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You are here:
PureEnergySystems.com > News > Jan. 25, 2005

Could Exxon-Mobil Works Have Tripped Indonesian Tsunami?

Exxon at Aceh
More than 1600 Indonesian troops have
guarded the Exxon-Mobil facilities in
Aceh at one time in recent years.  The
Indonesian government gleans more than
$100 million per year from the works.

One cubic mile of natural gas extracted every four years at epicenter Aceh facility presents a probable man-made trigger in 9.0 earthquake with accompanying tsunami that killed more than 225,000 people.  Think of a gigantic boulder sitting precariously, nudged over the edge with a small lever.

[See: Discussion with Seismologist (follows)]

by Paul Noel, JAH, Sterling D. Allan and Mary-Sue Halliburton

ACEH, INDONESIA -- Exxon-Mobil has a 60-billion-standard-cubic-foot-per-day facility near Aceh. In the span of four years the company extracts more than one cubic mile of natural gas from the formations beneath what has turned out to be the epicenter of the Aceh earthquake. The gas field there has been producing for much longer than four years, and is one of the largest such facilities in the world.

Scientists have known for some time that earthquakes in the order of 4.0 on the Richtor scale have been caused by oil drilling and other earth intrusive practices.

Correlation of Increase in Major Earthquakes to Increse in Oil Combustion from 1900 to 2000
click for enlargement

Correlation of Increase in Major Earthquakes to Increse in Oil Combustion
from 1900 to 2000 (ForceBorne.com)

An analogous phenomena can be seen with earthquakes associated with large Hydro Dams. For example, Fontana Dam (USTVA North Carolina) has been associated with up to 4.0 earthquakes and routinely causes 2.5 quakes some fifty-plus years after construction.

Due to its much greater scale, and the presence of six geological faults in the area, the Three Gorges Dam in China will create very large earthquakes if its reservoirs are ever filled completely. According to Chinese news reports, tremors measuring 6.1 and 5.8 on the Richter scale hit the Zhangye region at 8:41 p.m. and 8:48 p.m. on Oct. 25, 2003.

Water was drained to safe levels over the next two days, and the China Daily reported that the dams were structurally compromised: "Cracks five centimetres wide had opened in the walls of the Shuangshuzhi reservoir, while the Zhaizhaizi reservoir had developed a fissure one centimetre wide and 410 metres long", the newspaper reported.

The weight of water overlying an unstable geological formation or fault exerts incredible pressure to which the rock layers inevitably yield. Therefore it is legitimate to ask, "What role did the extraction of oil and gas from the immediate area play in the 9.0 Aceh earthquake on Dec. 26, 2004?"

World oil production alone (not including natural gas) is approximately 80 to 100 million barrels of oil per day. That is a tremendous volume of oil, too large to even visualize in your mind’s eye, which is being extracted EVERY DAY.

The world’s oilfields are pressurized naturally by natural-gas within the oil. We've all probably seen "oil gushers" on films involving oil discovery: oil shoots high into the air as it is forced out of the ground by the natural-gas pressure in the underground oilfield.

The oil is not only pressurized, but is also hot. As it is extracted, the pressure gradually decreases until the oil well is no longer pressurized.  Comparable to an empty aerosol can that still has some liquid in it, but which is no longer expelled by depressing the spout, the gas pressure decreases to the point where the drilling company needs to burn energy for pumping. Thus it becomes less profitable to extract the oil.

In some cases, in order to extract the remaining oil, cold water is injected/pumped into the well, causing the oil to float on top of the injected water. As the oil well fills with cold water, the last remaining oil which floats up on top of it is forced up through the well head to the surface, until the well is "dry" – i.e. "empty", but not literally "dry" since it is now filled with water.

During these various stages of the oil-extraction process, the outer crust of the globe is gradually being depressurized and cooled internally, causing contraction for both of these reasons. When objects cool down they automatically shrink/contract in size. If you let high-pressure air or gas out of a cylinder ice forms around the outlet, and cools the entire cylinder. If you let some of the air out of a football, or basketball, the ball shrinks and goes badly out of shape.

