ABSTRACT

In a recent study, Hough and Page (2015) presented several lines of evidence suggesting that most of the significant earthquakes in Oklahoma during the twentieth century, including the Mw 5.7 El Reno earthquake of 9 April 1952, were likely induced by wastewater injection and possibly secondary oil recovery operations. We undertook an archival search for accounts of this event, which unearthed a newspaper article published immediately following the El Reno earthquake regarding a prominent petroleum geologist in the area who took out a rare earthquake insurance policy less than 60 days before the earthquake struck. In this study we present a historical context for this intriguing coincidence. We present a retrospective of oil industry practices in the early‐ to mid‐twentieth century, gleaned from court records and other industry reports, that potentially bear on the interplay between oil exploration activities and earthquakes, focusing on the Oklahoma City region. We describe events of the day that could plausibly have alerted a geologist to the possibility of induced earthquakes, although there is no indication that the potential for induced earthquakes was widely recognized within the industry at that time.

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