Oklahoma

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Oklahoma Oil and Gas Regulator Proposes New Rules to Help Researchers Study Drilling-Related Earthquakes

Seismologists say oil and natural gas disposal wells, like this one near Sparks, Okla., are likely triggering earthquakes in Oklahoma.

Joe Wertz / StateImpact Oklahoma

Seismologists say oil and natural gas disposal wells, like this one near Sparks, Okla., are likely triggering earthquakes in Oklahoma.

The Oklahoma Corporation Commission has proposed new rules requiring more stringent monitoring of disposal wells in a region of the state that has seen a sharp increase in earthquakes.

Oil and gas companies inject saltwater and other drilling fluids into disposal wells so the toxic waste doesn’t contaminate water supplies. Federal and university seismologists have linked disposal wells to Oklahoma’s recent earthquake swarm.

The proposed monitoring requirements were written to give more data to researchers studying the link between disposal wells and earthquakes, said commission spokesman Matt Skinner.

The proposed rules could be the state’s first to directly address drilling-related quakes.

“It’s in the interest of gathering the best data possible, in real-time,” Skinner says. “More timely data to be used by researchers and others looking into induced seismicity.”

Seismologists say data gaps have stymied research into disposal well earthquakes.

The proposed rule would require daily recording of injection volumes and pressures for disposal wells in the Arbuckle formation in central Oklahoma. Disposal well operators would be required to keep the daily monitoring data for three years.

The proposed rule will be discussed two technical conferences before it goes before the three-member commission.


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