Apply that to the Earth and you have earthquakes as the crustal layers shift in response to the loss of pressure from below while the water pressure above increases. This is simple common sense –- not rocket science. It is a fact so simple that anyone who understands the oil-extraction process would understand the effects. Or at least, they should understand.

Therefore, the people doing this oil extraction should know the risk of triggering earthquakes, even if they ignore the consequences of rapidly dropping the underground pressure -- as the financial gurus and oil executives apparently regularly do.

Should these executives and decision-makers, who are also the profit-makers, be required to accept liability for the consequences?

Another obvious fact that is never quoted in relation to global warming is that internal combustion engines do not just give off greenhouse gases, they also give off tremendous heat – every single one of them. If you try putting your hand near the cooling-radiator or exhaust manifold of a running engine, you are going to snatch it away again quickly to prevent burns. The professors never factor this into the global-warming equations, and never mention it in the news. They mention only the gas emissions.

Think about the millions of engines giving off tremendous heat every day, some all day every day. Compound this on top of the greenhouse gases and you can see why the scientists' and professors' prognostications have turned out to be wrong. The ice caps are melting much faster than the "experts" first predicted, and faster than they are still wrongly predicting now.  What pressures does this shift in weight from the poles place on the planet?

If oil is continually being created deep in the earth, as some theorists argue, what happens when this new oil rises into a former oil deposit that is now filled with water? Will this also result in further earthquakes as pressure builds up with gas being forced into the same space?

To connect the dots, therefore, we have to link the rapid “harvesting” of subterranean and undersea oil, and the reason for doing so – the thirsty tanks of obsolete gas-guzzling vehicles – with the consequence of earthquakes and tsunamis. Not only in Asia, but also around the world, are many oilfields with rapidly dropping pressure, into which water is being pumped to extract the last expensive barrels. How many more disastrous quakes will humanity face as the result of this artificially-maintained appetite for fuel?

Whether or not the oil/gas extraction from the Aceh area was indeed the single tripping factor will need to be determined by those with the instrumentation and access to the data necessary to draw a definitive conclusion.  But what can be said definitively is that these man-made intrusions do place stress on the earth and that stress is answered by an increase in the frequency of occurrence of earthquakes.

See also below: Seismologist rebuffs this assertion

Additional Comments by Article Authors


  • ExxonMobil, Aceh and the Tsunami - In Aceh, the company operates one of the largest gas fields in the world and they're being sued for gross human rights violations. (Democracy Now; Jan. 4, 2005) (related)
  • Oil Drilling and Earthquakes - cites multiple references (Google Answers; April 25, 2004)
    Q. "Given the fact that oil has been pumped out of the ground 24/7/365 by thousands upon thousands of pumps all over the world for so many years, what replaces the space previously held by the oil?"
    A. "the removal of oil can cause earthquakes, even in regions normally quiet when it comes to seismic activity..."
  • Four collaborative anecdotes - Posted below.  Tesla's NY quake; San Andreas tinkering; magnetic field changes; N-bombs and quakes.
  • Troop deployment to guard Exxon and other vital enterprises - At least 1600 troops guarding Exxon interests alone in the Aceh region in 2001.
  • Exxon 'helped torture in Indonesia' - "The Asia-Pacific region contributes about 13% of ExxonMobil's worldwide production of oil and gas."  Ini 2000, gas from Indonesia yielded 118 cargoes of LNG." (BBC; June 22, 2001)
  • OIL: The Cause of Most Earthquakes and Bad Weather - Robert L. Cook, alt energy inventor, addresses oil extraction and earthquakes; global warming and ice cap water redistribution stresses; atmospheric pressure modifications.  "What would happen if the sunken earth of the Antarctic region were to spring back up (even a few hundred feet) after enough ice melts away? Could this trigger a worldwide earthquake?"
  • Earthquake: Coincidence or a Corporate Oil Tragedy? - "Sound bombing" or seismic tests of ocean floors to test for oil and gas had been carried out near the sites of the Tasmanian beachings recently. (Independent Media TV; Dec. 28, 2004)
    Whale Beachings in Tasmania, Australia and New Zealand on November 30th, 2004
    (Robin Good)
  • Three Gorges Dam - is situated near six active fault lines and above 15 million people.
  • Dam on dangerous ground - recent earthquakes (Three Gorges Probe news service; Dec. 18, 2003)
  • Seismologist Study Mining-induced Earthquakes - The Bulletin of the Seismological Society of America, the premier scientific journal dedicated to earthquake research, has just published a trio of articles about earthquakes caused by underground coal mining in east-central Utah. (PhysOrg; March 11, 2005)
  • Magma Oil - List of references that support the theory that some oil is generated deep within the earth and replenished. (FreeEnergyNews directory)
  • When Will We Learn (PDF) - Michael Horn says that Billy Meier warned thirty years ago that earthquakes would accompany our oil and gas extraction.
    Meier was specifically warned about the connection of earthquakes to the extraction of petroleum and natural gas, as well as the damming of waters and over-building of huge cities. The first confirmation I found for the petroleum connection was from Paul Segal, a geophysics professor at Stanford University in 1990.

