and 2013 also coincided with the disposal of fracking wastewater.


What’s important about Andrews’ and Holland’s conclusion is that they represent the state of Oklahoma, where energy is an important industry, providing about one-quarter of the state’s jobs. Last autumn, Gov. Mary Fallin, a Republican, dismissed the problem as speculative and urged further study.


But in a statement coinciding with Andrews’ and Holland’s report, Fallin said their ability to link wastewater disposal with earthquakes was significant and promised unspecified action. “Oklahoma state agencies already are taking action to address this issue and protect homeowners,” she said.


The state’s energy industry also supports further study of the state’s recent uncharacteristic seismic activity. “Oklahoma’s oil and natural gas producers have a proven history of developing the state’s oil and natural gas resources in a safe and effective manner,” Kim Hatfield, regulatory committee chairman for the Oklahoma Independent Petroleum Association, said in a statement.

And now, as Bloomberg reports, it is clear the elites were not happy with these findings...

According to the dean's e-mail recounting the conversation, Oil tycoon Harold Hamm told a University of Oklahoma dean last year that he wanted certain scientists there dismissed who were studying links between oil and gas activity and the state's nearly 400-fold increase in earthquakes...



He has vigorously disputed the notion that he tried to pressure the survey's scientists. "I'm very approachable, and don't think I'm intimidating," Hamm was quoted as saying in an interview with EnergyWire, an industry publication, that was published on May 11. "I don't try to push anybody around."


Kristin Thomas, a spokeswoman for Continental, says the company has no comment.

Worse still the lies and deceit run deep...

Catherine Bishop, the university's vice president of public affairs and one of the recipients of Grillot's 2014 e-mail, didn't respond to requests for an interview, but she defended Hamm in an e-mail: "Mr. Hamm absolutely did not ask to be on the search committee or to have anyone from Continental put onto the committee, nor did he ask that anyone from the Oklahoma Geological Survey be dismissed," she wrote.


Asked about the difference between her statement and Grillot's 2014 e-mail, Bishop responded: "Please note that the bottom line is that University of Oklahoma will not tolerate any possible interference with academic freedom and scientific inquiry." She added in a subsequent message: "Neither Mr. Hamm nor anyone from Continental Resources served on the search committee."




Hamm has been a generous donor to the University of Oklahoma, including a 2011 gift of $20 million for a diabetes research center named after the oilman. University President David Boren, a former U.S. senator, sits on the board of directors of Hamm's Continental Resources.


In the e-mail he wrote about his meeting with Hamm, Grillot—who himself sits on the board of Pioneer Natural Resources, an Irving (Tex.)-based oil and gas company—noted that he saw Boren leaving Continental's corporate offices before he went in to see the CEO.

Profits - once again - it would appear come before public safety and while money may not be able to buy happiness, it seems to be able to buy pretty much everything else.

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wendigo's picture
wendigo (not verified) May 17, 2015 6:25 PM

That fault is going to slip at somepoint. Any fault. A lot of little quakes might be better than one big one. 

mickeyman's picture

This sort of thing was first observed in California in the 1950s or '60s if I recall. Also, when I did my undergrad at UWO, one of my fellow students showed the same correlation between injections of wastewater and earthquakes in southwestern Ontario. Once the oil company understood what she was studying, they cut off the data.

Arguably, the small earthquakes reduce the stress on the fault in a controlled manner. However, as earthquake risk management, it is a risky strategy, as it does increase the likelihood of triggering a large quake if the stresses in the area are large.

BuddyEffed's picture

Is the current disposal method of the fracking water the cheapest and mostly unregulated way to do it?   That's probably a driving factor in this.

BoredRoom's picture
BoredRoom (not verified) BuddyEffed May 17, 2015 7:35 PM

pay attention losers....the Chosenite media said man made global warming man made climate change man made climate disruption caused the earthquakes, and I believe it

MalteseFalcon's picture

This is why science and academia has been completely corrupted.

One thousand scientists believe in global warming or peak oil?

Who gives a shit.  They are pwned.

