Environment, Education, Energy: Policy to People

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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  • Jack Wolf

    Given all the evidence and the shaking in other fracking states, one has to wonder if the public has any power anymore.

    • It will be interesting to see who shows up for the technical conferences on Jan. 29 and Feb. 19 — and hear what, if anything, they have to say! Are you in central Oklahoma?

      • Jack Wolf

        Western PA, near Youngstown…

        Here the issues include revisions to the state regulations as proposed by a fossil fuel friendly governor and legislature. But both sides of the isle are to blame – a Democratic governor pretty much opened the door to them to start their play. The proposed regs look like industry lobbyists wrote them.

        So, I decided to participate in The Great March for Climate Action that starts in CA and hit’s PA around October before ending in DC. I hate camping, my bones are old, but the stakes are too high. This climate change issue is critical – a four degree warmer world by 2050 is absolute catastrophic, and nothing is being done. Non-linear feedbacks are now in action in the Arctic, and nothing is being done. People aren’t even talking about it, or all the devastating weather in evidence world wide. It is going to get much much worse. The time is now, or it’s never.

        So, check into it – we all must work together. Fossil fuel use at this point is utter madness.

  • They have to make a decision and reduce production, like in the Netherlands

  • Stephen Willis

    Whether increased monitoring leads to new regulations safeguarding the Arbuckle-Simpson Aquifer remains to be seen. Since the National Energy Strategy drafted behind closed doors in 2005 exempted oil & gas drilling from the Safe Drinking Water Act, we lost a key tool created to protect drinking water. With both U.S. Senators proudly denying Global Warming, and a Republican-controlled legislature and Governor who are owned by the oil & gas industry, this will be an uphill battle. It will only take one of their high-pressure, deep injection wells to blowout near the Red River or the Washita and we’ll have their mixed radioactive toxic frack-wastes entering Lake Texoma. What will XTO Energy / ExxonMobil do once the lake is polluted? Do they have the funds and a plan to clean up the rivers and lakes? Can Oklahoma afford to sacrifice limited clean water resources, in the midst of a long-term drought, to the Fracking Frenzy that lies ahead? Those are the hard questions we should be asking. Once the aquifers or the lakes are polluted, it’ll be too late.

  • Jean

    I think it is wrong for Oklahoma’s Insurance Commissioner to tell people to go out and buy Earthquake Insurance.He is not working for the People

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