    I will be discussing this and more on the Art Bell radio show this Saturday night, Jan. 29, from 11:00 p.m. - 2:00 a.m. PST (www.coasttocoastam.com)
    Art is also well known for exploring the latest developments in alternative energy sources.

    Michael Horn
    Authorized American Media Representative
    The Billy Meier Contacts



Seismologist Says Exxon Had Nothing to Do with It

See continued dialogue which backs away from this initial assertion.

From: "Agnew, James" <James.Agnew{at}conservation.ca.go*v>
To: <sterlingda@pureenergysystems.co*m>
Sent: Friday, January 28, 2005 10:30 AM
Subject: Re: "Indonesian Tsunami Probably Tripped by Exxon-Mobil Works"

I can assure you that the M9.0 earthquake was entirely natural, occurring on a subduction zone many miles beneath the surface of the earth - much deeper than man has ever drilled. These types of earthquakes have occurred millions of times in the geologic past and will continue to occur into the foreseeable future. It's called Plate Tectonics, and Man has nothing to do with it. Oil & gas are often found at subduction zones. Exxon had nothing to do with this earthquake or any other earthquake. It is true that small to moderate quakes have been produced by damming rivers and by extracting or injecting fluids into the ground, but an earthquake of this magnitude is entirely naturally-produced through the subduction process.


James D. Agnew, M.S.
Associate Seismologist
California Geological Survey
801 K St., MS 13-35
Sacramento, CA 95814-3531
Tel. (916) 323-4282
Email: James.Agnew{at}conservation.ca.go*v

Sterling's Reply

I find a telling contradiction in two adjoining sentences: "Exxon had nothing to do with this earthquake or any other earthquake. It is true that small to moderate quakes have been produced by damming rivers and by extracting or injecting fluids into the ground." 

This causes me to question your objectivity, defending Exxon on the one hand as having never caused an earthquake, yet in the very next breath saying that extracting or injecting fluids into the ground has caused earthquakes.

I do not believe that more shallow subduction zones have no effect on the deeper subduction zones.  To me, that would be like someone saying, "The moon has no effect on the earth.  It is too far away."  I don't buy it, despite your credentials.  I've seen too many times when the professionals err while the common man sees clearly.  Think Titanic.

* * * *

From: "Agnew, James" <James.Agnew@conservation.ca.gov>
To: "Sterling D. Allan" <sterlingda@pureenergysystems.com>
Sent: Friday, January 28, 2005 12:17 PM
Subject: RE: Seismologist on: "Indonesian Tsunami Probably Tripped by Exxon-Mobil Works"


I should have added one more sentence: "The wells that caused the small earthquakes were water wells, not oil or gas wells." The most famous example is the Rocky Mountain Arsenal fluid injection well near Rangeley, Colorado (a federal government-owned wastewater injection well). The high-pressure injection of large volumes of waste fluids caused small earthquakes to occur - none of them caused any damage to surface structures. I am not aware of any oil or gas wells ever causing earthquakes to occur.