Richard Chesler's picture

Who does he think he's dealing with, the White House?


Gaius Frakkin' Baltar's picture

"Profits - once again - it would appear come before public safety and while money may not be able to buy happiness, it seems to be able to buy pretty much everything else."

Hamm was just pissed his second wife wanted over $1 billion to take with her. He must perform poorly in bed.

Also, David Boren is a CFR scumbag, that's been known for years. I remember there was a bad ice storm at OU one year. Tree limbs were blocking major streets through the campus, people were having a hard time getting to final exams, and he had people cleaning up his yard first thing...

Ying-Yang's picture

When a earthquake is registered in Texas, you can go to the USGS website and see where and and how deep. Then with Google Earth you can go to that area and look for fracking stations. You will see pad sites with water tanks, pumps and rigs for for extraction.

Typically the fracking stations will be close to an epicenter and along old fault lines. Quakes will be 3-5 miles deep and register 1-4 on the scale... minor quakes that shift pressure on rocks stratas and cause building damage in shallow epicenters.

My opinion is that fracking yields oil, gas, jobs and profits but at a cost of earthquakes, contamination of ground water.

It is a tradeoff that makes big profits for some folk. Do you think anyone making big bucks cares about quakes or groundwater?

In drought areas where fracking is done, one has to take into account of how much water is used by fracking companies and how does fracturing underground rock stratas effect faults that have been dormant for long periods.


Refuse-Resist's picture

Youtube channel owner Dutchsinse just called and he wants his idea back.


This guy's been documenting the quakes for the last 3 years: quake location/google earth/ fraccing sites.


It's a 1 to 1 correlation in fraccing areas.  I know I know, correlation is not causation but when you look at the data it damn sure looks that way.


Pickleton's picture

They frack in greater Dallas?!  I know there have been several quakes around the Dallas metropolitan area but I didn't know about all those wells in the city.  Kindly point me to them thar wells under all these epicenters please.



Citxmech's picture

You'd need a fuckton of small quakes to alleviate all the stress let lose by one big one.  The Richter Scale is logarithmic folks.

mickeyman's picture

Ten thousand or so might do it.

Frankie Carbone's picture

He is a classic example of garbage idiotic thinking due to, among other things, mathematical illiteracy. 

"The greatest shortcoming of the human race is our inability to understand the exponential function". ~ Albert Bartlett

SFopolis's picture

Who downvotes a post like this?  Clearly some tools out there.


WOAR's picture

I guess default isn't just in California anymore, amiright?

JLee2027's picture

Opinion like this should not pass for real science. They can't prove it and it's not happening in North Dakota. 

Seeing Red's picture

I think you're tripping over the phrase "causing earthquakes".  A better concept might be advancing the next earthquake's timetable (IMHO, not necessarily a big deal).  If there's little stress in North Dakota, why would you expect earthquakes there (even with fracking)?

EDIT:  If I was the oil company, my argument should a big earthquake occur would be this:  "If we advanced the timetable, the energy accumulated was less then it would have been otherwise, and we should be thanked.  If we had no effect on the timetable, why are we here in this courtroom?".

p.s.  Not a fan of oil companies.  Turned down a 4-year college scholarship with a string attached:  "Would consider working in the petroleum industry".

SFopolis's picture

What's your science?  Did it ever dawn on you that North Dakota is a different part of the continent, with different rock, differetn tempreratures, different existing faults?  This is real science, and clearly you can't process information to have an informed opinion.  Just try a simple search and see what you come up with.... but that may be too much effort for you... so here

Pickleton's picture

I thought the point of frakking was to break the petro outta SHALE.  So how exactly is the rock makeup completely different in ND than Oki or Tx? 


I think you missed this part from YOUR link whilest you were yammering about real science (and being a condescending prick) or something. 


