A lot of you have heard me hold forth about how unpredictable events wield disproportionate influence over our lives, especially our careers. The circumstances that led to Atlas Geotechnical’s founding are a classic example of working really hard to be in the right place at the right time for an unpredictable opportunity.
We experienced another unlikely coincidence this past weekend with the occurrence of a M5.8 earthquake northeast of Oklahoma City. This is another incident thought to be caused by injecting produced water into deep formations, changing the state of stress and causing the earth’s crust to make slight adjustments, shifts that we experience as earthquakes.
The coincidence is that for the past month Atlas has been working (through our good friends at PEMY Consulting) on installing an accelerograph at a petroleum facility 50 km south of the epicenter. The accelerograph was just ordered last week, so we didn’t get any data from the event, but even without measurements the earthquake assured our client that their monitoring and preparedness efforts are valuable. It’s gratifying to be helping a client address a risk that actually occurs in the course of the project, especially when there’s no actual damage.
The project also includes developing a procedure for responding to earthquakes systemwide, including performing inspections to assure that (typically older) equipment was not displaced by the shaking. The earthquake probably caused peak ground accelerations of 6% to 8% of gravity at our accelerograph site, not enough to cause any real risk of damage but certainly enough for the control room staff to feel the shaking and to understand the need for a prompt visual inspection.
It seems that earthquake risk management is becoming more important in areas that were not previously known for seismicity. And through a combination of good luck and engineering enthusiasm, Atlas is again ideally positioned to help our good customers address this new (to them) operational risk.