There is no such thing as a "shallow subduction zone over a deep subduction zone." They are all deep (deeper than any well ever drilled by Man).

I would agree that it is always a good idea to question authority. However, in this case, your story's logic is akin to saying that, if I were buying something in a convenience store and the store gets robbed around the same time, somehow I am at fault.

Jim Agnew

P.S. I have never worked in the oil & gas industry and have nothing to "defend" but the truth. My expertise is in the study of earthquakes.

* * * *

Sterling's Response

I guess what confused me is the statement: "Oil & gas are often found at subduction zones."  If man has never drilled there, how do they find oil & gas there?  I'm a bit confused on that one.

Here are some references about Oil Drilling and earthquakes:
"the removal of oil can cause earthquakes, even in regions normally quiet when it comes to seismic activity..."

Sorry to question you again, but it seems strange to me that you as a seismologist are not familiar with this.

I would respect your researched answer on this. You might find a Pandora's box in your profession by probing this, and may end up without a job?

* * * *

From: "Agnew, James" <James.Agnew{at}conservation.ca.go*v>
To: "Sterling D. Allan" <sterlingda{at}pureenergysystems.co*m>
Sent: Friday, January 28, 2005 4:36 PM
Subject: RE: Seismologist on: "Indonesian Tsunami Probably Tripped by Exxon-Mobil Works"


First, let me state that "Google Answers" is not exactly a fount of reliable knowledge; it appears to be written by anyone who feels like writing, no matter what their educational credentials are. From what I have read in the sci.geo.earthquakes Usenet group, it's not worth spending any time reading anything there. ... If you want reliable geologic information, consult the USGS at www.usgs.gov or us here at the California Geologic Survey at www.consrv.ca.gov/CGS/index.htm. Most geologists are happy to tell people the facts as they are currently known.

At the site you pointed me to, there is only one anecdotal mention of oil extraction causing actual earthquakes, which allegedly occurred in the Wilmington oil field (near Torrance & San Pedro in Southern CA), although the writer gives no reference which I can check. However, even this allegation is suspect, because earthquakes happen naturally all the time in that area anyway. If earthquakes occurred due to oil extraction there, they would have been very small, and it would be very hard to blame them on the oil extraction since the area is so highly seismic already.

Oil, gas and water extraction can be followed by subsidence (lowering of the ground elevation by several feet due to compaction of the ground) and even "movement" of the ground (most probably along pre-existing joints in the rock), but the movement is rarely, if ever, coincident with earthquakes, and is not enough to cause large quakes. Certainly nothing Man could do could cause a magnitude 9.0 earthquake. The world's total nuclear arsenal set off at once would not be that large. Since all the nukes are still here, the only possible conclusion is that the Sumatran quake occurred naturally.

Please note that I did not say "man has never drilled at subduction zones". They drill there all the time because that's where a lot of the oil is. They find oil there using conventional geophysical techniques, such as seismic reflection (bouncing sound waves off the various layers in the earth). Oil and gas are there because the subduction process (sliding of one of earth's surface plates under another during large earthquakes) has scraped huge quantities of ocean sediments, which contain oil from dead plants and organisms raining down over millions of years, off the subducting plate and plastered them onto the upper plate. This causes enormous quantities of oil & gas in those disturbed sediments to migrate along paths of least resistance, usually upward, until they reach a barrier (such as a fault which cuts off the migration path), where they "pool" in the spaces between the rock particles. Those areas can be imaged by the seismic reflection survey, and that's where they drill for oil & gas. Sometimes they're right and find oil & gas, and sometimes they're wrong (dry holes).

