Oklahoma

Environment, Education, Energy: Policy to People

To Get Permit in Earthquake Zone, Disposal Well Operator Agrees to Extra Monitoring

An oil company seeking to build a disposal well in earthquake-prone Logan County has agreed to record additional pressure and volume measurements to get a permit from the state’s oil and gas regulator.

The Oklahoma Corporation Commission on Thursday voted 2-0 to approve the disposal well for Kansas-based Slawson Exploration. Commissioner Dana Murphy abstained from the vote “saying she wanted to wait until more seismic data was available,” The Oklahoman‘s Paul Monies reports:

Slawson agreed to record daily pressure and volume rates on the disposal well. It also will run a bottom-hole pressure test prior to injection and every 60 days for up to six months.

The Corporation Commission recently agreed to adopt new rules requiring disposal operators to record and submit more-frequent well data, which geophysicists say is key to researching earthquakes that might be triggered by waste fluid injection into disposal wells.

Oklahoma has experienced an exponential increase in earthquakes, and a half-dozen peer-reviewed papers from federal and university scientists have linked quakes to disposal wells, which oil and gas companies use to dispose of toxic fluid from fracking and other types of drilling.

The Corporation Commission can administratively approve disposal well permits — a bureaucratic shortcut most oil and gas companies prefer — but agency officials in April told StateImpact they would no longer administratively approve such permits for earthquake-prone areas without additional information from the applicant.

Slawson Exploration’s permit was not administratively approved “due to recent seismicity activity” near the proposed well. Instead, the permit was considered at a full hearing, where the commission approved a permit after the company agreed to additional monitoring terms.

The Corporation Commission can order Slawson Exploration to stop injecting if earthquake activity in the area increases, according to the order, which is embedded above.


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