"In Oklahoma, hidden faults beneath the surface are primed to pop... "

" Some of these faults [In Oklahoma] were previously unknown and threaten critical structures, such as huge oil-storage facilities"

"But the geology underlying Montana and the Dakotas is more benign, with fewer faults near their breaking point"

" some 30,000 wastewater disposal wells operate in the United States without triggering damaging earthquakes. "


and then, the coup de gras


"However, the new study does not draw a link between oil and gas drilling and Oklahoma's earthquakes"


So in the end I'm left with the question, what's YOUR science.






Ms No's picture

Nope.  ND has had at least two earthquakes in the last 3 years, dead center of the patch epicentering right near recently drilled disposal wells.

oudinot's picture

JLee. You are an idiot.

Freddie's picture

Mr. "Hamm" is supposedly a chosen-ite.   

junction's picture

Using injection wells to dispose of contaminated water always leads to bad outcomes, whether contaminated aquifers, ground subsidence or temblors.  Out of sight, out of mind is not the way to dispose of poisonous material.

Robot Traders Mom's picture

What a tub of shit. 

Ignatius's picture

The man's a billionaire, for God's sake, and we should listen.  He probably makes water run up hill in his spare time.

Perseus son of Zeus's picture

Uphill? Nah he's goyim. Only chosen Billies walk on ZH water.

jerry_theking_lawler's picture

This is what tax code and government regulations gets us....

Return to the Constitutional principles now before we self destruct.

de3de8's picture

Hamm can't feel it from his house

Theos's picture

So what's the public saftey impact of these quakes? There are apparently over 100k 3-4 quakes per year in the world. 


Furthermore, isnt every industral endver a public safey risk? I bet there is more damage done to humans by the nat gas / oil peakers in NYC than some shakes in OK. Ya'll want your cheap energy though, right? Unless you're willing to push a car 25 miles down the highway for $3 you better come to terms with physics and how the world works. 


Whether or not this is a sustainable path is a different topic. But if you want to complain about the methods of cheap energy, while using cheap energy, youre a god damn hypocrite.

kaiserhoff's picture

But it's so much fun to bitch, bitch, bitch about what "they" should be doing,

and easier than working.

Isn't waste water being recycled now?  Why would that require some miraculous new technology?

Stumpy4516's picture

You cannot equate man made quakes with natural.  Natural quakes have been planned for (to a fair degree) in the first and most of the second world areas.  They can use historic and geologic information to determine the likely hood and potential magnitude of the quakes due to geologic forces that have been going on for millions of years in the region.

Man made quakes due to altering the geologic balances are unpredictable.  Just as none of the "experts" were able to warn or predict that fracking was going to cause them to start they are also unable to predict how big they may become.  The basis of past predictions are being made void by the fracking activity.  They can no longer predict the fequency (obviously) and thus cannot predict the magnitude.

Under natural geologic conditions smaller quakes release known stressing in the strata and can makie a larger quake, they can also signal that a larger quake is coming - but still the smaller ones help to lessen the magnitude.  These fracking quakes are totally different.  They are a signal that unnatural changes are being forced upon the strata and that it is being made unnaturally unstable.  Instead of being a signal that stress is being released slowly they are a signal that conditions undergound are being changed in ways that are causing unpredictable and unprecidented movements due to man made unstability.  The fracking quakes are a signal that the mechanisms that result in predictable stress release  have been replaced with mechanisms that can result in large movements. 

Much like injecting increased pressure and lubricant into the ground that allows it to amplify the number of movements over a shorter period of time and causes the eventual larger movement to be MUCH larger than would have naturally occured.  This turns the area to a low earthquake movement design criteria for structures into a higher movement design concern.  When the larger movement occurs structures then fail.

Then you have to consider how all this unprecidented frequency of movement/cracking increases the ability of gas and contamination to move from deep underground into the medium depth water aquifers.  Once they are polluted they cannot be replaced and not only drinking water but bathing water must be purified in ways NOT used at you city or home plant.  Oh, and when used for irrigation it builds up over time in the surface soil and that pure spring water written about in songs (which also supplies the rivers) is poison.

The Wedge's picture

Right, man can create enough mechanical hydraulic pressure to cause fault slippage. Complete fucking non-sense. That's not even pseudo science, it's anti-science.

