A horizontal drilling rig.
Horizontal drilling has revolutionized the energy industry, and helped unlock oil and gas trapped in tight shale formations that had, for decades, eluded petroleum producers.
But Oklahoma’s oil and gas rules were established when traditional, vertical drilling was the norm. Balancing the regulatory needs of horizontal drillers and vertical drillers — especially those producing in the same formation — can be tricky.
Horizontal drilling is expensive, so larger energy companies comprise the bulk of horizontal drillers. And because small oil and gas companies still do a lot of vertical drilling, disagreements over proposed rules changes often come down to big vs. small.
Well-spacing rules, which were recently changed to accommodate horizontal drilling, have proved controversial with smaller producers. The Journal Record‘s Sarah Terry-Cobo covered the well-attended Corporation Commission meeting. Here’s her breakdown:
Operators can drill horizontal wells in vertical spacing units. However, drillers can’t put vertical wells in horizontal spacing units. Continue Reading
Before the current legislative session began, StateImpact reported on the coming effort to expand the sale of raw milk, which many see as more beneficial to health than the pasteurized product. But opponents says any health benefit is far outweighed by the potential dangers from harmful bacteria.
Logan Layden / StateImpact Oklahoma
Propane customer Shawn Davies vowed not to refill his tank until priced drop significantly.
The 400,000 or so Oklahomans who rely on propane to heat their homes know the routine: When the weather is warm, propane is cheap. When it gets cold, and demand goes up, so does the price.
But what happened this winter is unprecedented. Propane prices are starting to ease after blowing past all-time records in January, reaching a national average of more than $4 a gallon.
There are many reasons the price of propane jumped so high so fast, but it all starts in Japan three years ago, when an earthquake triggered the tsunami that caused the disaster at the Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant.
The Oklahoma Geological Survey — which monitors seismic activity in the state — continues to acknowledged in a Feb. 17 position statement that “both fluid injection and withdrawal in the subsurface can trigger earthquakes,” but stopped short of blaming the oil and gas industry for increased temblors in recent years.
The vast majority of Oklahoma quakes happen within a few miles of injection wells, but the statement throws some cold water on a connection between the two.
About 80% of the State is within 15 kilometers (9 miles) of an Underground Injection Control (UIC) Class II water disposal or enhanced oil recovery injection well. For this reason, identifying possible induced or triggered seismicity requires more scientific evidence than simply identifying spatial correlations. It is also important to note that about 99% of the earthquakes that have occurred in Oklahoma over the past few years also lie within 9 miles of a UIC Class II well.
Sarah&Boston / Flickr
A pump-jack in an Oklahoma field.
The shale gas drilling boom has been a blessing to energy states like Oklahoma, which has low unemployment and an economy that, thanks in part to oil and gas production, was insulated from the worst effects of the Great Recession.
Energy companies are often enviable employers, and drilling has increased labor competition and helped fuel wage increases in Oklahoma and eight other oil and gas states, according to a report (click here for the .pdf) by economist Jason Brown of the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City.
But as the Journal Record‘s Sarah Terry-Cobo reports, these booms “can create pressure among other employers”:
Economists often refer to the phenomenon called the resource curse, in which other industries suffer because of one industry’s labor demand and higher wages. Higher wages can also create higher prices for goods and services. Brown studied wages, population and county-level employment in rural areas in Arkansas, Colorado, Kansas, Louisiana, Nebraska, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Texas and Wyoming. Continue Reading
“Calling it a ‘matter of public safety,’ Gov. Sam Brownback has appointed a committee to study whether oil and gas activity is behind the recent spate of minor earthquakes in Kansas,” The Whichita Eagle’s Dion Lefler reports.
Oklahoma’s earthquake swarm was the subject of a segment on MSNBC’s “The Rachel Maddow Show” last night. Host and commentator Maddow discussed the loud, explosive “booms” that accompany the shallow quakes — a phenomenon reported in Oklahoma and Texas — and, with her signature snark, suggested a way to curtail the shaking, which many seismologists say is linked to disposal wells used by the oil and gas industry.
The results of lawsuits between the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and environmental groups like Wild Earth Guardians can have a direct effect on policies and prices at the state level, so state Attorney General Scott Pruitt wants a stronger say.
Joe Wertz / StateImpact Oklahoma
Oklahoma is a major wind-energy state, but some landowners and communities have turned their backs on turbines.
Some oppose wind farms for purely aesthetic reasons, or because they feel fields of turbines will hurt their property value. Turbine noise and “shadow flicker” are big complaints, too, and some people have raised safety questions about ice being thrown from turbine blades, and how the turbines would fare in severe weather.
In Oklahoma, the fight for and against wind farms has been waged at the municipal and county level because the state has little regulatory authority. But that could change, The Oklahoman‘s Paul Monies reports:
Senate Bill 1559, by Sen. Cliff Branan, R-Oklahoma City, and SB 1276, by Sen. Charles Wyrick, D-Fairland, would strengthen an existing law that requires wind developers to pay for decommissioning projects. The bills forbid wind turbines within a quarter-mile of houses unless the owner gives consent. They also set up a process at the Department of Environmental Quality to regulate noise from wind turbines.
Magnitude 2.0 and greater Oklahoma earthquakes from 1990-2014.
EQ Charts has created a really great visual of Oklahoma’s earthquake “swarm.” The chart was built with data from the U.S. Geological Survey, and shows quakes of 2.0-magnitude or greater.