I do not know what "Magma oil" is. Perhaps you could enlighten me. Certainly there is no "oil" in liquid magma. Are you referring to hydrogen, which is present in the lithosphere?

Jim Agnew

Sterling's Reply

Thanks for your patience in answering. Don't you think the oil/gas extraction could possibly have a "tripping" effect, like Wiley Coyote pushing a boulder over on the road runner? (excuse the simple analogy). You remove that much gas and the pressure it was producing within the earth might push on the wrong rock.

Think of it this way. An avalanche is set off by even the slightest vibration. It's just waiting to go. Why couldn't the acts of man have been the trigger for the 9.0 quake that was "waiting to go"?

Think of the amount of energy contained in the avalanche compare to the amount of energy expended to trigger the avalanche. Is this not a fair comparison?

Magma oil:


* * * *

Seismologist Gives Explanation of Indonesian Quake

From: "Agnew, James" <James.Agnew{at}conservation.ca.go*v>
To: "Sterling D. Allan" <sterlingda@greaterthings.co*m>
Sent: Monday, January 31, 2005 2:20 PM
Subject: RE: Seismologist on: "Indonesian Tsunami Probably Tripped by Exxon-Mobil Works"


No, I don't believe that anything Man could have done would contribute to a quake of this size. The depths of boreholes are small (a few km at most) compared to the depth of the hypocenter of the earthquake (30 km deep, as reported by the USGS) and the oil is being extracted from the overlying sediments, not from the Indian plate that is thrusting its way under the Sunda plate. In addition, the epicenter of the quake was located under the ocean, far from the drilling area - 250 km south-southeast of Banda Aceh. The pressure release of oil removal is miniscule compared to the required forces necessary to force one plate under another, and those pressure releases could not reach the hypocenter by any known mechanism.

These plate forces are caused, ultimately, by radioactive decay within the earth's mantle, which causes it to heat up and convect - I like to compare it to a pot of oatmeal (real oatmeal, not "instant" - I'm showing my age) boiling on the stove; the water roils upward in response to heating from below (like the mid-ocean ridge system), giving off heat when it reaches the surface (like volcanoes), then sinking again to be re-heated (like subduction zones). The oatmeal "scum" floating on top of the pot is equivalent to the earth's crust. Drilling into this "scum" is not going to affect the ultimate reason for the earthquakes - the convection from below. Were it not for this radioactive decay, the earth would have cooled off eons ago to the point where it was entirely solid and plate motions could not occur (And, ironically, you and I could not exist). Looking at a map of Sumatra, you can see that it is covered with active volcanoes, which are the release of heat above the plunging subduction zone.

Avalanches occur in response to downward gravity forces only. The plate motions are responding not only to gravity but to internal convection forces within the earth, which include both horizontal and vertical forces, so the analogy doesn't really hold, although I can see why you might think so.

See the following USGS site for a good description of the quake: http://neic.usgs.gov/neis/bulletin/neic_slav_ts.html

I will look at the web site you mentioned.

Jim Agnew

* * * *

Sterling's Reply

In your oatmeal analogy, there is no crusted surface, but the surface is slightly cooled magma, to make the comparison.

In the earth, we have a hard, thick crust that floats on the magma beneath. Because of this, it is going to take some kind of "trigger point" to shift the crust, whether small or large. Pressure builds, then it snaps, small or large. With this in mind, its seems to me that my avalanche analogy again has merit in which a smaller phenomenon (extracting massive oil/gas) serves as a "trigger" for the much larger 9.0 snapping event.

What does give your argument strength is how far removed the epicenter was from where the oil/gas extraction was taking place.  Still, a rifle fired in one canyon can set off an avalanche in another.