James_Cole's picture

The Wilzetta Fault is a 55-mile (89 km) long fault zone that runs from central Pottawatomie County to the western part of Creek County.[7] It is a strike-slip fault, where two adjacent crustal blocks slide horizontally past each other, but unlike the similar moving San Andreas Fault, the Wilzetta Fault is not located near the margins of any tectonic plates. From 1972 to 2008, between two to six earthquakes were recorded annually by the USGS, however 50 were recorded in 2009. 

In March 2013, an article published in the scientific journal Geology concluded that the earthquake could have been triggered by the cumulative effects of injecting oil drilling wastewater under high pressure into the underground.[10] An issue of the Journal of Geophysical Research published in March 2014 found that a magnitude 5.0 foreshock believed to be induced by fluid injection promoted failure of the rupture plain of the November 5 mainshock.

Pickleton's picture


You do understand the operative words in YOUR comment, right?


"could have "


"believed to be "


Sounds like open and shut to me.  Oh wait...



sun tzu's picture

I've lived in the Dallas area since 1984. Never had an earthquake until after 2010 when fracking became widespread. I've been through at least a dozen already since then. It could be a coincidence, but I doubt it. 

Ying-Yang's picture

Fracking causes quakes... if you like your quakes keep fracking.

If your groundwater stays sweet and your property receives no damage no foul. If it happens to your neighbor, oh well?

Same here Sun Tzu, it began here after 2008. Easy to find science for those who look.

Ying-Yang's picture

Dude... go to USGS and download earthquake data and match with fracking operations.

No doubt if you do the work. Taking a stand based on biased information makes for weak rebuttals.

One of the best tools to use is Earthquake 3D

Free and safe download

The free version is good for most folks.

The program draws its data in REAL TIME from USGS. It shows all quakes registered by global monitoring agencies including USGS. Be aware USGS has been caught revising quake data for some strange reasons after first postings.

Why quote biased opinions when it is easy to see for yourself?


Pickleton's picture

Dude... go to USGS and download earthquake data and match with fracking operations.


Except for these ones, right?  These are the exception, right?  Find me those wells in the metro Dallas area please.  If you don't I'll just take it as tacit admission that you're a fucking simpleton like globull warmists.



Theos's picture

Where does the energy for a "larger quake" come from if it's not naturally there already? Lubricating a system does not introduce new energy.


In terms of the aquifer contamination, I have no idea. You make it sound like I give a damn about OK's well being. Fossil fuels are a dead end but no one gives a fuck. We're still in the happy times. We can shit on some fat shit oil tycoon and feel good, but we're just diluting the fact that we are slaves to dinosaur goo.

Stumpy4516's picture

You do not have to "create" energy you just have to release what is already there.  A boulder sitting high up on a rock face has stored energy (call it potential energy for the lack of a better term) if you remove the friction holding it there it moves, thus convertng the stored energy into the force of the movement and the impact it delivers.


Barry Freed's picture

Its not just lubrication, they are injecting these fluids at extremely high pressure in concentrated areas.  The ground and these faults isn't some sort of unified system.  The damaging effects are on earthquake are much more severe from a shallow quake that occurs closer to the surface.  We know fracking is causing these quakes, but since we don't know exactly how there is no way to accurately predict what could happen.  Better not to find out by triggering a massive quake. 

whisperin's picture

But what do the seismologists and geologists that work in the industry say. I mean it wouldn't be the first time that one group makes certain claims that are not or can not be substantiated. If Hamm has data that says otherwise let's see it. I would also like to see how both goups are connecting the dots and look at raw "unadjusted" data.

Oldwood's picture

Is it just me or does this article say that everyone denies Hamm requested anyone dismissed except for this one guy Grillo?

WillyGroper's picture

My cousin is a geophysicist.

Says injection wells are like lube.

Went to a GP event where CHK had a speaker that did nothing but deny, deny, deny.

Her nose punched a hole in the wall.

mvsjcl's picture

I remember Hamm's beer. Not the same guy, I presume?