* * * *

From: "Agnew, James" <James.Agnew{at}conservation.ca.go*v>
To: "Sterling D. Allan" <sterlingda@pureenergysystems.co*m>
Sent: Tuesday, February 01, 2005 12:21 PM
Subject: RE: Seismologist puts Indonesian quake question to rest


My boiling oatmeal analogy wasn't meant to be a perfect model of the earth; it just is easier for me to explain it to others that way, because it is more "real" to them. You do pose a good point, though - The trigger mechanism for earthquakes is currently under study by the USGS and others; I don't think anyone has come up with a fully accepted model of just what does finally set an earthquake in motion. There are so many possible variables to consider that it's hard to pin down any one thing as "causing" the quake. Most researchers think that faults are prevented from moving continuously by "asperities", or areas of higher friction along the fault (such as bends in the fault, for example). In the asperity model, when the pushing force of the plate motion slowly becomes greater than the restraining frictional force, the earthquake happens. This is a classic study in Chaos Theory - how and when the "state" of the fault changes from quiet to moving. Some researchers think periods of heavy rain, which percolates down into the fault, may hasten the earthquake by lowering the frictional restraining force just enough to allow the fault to move. There are many other competing hypotheses currently under study. One important finding is that much of the fault motion occurs "aseismically" (without any noticeable shaking) after the earthquake - sometimes even more motion than in the quake itself. Other faults, such as the Hayward fault in the Oakland & Berkeley area in California, seem to move continuously without any noticeable earthquake, but are punctuated by occasional large damaging quakes.

If and when we ever do figure it out, we might be able to predict earthquakes accurately enough to provide a timely warning and prevent deaths. 30 years ago, we thought we almost had it figured out; now accurate prediction seems pretty far away.

Jim Agnew

May have Shifted a few minutes either way; that's it

From: erickrieg{at}verizon.ne*t
To: Sterling D. Allan
Sent: Friday, January 28, 2005 1:59 PM
Subject: Re: [free_energy] Seismologist on: "Indonesian Tsunami Probably Tripped by Exxon


The earthquake was a result of incredible forces known to be deep in the earth since the beginning of recorded history. Exxon's work may have been able to shift the inevitable earthquake maybe a few minutes either way - that's it.

Four Collaborative Anecdotes

by J.R., Jan. 27, 2005

The article was interesting. There are however three other considerations:

1) In the early 20th century Nicola Tesla was studying mechanical resonance using a dual chambered device about the size of a soda can. He strapped it to he support beams in his laboratory in NY City and generated an earthquake that shook several square blocks. There is a court order on file blocking him from further testing of the device within the city limits of NY.

2) In the early 1980's a bored laid off oil field employee in southern California dropped seismic sensors into a hole under his mobile home and monitored them using his home PC. He found regular rhythm patterns that could only be artificial before several small earthquakes. Someone was trying to relieve the stress on the San Andreas fault. He reported it to the press and the day the news hit the papers, the rhythm stopped.

3) Much has been made about the relationship between the magnetic field and the earth's crust. The magnetic field strength has dropped from 4 gauss in the air (roughly 4000 gauss in the crust) to 0.4 gauss (400 gauss in the crust) in the past 2000 years. This weakening has weakened the integrity of the crust. Further, military experiments in Russia, Greenland, Finland, and the USA using atmospheric heaters (HAARP comes to mind) cause movement in the magnetic field. These movements lead to further weakening along critical stress points.

4) There have been two good correlations done between underground nuclear testing and earthquake activity. One of them was reported on the net. I'll try to find it again and give you the address. The other one is a classified Air Force document I had access to while working in a nuclear detection outfit in the 1970's. Watch the news for underground test announcements and then watch for a couple of days and you will see as many as three 6+ quakes.

Just interesting info.


Follow-up Stories

  • Shell Oil May Have Spurred Gulf Quake - Extraction of oil, gas, and brines can trigger earth movements. The epicenter of the 5.2 earthquake on Feb. 10 coincides with Shell Oil's Brutus field. Could the Gulf Coast be priming for an Aceh-like tsunami? (PESN; February 15, 2006)

See also

Page posted by SDA Jan. 25, 2005
Modified with more references and editing Jan. 26, 2005
Last updated February 15, 2006




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